FEREX 2022: Multi-agency exercise to test Singapore’s ferry mishap readiness and response

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     The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) held its annual ferry rescue exercise (FEREX) today, in conjunction with the annual International Safety at Sea conference held from 30 August to 2 September 2022, to test Singapore’s operational readiness in the event of a ferry mishap.

2.   Nine vessels, a helicopter and more than 200 personnel from various agencies and private sector partners were deployed for the seaward exercise off the western coast of Sentosa and landward exercise at HarbourFront Passenger Ferry Terminal (HFPT). These included the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA), Ministry of Health (MOH), Singapore Police Force (SPF), the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF), the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN), Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF), Singapore Cruise Centre Pte Ltd, and ferry operator Batam Fast Ferry Pte Ltd. 

3.   The exercise was observed by Mr S Iswaran, Minister for Transport, Singapore, together with key personnel from the various government agencies and private sector partners. 

Exercise scenario

4.   The exercise scenario was based on a collision between a ferry by Batam Fast Ferry and a harbour craft which resulted in a main engine failure and ingress of water onboard the ferry due to hull damage. This led to a precarious situation that necessitated an immediate evacuation of the passengers on board the “stricken” ferry. The captain of the ferry sent out a distress call requesting for immediate help from MPA and initiated onboard evacuation procedures.

Seaward rescue operations

5.   MPA’s Ferry Mishap Contingency Plan was activated to test the agencies’ operational readiness to the incident and various seaward resources were deployed to secure the area of operations and evacuate the passengers. These included three MPA patrol crafts, a Police Coast Guard 5th Generation PT class patrol craft, an RSAF H225M Medium Lift helicopter, an RSN Independence-class Littoral Mission Vessel, and a SCDF Heavy Rescue Vessel.

MPA Guardian provides an edge in rescue operations

6.   Developed in collaboration with the Defence Science and Technology Agency and Penguin Shipyard International, MPA Guardian is a hybrid diesel-electric patrol craft that is equipped with a comprehensive suite of capabilities which allows specialised rescue operations.

7.   To demonstrate the rescue capabilities[1] of MPA’s newest patrol craft, rescued passengers were transferred onto MPA Guardian to receive simulated medical attention in the vessel’s First Aid Room. MPA Guardian is equipped with a command operations room to manage rescue operations, a Rigid-Hulled Inflatable Boat that can be deployed within 10 minutes to conduct shallow water rescue missions, and a 10-metre wide deck that is able to facilitate drone and heli evacuation operations.

8.   To demonstrate MPA Guardian’s heli evacuation capabilities and crew readiness, RSAF deployed their H225M helicopter to heli winch a “critically injured” dummy passenger from the vessel.   

Harnessing drone technology

9.   This year’s exercise also saw the deployment of unmanned aerial drones from MPA’s patrol crafts for aerial surveillance and remote monitoring with “live” feed to MPA Guardian’s command operations room to enhance situational awareness and incident management response.

Landward rescue operations

10.   The readiness of the landward rescue operation was also tested in this year’s exercise. Medical personnel and triage facilities by SCDF and MOH were deployed at HPFT to manage and treat injured passengers prior to hospital conveyance. SPF and ICA officers were also deployed to provide security coverage and immigration clearance as part of the rescue efforts.

11.   Capt Daknash Ganasen, Senior Director of Operations and Marine Services, MPA, said, “With the resumption of regional ferry services that have been disrupted by COVID-19, it is important for us to resume both the seaward and landward rescue components of the exercise to test and enhance the operational readiness and contingency preparedness of government agencies and private sector partners in dealing with such mishaps. It also gives us the opportunity to deploy new rescue capabilities and technologies, while raising public awareness on how passengers are safeguarded and cared for during a ferry rescue operation.” 

[1] Please refer to Annex A for the full list of MPA Guardian’s capabilities and dimensions.