Bureau Veritas (BV) and Ponant in world’s first international rescue exercise in a polar zone

Le Commandant Charcot (Credit: Nicolas Dubreuil, Ponant - August 2021)Bureau Veritas (BV), a world leader in testing, inspection, and certification, has recently participated in the world’s first international search and rescue exercise (SAREX) in a remote polar zone.

BV tested and certified maritime safety equipment onboard the polar exploration vessel Le Commandant Charcot, during a trial voyage to the North Pole organised by leading cruise ship operator PONANT.

The search and rescue exercise was performed to identify and address the challenges, constraints and opportunities involved in Arctic Massive Rescue Operations (AMRO) in remote polar areas, in order to support safe navigation in polar waters. The exercise brought together teams from Russia, Greenland, Iceland, Canada, the United States and Norway. This international initiative involved academic experts, the ship’s officers and crew, as well as remotely connected teams and head office managements.

The field exercise itself gathered a group of 67 people, who were tasked with setting up a polar survival camp to last over a 24-hour period on the ice, among other tasks. For BV, the exercise was an ideal opportunity to test all rescue and safety equipment, particularly the ‘Ice Cube’, camp kit, group survival kit, floating polar shelters, and survival suits. The conclusions were very positive with all equipment tested exceeding safety criteria and standards and those required by the tourism industry (IAATO and AECO).

The outcomes of the SAREX will be shared with polar environment experts to support better understanding of the impact of extended periods of time spent on polar ice. The outcomes will also help the expedition cruise industry and rescue centres across the world to devise new safety strategies and improve their understanding of the potential impacts of a crisis situation in extreme polar conditions.

Laurent Leblanc, Senior Vice President Technical & Operations at Bureau Veritas Marine & Offshore, commented: “Being part of this important search and rescue exercise has enabled us to further understand what is at stake in polar conditions. We were pleased to be able to support PONANT with our polar expertise to help ensure safety in polar operations. Given the extreme conditions of the polar environment, safety is an absolute priority and can be a matter of life or death. Bureau Veritas continues to demonstrate its leadership on matters related to safety in polar waters, the outcomes of the exercise have been extremely positive. This should give cruise passengers and governments increased confidence in the safety of polar voyages.”

Mathieu Petiteau, Newbuilding Director at PONANT, said: “We are proud to partner with BV and a range of international partners on this milestone exercise, which once more raises the bar for maritime safety and standards in polar tourism. Safety is paramount when navigating in the challenging waters surrounding the poles, and at PONANT we are dedicated to protect the health and safety of our passengers and crew, as well as safeguarding the pristine polar environments. In line with our commitment to sustainable tourism, our vessel Le Commandant Charcot is powered by electricity and LNG, and is fitted with facilities and equipments that support scientific research on the polar ecosystems.”

(Ponant, BV)

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