RITS-exercise onboard pass.ferry ESTONIA 02/02/94
The exercise was held as a cooperating exercise according to the basic course's day 6 and the advanced course day 5. This was the fourth exercise and was planned to be greater.
The police force of Stockholm had requested to take part in the exercise. They wanted to test a method how to use bombseeking dogs onboard a ship under way at sea.
In the three earlier exercises a medical service group had participated. One doctor and one catastrophe educated nurse were present. Now they would work together with the ships doctor and his first aid group.
For the first time it was planned that the RITS-teams from Stockholm would be combined with RITS-team from another town. In this case from Kramfors/Härnösand.
A scenario was scheduled, where a bombthreat should alert the crew and policeforce. One bomb to be found and a second bomb to explode in public sleeping quarters at deck 1.
The alarm procedure from ship to MRCC and finally to RITS and Huddínge hospital was tested. From what we could see onboard, everything worked according to made routines.
Safetywork by the crew
Coordination work on the bridge. Immediately after the bombthreat had been classified as serious, the security officers gathered on the bridge. Navigation was done by a Swedish Pilot and two deckofficers. The chiefengineer, first officer and two deckofficers to plot taken actions and from communication with the crew, gathered in the chartroom. Drawings of the ship was put up. The captain was informed the whole time and he handled the contact with MRCC. In my opinion the captain and his staff had everything under control.
The firegroups onboard were activated by a public announcement, "Mr Skylight". The firemen at firestation 2 on cardeck were prepared for smokediving and firefighting inside the damaged area. The other group of firemen were kept stand by for the helicopter operations. Actions taken by the firemen shows that they have a good organization and that they have been well trained. The time from alarm and when the first injured was brought out was only 8 minutes. Searching the surrounding areas started. This work could be better organized. To avoid double work cabins which has been checked should be marked. The injured people were rapidly taken care of by the first aidgroup and brought up to a musterstation.
The First Aid Group
The first aidgroup showed an anticipation and willingness to help find injured and people in need. The cooperation with the ship's doctor and the group was satisfactory. The doctor's awareness and skill made everything run quickly. He was very professional at making priorities and giving orders.
Actions by the police
Four policemen and two dogs were flown out to the ship in order to help the crew in seeking for a suspected bomb. Transportation and landing went well. They were met by a crewmember and were shown down to the cardeck. No direct contact was taken with the captain on the bridge. Instructions where to seek was given by one of the observers. A routine where one policeman shall go to the bridge and get information from the captain or chiefengineer must be used. The dogs found the few grams of TNT (explosive) very easy. From the time they landed only 28 minutes. It shows that in a real case, immediate actions shall be taken to use dogs.
When the doctor and the nurse from Huddinge hospital landed, with the first helicopter, the ship's doctor already had prepared to send three injured persons to the helicopterdeck in order to fly them to the hospital ashore. From that time a lot of confusing decisions were taken. Injured were put into the helicopter, moved out and finally only one flew to the hospital. The reason for that can be found in difficulties for the ship's doctor and the one from ashore to cooperate. Who has the final word? This will be further evaluated by the observer from Huddinge hospital.
Due to weather conditions at Söderhamn airport the HKP 10 could not start. The RITS-teams from Kramfors/Härnösand were stand by from 17.30. The reason why the Söderhamn helicopter couldn't start, shows the necessary to have the possibility to use forces from different parts of Sweden.
The helicopters used were a HKP 3 from Uppsala which flew the policemen and the two dogs from Barkaby airport, one HKP 4 from Berga for the first RITS- and medical team. The second RITS-team flew with Visby Rescue HKP 10, which had flown to Berga for the exercise. Once again we could see the advantage of a helicopterdeck on which the HKP can land. The firemen where in action after 20 minutes from landing. If the HKP has to winch the firemen and equipment, that operation will take some 30 minutes.
Work of the RITS-teams
The scenario was that after the explosion injured passengers had been blocked in damaged and smokefilled cabins. One can see that this work is what the firemen are trained for. As at the exercise the 25 January there were problems with communication between the Fireengineer and the leader of the smokedivers. Special transmission equipment didn't work as expected.
What we could see the smokediving operations work good. When an injured or smokepoisoned person was found they were brought out of the smokefilled area. They were put down and left. No direct communication with the ship's first aid group was observed. In a real case it is most important that an injured person gets immediate medical care. Probably this would not happen in reality.
Such a big exercise is very extensive expensive to arrange. When we planed the exercise we discussed how strenuous the scenario should be set up. One opinion was that the exercise should continue without any guidance and an other that we ought to have a framework with specified goals. We choosed the later. Everything can not be set up in detail and lot of improvised decisions have to be taken. If anything goes wrong it does not mean failure. What is important, is to have many observers who can note and evaluate. In this respect the exercise was successful.
One positive effect is the contact between different authorities and the Estonian and Swedish shipowner and not to forget the cooperation with the captain and his crew. These contacts can be of vital importance in an actual emergency situation.
The primary goal, final exercise according to the RITS-education was achieved well. When the total evaluation is done I am convinced that we have many answers to how such a big operation onboard a seagoing vessel will turn out.
Lennart Ahlberg Tom Evers Ronnie Unnander Marja Sundquist
From the evaluation above, in blue text, it is clear that the crew and captain were very skilled. It has been said from all different sources that the crew were unprofessional. It is clearly wrong, the crew were professional and skilled.
Interesting to note is also that the ship's doctor had a vital part in the rescue operation after such a sabotage. The ship's Doctor Viktor Bogdanov was rescued from Estonia and later he disappeared. Also the Chief Engineer Lembit Leiger had a vital part in the exercise, and he was also one of the crew that was rescued and later disappeared.
The RITS-exercise is not mentioned in the JAIC Final Report. The scenario is in several aspects very much alike the scenario of the sinking of MV Estonia. "Explosions", the alarm "Mr Skylight", and the "damaged area" on the cardeck. Not to forget the suspicion of water under cardeck and in the exercise, explosion in the public sleeping quarters at deck 1.
The similarity is obvious.