Autumn 2014

Life savers

Thrills but no spills on a RAF Search and Rescue helicopter training exercise.

It was supposed to be a perfectly ordinary day for the crew of the James Fisher Everard (JFE) tanker, Seniority, which was on its way from Antwerp, Belgium, to Peterhead in Aberdeenshire to deliver 3800 metric tonnes of marine gas oil for a major oil company.

But at 11.30am on 11th September, as the vessel neared the Yorkshire coast, Seniority took an unexpected radio message from an RAF helicopter, asking if they could carry out an unscheduled training exercise and land a paramedic on the ship.

Despite the rough seas permission was granted immediately as, like most merchant seamen, the Seniority crew were aware that one day, one of them might be in need of evacuation and these exercises are vital to keep the helicopter crews’ skills updated.

As the ship pitched from side to side and bobbed up and down in the waves the Seniority team had to work hard to hold a steady course and speed so the helicopter could lower an RAF paramedic onto its poop deck – without colliding with the ship. Once safely onboard, the paramedic made contact with Seniority’s master and second officer on the bridge, then returned to deck assisted by able seamen Rodulfo Tonalete and Mario Reantoquio before being winched safely back up to the helicopter.

 It was an exciting and potentially dangerous exercise for the ship and the RAF crew, but one which JFS was more than happy to be involved with.

Mike Prior, the ship manager said:

“Safety in all ship operations is paramount and JFE is always happy to support our emergency rescue services. Our comprehensive and professional approach to risk helps us to identify and manage potential problems and minimise the chance of something going wrong.”

Asked afterwards about his potentially perilous job, the paramedic added:

“You don’t think about the dangers at the time when there’s adrenalin pumping through your body, but it really is a team effort - every member of the crew works to keep everyone safe, and even though you might be suspended on a 240ft cable over rough seas I knew I was in good hands.”

Search Pelican





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