AMCS Facilitates Specialised Training for First Response for HNS Incidents at Sea

In a maritime environmental emergency having access to accurate, real-time information is vital to mounting an effective response.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) identified the need for a dedicated incident response reconnaissance capability to be deployed to a vessel which is experiencing a hazardous and noxious substances (HNS) incident.

In partnership with the Australian Maritime College’s commercial arm, AMCS, which is an institute of the University of Tasmania, a specialised training course has been designed for AMSA and Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW) team members to familiarise themselves with the unique operating environment of a ship at sea.

AMSA Marine Environment General Manager Toby Stone said Australia had an obligation to prepare for and respond to any pollution incident that occurred in our waters.

“During a HNS event on-board a vessel it is often too dangerous for the crew to get close enough to provide a proper assessment of the situation. This capability will give incident controllers back on-shore the eyes and ears on-board a stricken vessel and allow them to mount the most effective response,” Mr Stone said.

AMC course coordinator Anthony Beckett said the HNS Reconnaissance Team Training course gave participants the skills needed to identify, assess and provide advice on incidents such as chemical spills aboard a ship.

“The FRNSW hazardous materials team is already trained in how to deal with these situations on land; we needed to take this existing knowledge and apply it to the maritime environment,” Mr Beckett said.

The course covered an overview of the maritime industry, vessel and cargo observations, sea survival training, practical ship familiarisation, boarding exercises, team simulations and exercises using AMC’s training facilities in Launceston and Beauty Point.

“As you can imagine, manoeuvring around a vessel in full HAZMAT protective gear can be quite a challenge and the students had the chance to practice methods of boarding a ship in a non-emergency situation using our fleet of training vessels,” Mr Beckett said.

“Responding to an incident at sea adds another level of complexity and being able to run through these scenarios using both real-life and simulated training environments is an invaluable experience.”

FRNSW Specialised Operations Manager Superintendent Paul Bailey said the training provided an extended capability beyond its usual land‑based operations.

“It’s an invaluable opportunity to add to FRNSW’s globally recognised skills in HAZMAT and train in the Australian Maritime College’s purpose-built environment,” he said.

AMC Principal Professor Neil Bose said the course was a great example of AMCS working closely with industry to meet their specific needs.

“We were pleased to have the opportunity to work with AMSA to develop this training course and help build the skills required to support our seafarers and help protect the national marine environment,” he said.

The hazardous and noxious substances response capability operates within the established framework of Australia’s National Plan for Maritime Environmental Emergencies, which is managed by AMSA.