A lack of available search and rescue resources is one of the major potential challenges facing ship operators in the Arctic or Antarctica, according to Cruise Industry News ‘s 2019 Expedition Market Report.
Referring to the Viking Sky incident (IMN March 26th 2019), Business School of Nord University in Bodø, Norway Professor Odd Jarl Borch said that several vessels and helicopters, both from the rescue services and from the offshore industry were made available, but, because of heavy seas, only the helicopters could be used. It took 19 hours to airlift 463 people of the 1,373 guests and crew on board, using four to five helicopters, before the ship was able to propel itself into port.
He warned that in Svalbard, for example, there might be only one or two vessels and two helicopters available, and the hospital in Longyearbyen might only be able treat two to three seriously injured persons at a time. Medevacs to the mainland of Norway would take several hours.
On the East Coast of Greenland and in Franz Josef Land the search and rescue resources are even more scarce, said Professor Borch.
Tests were currently being conducted for Isfjorden, the location of larger ships when they go to Svalbard.
Emergency plans are in place for Svalbard and there are frequent exercises, but these are on a relatively modest scale. Professor Borch said that Nordlab has been tracking the traffic and risk areas in the Arctic and working to create more awareness of safety and preparedness management. Funding had been provided by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which was also promoting cross-border cooperation in the region.