Getting in some training with the Coastguard
This isn’t the first time we have helped the Coastguard and it usually just involves the Coastguard helicopter performing exercises around and with the vessel, which enables them to train and develop their skills for when a real situation arises. A typical exercise involves the helicopter landing a crewman on the aft deck of the vessel, sometimes with a recovery stretcher, then performing manoeuvres in close proximity to the ship. This is also a very worthwhile exercise for ship’s crew as it provides experience and exposure of what will happen in the event of an emergency, such as a medical evacuation of a person from the ship by helicopter, or if and of the protection vessels was participating in a multi-agency rescue operation.
Before operations can start, both the helicopter pilot and the ships Commanding Officer will speak by radio and agree if conditions are appropriate. Once agreed, the duty officer notifies the ship’s crew and confirms there is no work being carried out on deck during the training exercise. The ship’s crew will also ensure that the decks are clear of any loose objects, prepare emergency equipment and ensure that they have the correct equipment in place, including helmets, gloves, hearing protection and high visibility jackets.
On this occasion, it was requested that MPV Jura maintained a steady speed of about 9 knots on a constant heading while the helicopter performed hover manoeuvres approximately 15 to 20 metres above the aft deck as well as on the port and starboard sides of the vessel. Following this, the helicopter pilot called to indicate they would like to send a winchman down to land on the aft deck and then recover him.
For this part of the exercise, it is imperative that the MPV Jura crew are on high standby as an error of judgement could result in a serious incident to the winchman which would require a genuine emergency response. With a south easterly wind of around 18 knots, the helicopter pilot requested a heading of 220’ and took up a position on the port quarter so that the winchman would be landed through the wind. This was done with great skill and the winchman arrived safely on the aft deck. Once on board, a stretcher was sent down from the helicopter for the winchman to prepare before both winchman and stretcher were recovered from the ship back to the helicopter.
Following recovery, the exercise continued with further manoeuvres around MPV Jura before calling the Bridge to inform us that the exercise was complete, that it had been very worthwhile training exercise for their crew and to thank the Master and our crew for their help during it.