Skip to main content

2016 maritime accident rescue exercise on the Tai-Ma Star

  • Release Date:2015-10-31
  • Source:NASC

A tragic accident occurred to a South Korea’s ferry, the Sewol, in 2014 that turned into a disaster. The captain of the ship and his crew failed to evacuate the passengers and the result was a catastrophic loss of lives. This incident highlights how important it is to have a well-thought out plan for ship safety management, emergency rescue system and escape and response actions.
The Keelung Harbor located at the tip of northern Taiwan is where the ferries set sail between Taiwan, Matsu and Tungyin. To prevent any passenger ships from breaking down, sinking, grounding, collision, explosion or any other accident during their voyages, The Maritime Port Bureau assembled all departments involved for the “2016 Maritime Accident Exercise on the Tai-Ma Star” at the berthing waters outside of Keelung Harbor near the Keelung Island on Oct 26 2016. This live training exercise was designed to integrate the rescue organizations and resources in the event of an accident on a passenger ship, as to ensure the safety of everyone on board.
This exercise was a simulation that an accident occurred to the ferry traveling between Taiwan and Matsu when the ferry was still a distance from the coast. The tug boats in Keelung Harbor were not unable to rescue due to their speed and seaworthiness at this water. Large vessels and the helicopters of National Airborne Service Corps were required for this situation. The scenario was that the ferry, Tai-Ma Star, was heading back to Keelung Harbor from Matsu with 300 passengers and 32 crewmembers on board. As the ferry approached the centerline of Taiwan Strait, smoke and fire broke out in the engine compartment and the fire spread to the ferry’s deck. In addition to following the response procedure to fight the fire, Tai-Ma Star sent out a stress signal to the competent authority for help. The crew of the Tai-Ma Star started to calm the passengers down while leading them to put on life vests and wait for help on deck where it was safe. At this moment, vessels nearby, 2 Coast Guard patrol boats and a Coast Guard frigate raced to the scene and help put out the fire. Gradually the fire was under control. However, the ferry lost its power. 3 passengers on board suffered burns, and one of them was critically injured and in need of medical evacuation. Upon receiving the call, National Airborne Service followed the procedure and scrambled a helicopter for the rescue. The participating AS-365 Dolphin, numbered NA-106 and its air crew on board, rushed to the target area and reported back the weather and the status of the ferry. The air crew radioed the ferry’s crew to clear a portion of deck at the bow of the Tai-Ma Star and have it ready for lifting the wounded passenger. The rescue specialists on board skillfully descended on the ferry’s deck, secured the wounded on the basket and swiftly had him hoisted to the helicopter before stabilizing the patient. At the same time, a Coast Guard patrol boat came alongside of the ferry and started to transfer the passengers from Tai-Ma Star. The ferry was towed by tug boats back to Keelung Harbor to end this exercise. It was a successful exercise and applauded by the officials and visitors at the scene.