HNS involved in the SAR operation have a great impact when assessing rescue plan possibilities. During rescue planning phase HNS have to be taken account e.g. when analyzing the incident and the area (1.1.), assessing the possible rescue procedures (1.3.), resources (1.2.) and rescue plan options (1.3.).

1.1. Risk assessment

Information gathered from distress vessel and experts concerning the incident and the HNS involved gives RCC the possibility to do the risk assessment of the incident and plan the best available rescue option for rescuing persons on board DV. Rescue operation in a dangerous atmosphere should be considered as a high risk operation.

Detailed identification of the HNS involved is needed for the correct rescue and response measures. General information consists of the following

  • HNS name (chemical name / name of the substance)
  • Proper Shipping Name (PSN)
  • UN number
  • CAS number
  • Nature of damage and/or size of the outflow (contained onboard, leaked onboard, leaked overboard)
  • Situation of the incident (dynamic, static)
  • Ongoing or planned rescue and response actions taken by the crew (also detection and measurement possibilities)

Additional information concerning the substance involved, health and other risks is possible to gather from the DV, shipping company DPA, chemical databases, codes and other relevant documents (IMDG code, MSDS etc.). Information is needed for

  • Form and package of the HNS
  • Quantity of HNS, rate of release and the theoretical max. release
  • Reactivity and properties of the HNS
  • Risk for fire or explosion
  • Expected hazards for human and environment
  • HNS spreading estimations
  • Cargo separation and cargo plan (possible other HNS)

Also the possibilities for monitoring the situation on scene by measurements or at least perceptible findings (color, form, and smell) and possibility to take and send pictures to the RCC should be considered when assessing the risks of the ongoing incident and planning rescue operation.

National chemical and HNS experts should be consulted for more information on the behavior of the substance (primary and secondary risks), aggregation state and change of aggregation state at given temperature and the spreading estimations. Inform and consult also possible national environment inspector, safety agency, security agency and legal agency (depending on national organizational structures; could be police/crime investigation/national maritime authorities) and media when necessary.

1.2. Resources

Facts from the situation onboard form a need for the assistance acquired, the personal protection level and SRUs with the capacity to perform and support rescue operations in the hazardous atmosphere. Possible need for extra personnel and equipment during the rescue operation should be taken into account. National resources e.g. Mass Rescue Operations (MRO), MMA, capability of the SRUs, SAR plans and agreements should be found out and activated to achieve successful rescue operation.

In situation where national resources are not efficient for rescue measures, international partners (RCCs, experts, liaison officers etc.) should be informed and consulted in the early phase. Finding out possibility for available international resources in this phase reduces the delay for effective SRUs arrival on scene.

1.3. Action options

Depending on the situation onboard distress vessel, considerable action options can be e.g. one or several listed below

  • No external assistance needed
  • Consultation (TMAS, experts etc.)
  • External assistance needed outside the DV (emergency towing, MOB etc.)
  • External assistance on board DV needed (emergency/first responders; emergency medical care, medivac, containing the leakage etc.)
  • Ship abandoning, MRO
  • Intervention is impossible due some reason (area, vessel or specific section on board defined as NoGo-area)

Evacuation the DV in the dangerous atmosphere is always demanding and incident specific procedure. Find out the alternative action options; there can be more risks to evacuate a great amount of people on the hazardous atmosphere than finding out the procedures for minimizing the influence of the possible leak onboard. DV crew or responders’ response operations can be protective e.g. transferring persons to the sheltered location onboard or repositioning or shifting the DV by means of emergency towing etc.

The possibility for early evacuation should be considered if the situation on board the distress vessel gets worse (e.g. dangerous HNS chemical reaction) and SRUs’ arrival on scene is expected to be delayed. Use of the Vessel Triage categorization system as a tool for simplifying the decision making process could give an impression of the status of the situation and its development. In later stage there can be a situation in which onboard rescue operations are impossible to carry out.

Need of the Place of Refuge / Safe Haven for the vessel in distress should be considered and preparation procedure launched if needed.