19 October 2015
Posted by: Steven Neatt
Every year, the Canadian Armed Forces, in conjunction with Public Safety Canada, carries out an exercise in the Canadian Arctic called Operation NANOOK. In August 2014, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) Marine Branch was invited to participate.
Its purpose is to test at the federal, provincial and municipal levels, the whole of government response to different emergency situations. More specifically, the TSB’s goals in this exercise were to test our Marine major occurrence contingency plan, and how we collaborate with other government and non-government agencies, as well as to exercise our internal and external communications.
In 2014, the exercise included 2 scenarios: 1. a Search and Rescue incident; and 2. a ship’s grounding. The TSB participated in the second scenario. It consisted of a passenger vessel with 200 persons on board going aground approximately 90 nautical miles southeast of Iqaluit, Nunavut (NU). Some of the exercise participants included the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Canada Border Services Agency, Transport Canada, the Canadian Coast Guard, provincial and municipal emergency services, and the cruise line industry.
My role as the Investigator-in-charge (IIC) meant that I was responsible for planning and coordinating the TSB’s participation – from start to finish. All in all, it took about 14 months of meetings and planning, which took place at various venues across the country, as well as at our Head and Regional Offices.
On the first day of the exercise, the TSB deployed an investigative team to the area and set up an Incident Command Post in Iqaluit. The team consisted of an IIC, a Liaison Officer and a Communication’s Officer. As well, an Operations Centre was established in at our Head Office in Gatineau, Quebec, which included members from the TSB Marine branch, Communications and the Human Factors and Macros Analysis division. On the third day of the exercise, the investigative team on the ground was deployed to the site in York Sound, NU, and boarded the vessel to collect information and interview the crew.
Some of the challenges with such a scenario are transporting our team to the remote site, communicating effectively (since wireless communications in the North are not as accessible as down South), and coordinating activities at the national level. The TSB personnel worked together on the fly to solve problems by finding immediate and workable solutions. This “DO IT” attitude allowed us to adjust and respond without a hitch.
The TSB also worked in conjunction with other government agencies to ensure that everyone’s mandate was carried out in a harmonious manner.
On a personal note, what impressed me most was the professionalism of my TSB colleagues and the respect shown to the TSB by all the other organizations.
The exercise was considered a success and with the emergence of marine traffic in the Canadian North, the lessons learned from Operation NANOOK will assist the TSB in understanding the complexity of this environment and improve our readiness to deploy to a marine occurrence within this vast area.
In closing, I would to take this opportunity to thank everyone who participated. Bravo!
Captain Steven D. Neatt is a senior marine investigator with the TSB, and has over 30 years’ experience in the marine field. In his spare time, he enjoys motorcycling and is an avid NFL football fan.
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