Blackout, Dangerous Cargo Leak and Injured Crew Members – a ChemSAR Tabletop Exercise

The captain of M/V Regal Star faced a tricky and dangerous situation on route from Tallinn to Kapellskär. He received a toxic vapor alarm from the car deck, suddenly lost all power on board and also had some injured crew members who had been fighting the toxic spill. Luckily this was just ChemSAR testing its first outputs in tabletop exercises run at the Estonian Maritime Academy in Tallinn on 6th-8th June.

Photo: Mariikka Whiteman

The first outcomes of the projects on test

The aim of the exercise was to test the SOPs so far created in the project. Other aims were, for example:

  • to practice identifying the HNS and Hazard evaluations,
  • to practice HNS SAR response,
  • to practise co-operation between rescue centers and exchange of the SAR responsibility, and
  • to practice the conduct of SAR and MRO operation in accordance with IMO and ICAO regulations.

The aim was also to test co-operation between national and international authorities involved in rescue operations.

The moderators Ossi Westilä and Bo Lindroos. Photo: Mariikka Whiteman

Participants – role players, evaluators and observers

In addition to project partners, experts from other rescue organisations were participating and playing a role. The role palyers came from Estonian Police and Border Guard (JRCC, P/V Kindral Kurvits), Finnish Border Guard (MRCC Helsinki, RH 215 Super Puma, P/V Turva), Swedish Coast Guard (KBV003 Amfitrite), Tallink (M/V Regal Star) and Helsinki City Rescue Department. Novia University of Applied Sciences acted as a moderator of the exercise and the Swedish Coast Guard evaluated the exercise. The role players had a possibility to use chemical experts from the Finnish Environmental Institute and Hamburg Fire and Rescue Service/Analytical Task Force present at the exercise.

Ossi Westilä and Danel Tüür having fun. Photo: Päivi Söderholm
The exercise in action. Photo: Päivi Söderholm


Photo: Mariikka Whiteman
Photo: Päivi Söderholm
Photo: Mariikka Whiteman
The evaluators Patrik Risberg and Örjan Martinsson from the Swedish Coast Guard. Photo: Päivi Söderholm


During the exercise, needed information on the involved chemicals was asked from the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) according to the set protocol, i.e., through their Finnish contact point Ms. Heli Haapasaari, who then contacted EMSA’s chemical expert. This proved to be a valuable exercise and experience for both, the project and EMSA.

Juho Kurttila received information from EMSA. Photo: Päivi Söderholm

Other project partners and visitors from the HAZARD project had the opportunity to follow the exercise as observers. This is a good way to exchange knowledge and experience between the projects.

Ossi and Jens Bersuch, the chemical expert from HAZARD project. Photo: Päivi Söderholm
Observers from HAZARD and ChemSAR projects. Photo: Mariikka Whiteman


Gudrun Winkler and Jens Bersuch. Photo: Päivi Söderholm
Chemical expert Jani Häkkinen from the Finnish Environmental Institute. Photo: Päivi Söderholm

Having common SOPs made a difference

In the first exercise of the day, the standard operational procedures (SOPs) so far developed in ChemSAR especially for incidents involving HNS were not followed that well. However, in the second exercise, the role players applied them more carefully. This had a tangible impact on the progress of the exercise: the rescue operation ran quicker and smoother as everyone knew how to act in such an incident. In addition to the obvious benefits of having an international joint exercise, the players also demonstrated the advantages of using common SOPs – though drafts – and how they make the rescue operations more efficient.

Negotiation between Patrik Rosberg and Ossi Westilä. Photo: Päivi Söderholm
Time out! Photo: Mariikka Whiteman


Örjan Martinsson. Photo: Mariikka Whiteman
Photo: Mariikka Whiteman
Thumbs up from Johanna Salokannel. Photo: Mariikka Whiteman
The timeline of the exercise. Photo: Mariikka Whiteman


Summing up the results

On the second day, the participants gathered together to sum up the gained results of the tabletop exercises. Everyone had contributed by listing the points to work on and the good principles to keep. Valuable lessons were learnt for the next steps and next exercises. A report on the exercise and an evaluation report are on the way.

Photo: Päivi Söderholm
Photo: Päivi Söderholm

Finally a question was asked:
Do we need SOPs? DEFINITELY! was the answer.

ChemSAR would like to thank all the participants and organisations that contributed to our tabletop exercises.


The exercise required a lot of hard thinking…


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