SPECIALIST New South Wales firefighters recently completed a five-day course designed by AMC Search to impart the skills needed to carry out reconnaissance on vessels at sea and identify unknown substances.
The course meets the requirements of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, which enforces an international protocol to respond to hazardous and noxious substances on vessels.
AMSA senior response co-ordinator David Imhoff said the firefighters carry out reconnaissance while the vessel is still at sea to help decision-makers on shore decide what course of action to take.
“The crew are deployed to the vessel by air or by water with the aim of identifying the suspicious substance,” he said.
“Our aim is to help ensure the safety of the vessel and of the population where the vessel is headed by avoiding incidents such as port fires,” he said.
AMSA works with Fire and Rescue New South Wales to deliver this capability, and the team can be deployed anywhere within Commonwealth waters.
The firefighters spend a day in the classroom learning about the shipping industry, before getting a tour of a freight vessel from its Master and practicing sea survival techniques in AMC’s Survival Centre, which includes a large indoor pool next to a mock ship superstructure.
Next, they carry out vessel boarding practice and pilot-ladder training at AMC’s training vessels, as well as carrying out man overboard lifeboat drills and chemical incident exercises.
Their final day is spent in AMC’s Maritime Simulation Centre, where they carry out simulated exercises in the full mission bridge and the tug simulators to approach vessels and communicate with the bridge crew.
Mr Imhoff said AMC was unique in its ability to provide all the aspects involved in this diverse training.
“We constantly get feedback from the firefighters that it’s one of the best courses they do in their career – one of the participants said so yesterday. So we’re pretty happy with that,” he said.