Environmental Response Policy

1/30/2017: Joint US/Canadian Interagency Marine Casualty Response Table Top Exercise

Written by Lt. Cmdr. Anthony Hillenbrand, supervisor, Marine Safety Detachment Massena

Recently, Marine Safety Detachment (MSD) Massena hosted a joint U.S. and Canadian multi-agency Marine Casualty Table Top Exercise. More than 20 U.S. and Canadian representatives from MSD Massena, Sector Buffalo, the Coast Guard 9th District, St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation (SLSDC), St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation (SLSMC) and Transport Canada attended the one-day event.

The table top exercise scenario was developed around a hypothetical marine casualty that involved a vessel grounding, without pollution, in U.S. waters in the vicinity of the American Narrows of the St. Lawrence Seaway. The purpose of the exercise was to identify partnership strengths and weaknesses, and opportunities for interagency collaboration, as well as to discuss applicable laws and policies, location of salvage assets, salvage plan review, vessel response plan activation, and potential lead times to reduce response times to a marine casualty in the St. Lawrence Seaway, and to minimize the impact to vessel traffic and commerce in the Great Lakes system.

Throughout the exercise the interagency partnership worked well in joint incident management and highlighted strong cooperation, coordination and sharing of resources. Interagency marine casualty and accident reporting protocols continue to be successful in reduced response times in the field. The exercise refreshed participant’s on individual and shared authorities of each agency including vessel traffic management, casualty response and investigation, and salvage plan review.

Initiatives for improvement include public outreach and dissemination of information to the public during an incident and efficient application of authorities, including the establishment of safety zones and management of salvage operations.

Good communications between the vessel management (vessel master, operator, owner, agent, etc.), and responding agencies during a marine casualty is always a priority. The international multi-agency response to a marine casualty in the St. Lawrence Seaway further highlights the importance of good communication. Good communications can significantly reduce response, salvage and recovery times in the Seaway.

The marine casualty table top exercise is the first of a series of exercises designed to progressively challenge response capabilities of participating agencies that will culminate in a practical hands-on exercise later in the year. A pollution table top exercise based on the marine casualty table top exercise scenario is currently being developed.

This blog is not a replacement or substitute for the formal posting of regulations and updates or existing processes for receiving formal feedback of the same. Links provided on this blog will direct the reader to official source documents, such as the Federal Register, Homeport and the Code of Federal Regulations. These documents remain the official source for regulatory information published by the Coast Guard.