Testing our emergency procedures on an international stage

Bob Officer, INS Departmental Security Officer, talks about the robust emergency procedures INS has in place and the importance of testing them regularly.

Last week I joined experts and government representatives from a number of countries at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna to take part in a nuclear transport emergency response exercise.

The simulated table-top exercise played out at the IAEA’s Incident and Emergency Centre (IEC) and was aimed at testing emergency response arrangements in relation to the transportation of nuclear materials by sea.

We were taking part in a fictional scenario which tested, through the use of ‘injects’, how we would respond, share information and act in response to a real time incident.

Dialogue between coastal and shipping states

The table-top exercise is the latest in a series conducted by the Dialogue between Coastal and Shipping States.

The Dialogue was established as an informal mechanism in the margins of the IAEA General Conference which takes place each year in Vienna. It was established in the early 2000s with the aim of building confidence and promoting transparency around the transport of nuclear materials by sea.

As the world’s most experienced shipper of nuclear materials INS fully supports these aims, and the exercise last week was another opportunity to deepen international understanding of sea transports, and our robust safety, security and emergency response procedures.

INS Emergency Preparedness

Countries around the world are entitled to expect the highest standards of safety and security.

As the carrier of nuclear cargoes, INS (and our subsidiary Pacific Nuclear Transport Limited – PNTL) has direct responsibilities placed on it for emergency planning, preparedness and response by the transport regulations set by the IAEA and the International Maritime Organisation (IMO).

Our vessels are classified by the IMO at its highest level of INF3. The INF Code regulates shipments by sea of packaged irradiated nuclear fuel, plutonium and high level radioactive wastes.

The INF Code contains information on the development of “shipboard emergency plans”. These plans are approved by the independent UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) and detail the action to be taken by the ship’s Master in the event of an incident.

INS Emergency Response

Each ship operated by INS and PNTL has tried and tested emergency response arrangements. The constant contact between the vessel and its report centre in the UK, means the status of the vessel and its environment is continuously monitored, allowing unforeseen events to be evaluated and responded to quickly.

INS has a fully trained and experienced rapid response team ready to manage any conventional or radiological incident on its vessels at anytime, anywhere in the world.

We also have the permanent support of salvage experts who are available to respond 24-hrs a day and have global resources for maritime emergencies, from emergency tugs and cranes, to naval architects and salvage masters.

Emergency exercises

Emergency response exercises, like the one in Vienna last week, form an essential part of our contingency planning system. Along with our partners we run a busy calendar of live, table top and control post exercises.

These exercises test our communication systems, the expertise of the team members and the ship’s crews as well as the performance of the emergency equipment across a variety of locations from port, to open water, involving both conventional and radiological scenarios.

A flawless nuclear safety record

At INS we’re extremely proud of our flawless nuclear safety record which stretches back over 40 years.

We work hard to maintain that record by ensuring that our ways of working are as robust as the equipment that we use in order to ensure the safety of our crews, the public and the environment.

Last week’s exercise in Vienna was another chance to test our emergency response arrangements in the company of some of our most important international partners and stakeholders.