28th May 2015
Two RNLI Atlantic 85 lifeboats headed out of Cowes Harbour on a serious mission: to take aboard ‘casualties’ in mid-Solent from a Red Funnel car ferry.
The lifeboats, one from the Cowes station and the other from East Cowes based Inshore Lifeboat Centre, were to rendezvous with the Red Funnel ferry Red Eagle, on scheduled passage from East Cowes to Southampton. Object of this first ever joint emergency response exercise was for each lifeboat to receive an ‘unconscious casualty’ from the car deck.
The exercise began with the ferry’s master, Captain Ned Tutton, alerting UK Coastguards of the emergency and requesting an immediate evacuation.
The transfer took place as the ferry continued on its scheduled service at about 10 knots, with life-size dummies playing the role of casualties. On each occasion a lifeboat member joined the crew of the ferry via a port-side doorway, to help prepare the stretcher borne ‘casualty’ for extraction. Then a ‘casualty’ was carefully lowered to each of the lifeboats, to then be conveyed to Trinity Landing, Cowes.
With Captain Tutton having explained over the public address system about the mock emergency, the whole proceedings were avidly watched from decks and through windows by many of the passengers, who showed their appreciation with cheers and claps.
Waiting at Trinity Landing to give medical assistance to the ‘casualties’ were Needles and Newport coastguards.
Also involved in the exercise was the Cowes Harbour Commission’s patrol vessel HM1. Cowes lifeboat crewman Mark Harker had been the main RNLI organiser of the exercise, and carefully observing from the ferry were Red Funnel’s Head of Ferry Operations, Captain Alwyn Rees, and Fleet Environmental Health and Safety Officer, Aqeel Hyder.
Cowes station’s Deputy Launch Authority Harry Leslie, who had also been on the ship’s bridge, said later: “The exercise was very useful, and I would like to thank Red Funnel and their staff and crew for generously giving their time for what will be of real benefit to everyone involved. Their professionalism throughout the exercise was of a very high order with excellent bridge management apparent from the outset.
“Some useful techniques were learned, which will be deployed at more exercises planned with Red Funnel in the future.”
Author: George Chastney, Lifeboat Press Officer.