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Showcasing the benefits of cooperation in responding to accidents in seaports: 9th Annual Forum of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region

Two ships collide in a European port causing a barrel with unknown, potentially dangerous chemicals to fall aboard. A Border Guard Patrol vessel arrives to investigate the situation. Specially equipped divers are needed to recover the barrel safely and the neighbouring country’s authorities are contacted for assistance. A vessel from the neighbouring country’s coast guard arrives shortly, carrying a team of divers, while a decontamination station is being set up on the shore to clean the crew and the divers of any chemical residue. A helicopter arrives in case any persons need emergency care and must be taken to a specialised hospital.

“The number of hazards, emergencies and disasters is increasing – both man-made and natural – and we have to prepare ourselves and our societies – and we have to train and exercise our units in the fire and rescue services, police, military, humanitarian relief organisations and NGOs” narrated Jürgen Krempin from Hamburg Fire and Rescue Service, while a crowd of spectators watched the exercise demonstration in Tallinn’s Seaplane Harbour on the 5th of June 2018.

The demonstration was a part of the programme at the 9th Annual Forum of the EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region (EUSBSR). Its main focus was to show how joint international exercises can improve countries’ preparedness for all sorts of hazards and prevent loss of lives and money. The audience had the unique opportunity to see all the maneuvers of the vessels, divers and the rescue services. The video from the exercise demonstration is available here.

Prior to the demonstration in the Seaplane Harbour a discussion on “Exercises as tools for building a resilient BSR post-2020 – from the round-table to the field” was organised at the venue of the Annual Forum of the EUSBSR. Siim Kallas, Municipal Mayor of Viimsi and Former Vice-President of the European Commission, opened the session by commending the PA Secure flagship project HAZARD: “Viimsi has benefited a lot from the cooperation within HAZARD”. The initiative for the project came from Viimsi, and the challenges faced by the municipality. The resulting project is a good example how local needs can be addressed in a concrete way through transnational cooperation and projects possible with EU funding.

The session focused on various types of exercises as tools for achieving results in different areas, and the life cycle of an exercise; the benefits, challenges, and lessons learned. The discussion was moderated by Christer Pursiainen, Professor of Societal Safety and Environment, from the Arctic University of Norway, who highlighted the importance of cooperation between civil protection stakeholders and how PA Secure can be a good platform for facilitating such cooperation.

“Exercises provide good opportunities to benchmark, learn from each other and to network” emphasised Torbjörn Lindström from the Southwest Finland Emergency Services, who represented the HAZARD project. He further stressed the importance of communication during emergencies, and how exercises can enable better preparedness, and facilitate more efficient actions to reduce the loss of lives and material damages.

Teemu Niemelä from the Finnish Border Guard, who represented the ChemSAR project, pointed out the importance of well-planned and organised exercises. The questions “what are we doing, for whom and why?” must be answered in the planning phase. He further accentuated the need to create standard operational procedures (SOP) to facilitate seamless cooperation between agencies from different countries.

The PA Secure flagship Balex Delta was represented by the Swedish Coast Guard, and Else Timms highlighted that “the Balex Delta exercise is one of the largest exercises in the world”. She also emphasised the need to stay focused on the ultimate objective of the exercises: “If there is a big accident in the Baltic Sea, we need to get the first responders there quickly and get to the people that need to be saved”.

“Exercises are the best tool we have to create better preparedness than we have today” explained Jonas Westerberg from the Swedish Coast Guard, who represented DiveSMART Baltic together with Else Timms. He further stressed the importance of the social dimension of the exercises for building preparedness and possibilities to work together in case of an emergency: “It is very inspiring to see that during the first day of the exercise people are standing with their arms crossed, and on the last day everyone is high-fiving each other”.

Arya Honarmand from the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB), who has been working with exercises at the European Union’s Civil Protection Mechanism, provided his perspective: “Exercises are excellent tools to increase resilience…when they are connected to a specific focus area that we want to improve”.

The exercise demonstration and the panel discussion were jointly organised by PA Secure, coordinated by the Secretariat of the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS) and the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB) and PA Safe, coordinated by the Danish Maritime Authority (DMA) and the Finnish Transport Safety Agency (Trafi). The 9th Annual Forum of the EUSBSR took place in Tallinn, Estonia on the 4 – 5 June 2018 with more than 500 people in attendance.

TallinnaTV coverage of the exercise, featuring interviews with Jürgen Krempin and Danel Tüür (start at 6:53)

The organisations who contributed to making the session(s) possible were:

Estonian Rescue Board

Estonian Police and Border Guard Board

Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Estonian Navy

Estonian Voluntary Maritime Rescue Organisation, Tilgu Voluntary Unit

Finnish Border Guard

Hamburg Fire and Rescue Service

Swedish Coast Guard

Port authorities of the Seaplane Harbour


Exercises as tools for building a resilient BSR post-2020 Part 1