New Cruise Ship Participates in Large-Scale Sea Emergency Drill

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While crew members frequently practice crisis procedures onboard, it’s rather rare for a cruise ship to take part in an emergency drill with outside organizations. 

But TUI Cruises was more than happy to lend its brand new cruise ship, Mein Schiff 7, to the Maritime Accident Command and the German Society for the Rescue of Shipwrecked People for a large-scale training session that included around 150 first responders, six special ships, and a helicopter. 

Mein Schiff 7 Involved in Large-Scale At Sea Emergency Drill
Mein Schiff 7 Involved in Large-Scale At Sea Emergency Drill (Credit: Die Seenotretter – DGzRS)

The exercise took place on June 15, 2024, in Northern Europe’s Baltic Sea, between Warnemünde, a German port town near Rostock, and Darßer Ort Natureum, which is a satellite of the German Oceanographic Museum at Stralsund. 

The emergency scenario the safety teams wanted to prepare was what to do if a cruise ship – Mein Schiff 7 in this case – was unable to maneuver after a collision with several guests injured onboard. 

As is customary internationally, the crew participating onboard alerted the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) in Bremen to begin the drill, which launched a large-scale search and rescue mission. 

Sea rescue cruisers Arkona, Bremen, and Nis Randers, along with rescue boat Konrad-Otto, set course for the scene of the accident, while members of the TUI vessel’s 1,000-person crew tended to the “injured” people onboard, who were also portrayed by crew members. 

An emergency command then took over the scene, sending a medical team from the Maritime Incident Response Group (MIRG) of the Kiel professional fire brigade to the ship. A helicopter was also landed on the ship, as it might be to evacuate a seriously injured person in a real emergency. 

Read Also: Are Cruises Safe? What You Really Need to Know

Once the “victims” of the artificial accident were addressed, emergency teams shifted their efforts to an emergency towing operation, as a stranded cruise ship would pose a threat to the shipping industry. 

By all accounts, the complicated training drill went swimmingly, and was a great learning experience for all involved.  

“The unique opportunity to train a complex disaster situation with a cruise ship as a disaster scenario was a complete success. This means our emergency services are even better prepared for emergencies. My thanks go to everyone who made this extraordinary exercise possible,” said Dr. Robby Renner, the head of the local emergency command.

Mein Schiff 7 Involved in Large-Scale At Sea Emergency Drill
Mein Schiff 7 Involved in Large-Scale At Sea Emergency Drill Credit: Havariekommando)

Mein Schiff 7 was able to participate because the 2,894-passenger vessel was in between cruises and didn’t have any paying guests onboard. 

The new build only entered service a couple of days ago on June 12, 2024, with a 2-night preview cruise out of Kiel, Germany – and the 115,000-gross ton new build has one more test voyage embarking on June 16, 2024. 

The 5-night “anticipation” voyage is round-trip out of Kiel, Germany, and will call on Copenhagen, Denmark, and Oslo, Norway. 

She will be officially named in at-sea christening in the Bay of Kiel on June 22, before beginning her career with a season in the Baltic. 

Emergency Preparedness On Cruise Ships

While a cruise line partnering with outside teams for training drills is a unique scenario, modern cruise ships are always preparing for crisis scenarios onboard in an “expect the unexpected” approach. 

Through near-constant practice, crew members are able to respond quickly and efficiently in the unlikely event an emergency does occur.

Mein Schiff 7 Involved in Large-Scale At Sea Emergency Drill
Mein Schiff 7 Involved in Large-Scale At Sea Emergency Drill (Credit: Die Seenotretter – DGzRS)

While all cruise ships typically possess their own emergency medical staff, fire fighting teams, and security personnel, all other crew members – from performers to shopkeepers – have a pre-assigned role in an emergency situation.

The crew will then practice what to do in their roles around once a week in crew-only drills, which passengers may not even know are happening as it doesn’t interrupt the fun onboard or might be conducted in port.

However, all passengers are required to participate in mandatory muster drills before their cruises are allowed to embark.  This exercise, which is sometimes also referred to as a “lifeboat drill,” ensures guests know what to do and where to go in the rare event the ship must be evacuated. 

Mein Schiff 7 Sea Trials
Mein Schiff 7 Sea Trials

But while cruise ships are equipped to handle a lot on their own, they are known to coordinate with outside teams, such as the U.S. Coast Guard or Air Force, for crises like medical evacuations or man-overboard scenarios. 

As recently as May 4, 2024, the US Air Force conducted a long-range medical evacuation of a seriously ill guest onboard Carnival Venezia. 

The U.S. Coast Guard is also frequently called in to perform airlifts, such as when an ailing crew member was evacuated by helicopter from Carnival Sunshine on April 27, 2024. 

And in man-overboard situations, the U.S. Coast Guard is frequently called in to take over the search and rescue missions, allowing the cruise ships to return to the scheduled itineraries that were promised to the potentially thousands of guests onboard and in future sailings that could be impacted by extensive delays. 

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