Polar Survival Tested in SAREX 3

Lifeboats need to offer more space and improved heating and ventilation.

The findings of the third SAREX (Search and Rescue Exercise) conducted in Svalbard and published by Stavanger University shows that the Polar Code requirement that passengers who are forced to abandon ship will be challenged to meet the five-day survival requirement, according to the 2019 Expedition Market Report by Cruise Industry News.

The 2018 exercise was conducted in May in relatively mild weather, but still very few of the equipment packages provided enough insulation, the report stated, and most of the 50 participants had to compensate for this by being increasingly physically active.

Instead of lasting the required five days, SAREX was designed for 48 hours, and a large percentage of the participants were taken out of the exercise when their body temperatures dropped too low before the time was up.

Furthermore, the typical cruise passenger will normally not be prepared for the physical and psychological stress of an abandon ship situation in Arctic waters. There may also be cultural and language differences to overcome.

Another finding was the importance of muster station leaders and survival commanders, who would be key to an orderly evacuation and maintaining control in each craft.

The exercise was intended to simulate conditions of passengers reaching shore with different group and personal protection equipment.

According to the report, a grounding accident has the highest risk probability, and a survival time of five days implies that lifeboats or rafts will most likely reach shore, which gives a higher chance of survival than remaining aboard lifeboats or rafts.

The report was critical of the limited space per person in lifeboats and rafts, compared to being on land. Recommendations include double bottoms for insulation for rafts, double covers to reduce condensation and allow venting without losing heat, a bailing system, and more space to allow more movement for those aboard..

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About the Expedition Market Report:

The 2019 Expedition Market Report by Cruise Industry News is a comprehensive overview of the booming expedition market, profiling 39 operators, over 40 new ships and projecting capacity growth through 2027. The 196-page PDF is a deep dive into all aspects of the expedition cruise market.

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