For Rear Admiral Daniel Abel, United States Coast Guard 17th District Commander, it’s the Coast Guard Cutter Healy. The ship is pictured here at the North Pole, which she reached on 5 September. Admiral Abel, speaking at a conference in Alaska, explained that the vessel is there on her own, in a hostile area. There is no buddy system for her and “there’s nothing with a US flag that is going to come save her” if difficulties arise.
Admiral Abel was speaking in the context of a discussion about fleet availability and capability in the far North. However, the Coast Guard’s director of marine transportation systems, Gary Rasicot, told reporters at the conference that it is Crystal Cruises’ Crystal Serenity that disturbs his sleep.
In August next year, Crystal Serenity will sail from Seward, Alaska, through the Canadian Arctic, to Greenland and then New York with 1,050 passengers and 650 crew members on board. The cruise is fully booked.
“As a Coast Guardsman,” said Mr Rasicot, “I don’t want a repeat of the Titanic, and we need to make sure that we think this through. I want to make sure that those 1,700 people, when they lay their head on the pillow at night, will rest assured that if something bad happens we’ll be able to respond.”
A good night’s rest all round seems to be what’s wanted! But how is that to be achieved when, as the world warms and the northern waterways open up further each summer, more and more ships can be expected to head north – on ‘adventure’ cruises like Crystal Serenity, or to save valuable passage time? (See ‘Into the Arctic’, LIFE LINE, August 2014; available in the newsletter archive on the IMRF website.)
Vice Commandant of the Coast Guard, Charles D. Michel, spoke of the need for cooperation in the face of Arctic challenges.
“The Coast Guard has always existed in a partnership type format – but it becomes increasingly important here in the Arctic and Alaska because of the great distances involved, the weather, and the tremendous logistics, communications and navigation challenges. Virtually everything up here is done by partnership,” says the Vice Commandant. “The Coast Guard can do almost none of this on its own.”
Which is something common to all of us in SAR around the world. The opening Arctic is far from being the only ‘area remote from SAR facilities’, as the IMO puts it, where a mass rescue operation hardly bears thinking about.
Yet think about it we must. Visit the MRO Website.