Fire down below

More cruise tourists are heading to Singapore.

And that increases the possibility of maritime mishaps like the April 16 South Korean ferry disaster, where 304 people died. Last year, Singapore attracted 1.03 million cruise passengers and 391 cruise ships, and these are increases of 13 per cent and 17 per cent respectively from that of 2012.

To prepare for a passenger ship incident, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) yesterday spearheaded an exercise to test the readiness of more than 20 organisations.

After about a year of planning, more than 1,000 people from agencies such as the Singapore Police Force, the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) and the Singapore Armed Forces took part in the first Exercise Blue Dolphin.

The scenario involved a fire that broke out in the engine room of one of the ships belonging to Star Cruises, the SuperStar Gemini. Mr Ong Hsieh Lien from Genting Hong Kong, of which Star Cruises is a member, said that because the company places a premium on safety, it readily agreed to take part in the exercise when invited by the MPA.

The company's corporate communications and public relations assistant vice-president added: "As Star Cruises places the safety of passengers and crew as our top priority, we regularly conduct safety exercises on our own."

As part of the exercise that started around noon, the SuperStar Gemini was anchored off Marina South Pier.

This reporter, who was on a ferry, watched as nearly 700 volunteers, playing the role of passengers, waited to be evacuated from the vessel.

After donning their bright orange life jackets, they queued up to await their turn to get onto rescue craft alongside the cruise ship. The three-hour exercise proceeded as planned.


The MPA told The New Paper that in an emergency, when passengers and crew have to evacuate, it is the duty of the master of the ship to ensure an orderly evacuation.

Its spokesman added that it is a "serious dereliction" of his statutory duty if he abandons the ship without due regard for the safety of the passengers."

During the exercise, two SCDF marine firefighting vessels sprayed powerful jets of water at the ship.

The evacuated passengers were taken to Marina South Pier, where personnel from organisations such as the Singapore Red Cross and the Singapore General Hospital were seen busy attending to the injured passengers.

The "casualties" were then taken away in ambulances.

This article was first published on July 12, 2014.
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