Arctic Small Craft Accidents and Rescues

_MG_4305In maritime emergencies, fast, efficient responses can make the difference between survival and disaster, especially in the harsh arctic environment. For crew of large vessels, emergency response training is mandatory and training is widely available internationally which includes advanced training using both virtual and practical simulators e.g. for lifeboat launching and fire-fighting. However, for smaller commercial, fishing and leisure craft, emergency response and survival training is less structured and generally involves less “hands-on” experiential content, with “on-the-job” training by other crew members being the main source of experiential learning. Such small craft are characteristic of the small coastal communities of the NPP Arctic regions where, in addition to the indigenous maritime communities, changing climate is bringing a growing influx of non-indigenous fishing and tourist/leisure craft during the longer summer season.

The rapidly changing Arctic climate brings new challenges in maritime safety for both indigenous and non-indigenous small craft crew. Indigenous maritime safety practices built up over many generations are having to be quickly adapted to climate change. For non-indigenous mariners, the apparently more benign Arctic climate still holds many dangers of which they may have little experience. In turn, Arctic Search and Rescue (SAR) services must deal with a greater number and diversity of small craft emergencies over a much wider geographic range. In addition, within the volunteer- SAR services, where as few as one in ten crew now have a maritime background, putting extra pressure is developing on SAR training, especially for harsh conditions.

For small craft mariners, more structured training, with greater experiential content, in emergency response and survival techniques in Arctic conditions could make the difference between life and death. Formal certification may also increase the employment prospects of indigenous small craft mariners in the Arctic.

However, such training for small craft mariners in Arctic conditions presents a number of major challenges:

  1. The time and financial budgets of small craft mariners will typically be smaller than for mariners on large commercial vessels;
  2. It should be possible to deliver the training locally, in one or more locations in each region, within the resource and financial budgets of local training organisations;
  3. Mariner training methods appropriate for crew of larger vessels in less harsh climates have to be adapted to both the harsh climatic conditions and to the unique physiological stresses imposed on mariners by these conditions.

SMACS will address these challenges by combining transnational expertise in both maritime training and SAR with expertise in advanced technologies for enhancement of training of mariners and SAR crews.