A training exercise has been held on the River Tyne to practice the response to a fire on board the Shields Ferry.
The exercise, which took place on Wednesday, was a chance for the emergency services and the ferry crew to co-ordinate their response in the event of a major incident occurring on the cross-Tyne passenger service.
The mock scene, in mid-river, saw the ferry, Pride of the Tyne, attended by the Tynemouth RNLI all-weather lifeboat, Port of Tyne pilot boat and the Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service’s fireboat after crew radioed that there was ‘smoke coming from the engines on board’.
The aims were to test command and control links, response times, evacuation procedures, the rescue of a trapped casualty and the response to casualties arriving at landing points.
Nexus, the public body which owns and operates the ferry, was also joined on the exercise by the Northumbria Police Marine Division.
Shields Ferry manager, Carol Timlin, said: “As a responsible ferry operator it is vital that we are ready to deal with emergency situations.
“Training exercises like this allow us to work with the emergency services, the Port and the RNLI to make sure that we are prepared in the unlikely event that a major incident occurs.
“All of the agencies involved find these type of exercises useful. We train all the time for all sorts of different eventualities. The safety of passengers and crew is our top priority at all times.”
The mock emergency began at 9.45am when the smoke was reported, followed by an engine failure and the evacuation of all the passengers, who were played by members of Nexus staff.
A person was then reported as having jumped into the water and a search-and-rescue operation was practised using a dummy.
There was also a scenario included for managing the spillage of diesel oil into the river.
The crew was able to re-start the ferry’s engines and bring her back to the pontoon at Viking Park.
The final element of the scenario involved the Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service rescuing a casualty who had become trapped in the ferry’s engine room.
A full debrief was held at the end of the exercise to look at lessons learned.
Assistant Chief Fire Officer Chris Lowther, of Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, said: “This was a unique and valuable opportunity for our staff to train in a live setting, working closely with partner agencies. By planning and practising the logistics of a scenario such as this, we are best placed to respond quickly and effectively in the event of a real incident. This exercise could save people’s lives.”