When the Balloon Goes Up
Almost 50 members and guests of the Hong Kong Branch gathered in February to hear Joint Noble FNI FIIMS give a presentation entitled `What To Do When The Balloon Goes Up...and what preparation is useful'.
As general manager of the International Salvage Union, and former chief executive of the Salvage Association, John is well-qualified to pose the question and suggest possible answers.
He began by defining a major casualty as an incident where the response and management will involve local and national coastal authorities, plus the flag state, classification society, P&I Club, H&M, charterers and cargo interests, among others.
To prove that old salvage adage 'a major casualty is like an elephant - hard to describe, but you'll know one when you see one', John then displayed a range of casualty photographs demonstrating just how much can go wrong. He also showed a diagram illustrating which organisations or individuals may descend upon the unfortunate vessel, and identified more than 40 possible attendees.
John gave a brief overview of initial response procedures and the importance of a sound media policy before turning his attention to international conventions and their effect on casualty response. In particular, he dealt with the new OPRC Convention and what it requires of ships and governments. He made the telling point that post-incident analysis of ISM compliance will be of interest to a number of parties and any non-compliance which were causational may prejudice the outcome of subsequent legal action. He also warned of the possible effect of the ISPS code, which can sometimes result in extended response times, difficulties in clearing-in vital equipment and obtaining passes and even harassment by local military or `homeland security' personnel.
After covering the revised OPA-90 salvage requirements, the prerequisites for professional salvors and requirements of responders, he pointed out the importance of knowing who is in charge. The SOSREP system in the
has been a great success, but few countries have had the courage or foresight
to implement a similar system, so overall command
may lie with a captain of the port, or a harbourmaster,
or even with the police or the military. Not knowing who wields the ultimate
power can ruin your entire day. United Kingdom
Finally, John described the new ISU/Nautical Institute Casualty Management Guidelines, which should he published in March next year. These will play an important role in educating all parties involved in a salvage situation about the role and responsibilities of all the other parties, and will demonstrate the importance of pre-casualty training and authentic drills.
John Noble concluded his talk with the depressingly accurate statement that success will be judged as much by how well you handle the media as how well you handle the casualty.
Needless to say, there was a lively question and answer session, which continued over the buffet after the talk.
Captain Alan Loynd FNI
Seaways May 2011