Fires are not uncommon on ships at sea. A ship on fire is a truly terrifying phenomenon. There is water all around, but not of any use. There is no place to run to, only the cold waters a refuge.
The only respite comes in the form of naval authorities worldwide who frequently carry out drills to hone their skills to superbly combat dangers at sea.
Recently, one of the grandest search-and-rescue exercises was carried out in the Bay of Bengal. A merchant vessel simulated catching fire on the afternoon of November 28. Shortly after issuing a call for help via satellite to the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS) office at Bangladesh’s naval headquarters, help arrived in the form of three ships.
The respondents were the INS (Indian Navy Ship) Ranvir, BNS (Bangladesh Navy Ship) Bijoy, and BNS Dhaleshwari. The IONS office had forwarded the SOS to all naval vessels of member countries, and the three were nearest to the distressed merchant ship. While the entire exercise was only a training drill, evidence suggests those who may face real emergencies are in good hands.
The drill was part of the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium Multilateral Maritime Search and Rescue Exercise (IMMSAREX) 2017, which ran from November 26 to 29. The purpose of the exercise was to increase cooperation between countries adjacent the Indian Ocean in addressing emergencies at sea.
Within a couple of hours of the incident, a second drill was conducted. In this scenario, a fishing vessel was caught in a sea storm and had lost their bearings at another part of the bay.
Upon receiving the SOS, two other warships of Bangladesh Navy rushed to the spot and rescued the fishermen. An Indian warship had also come forward to assist.
A total 41 ships, including 33 warships of host country Bangladesh, participated in the first ever such international exercise in the country. Three maritime patrol aircraft and seven helicopters also took part.
The warships were divided into three groups and conducted the drills at the deeper points of the Bay of Bengal. Bangladesh’s largest warship, the frigate BNS Somudra Avijan, led the entire exercise.
Bangladesh Assistant Chief of Naval Staff Rear Admiral M Shaheen Iqbal instructed the drills, with the assistance of Bangladesh Navy Fleet Commander Rear Admiral M Ashraful Haque.
About 50 journalists from different media outlets of the country had boarded the BNS Somudra Avijan, BNS Bangabandhu and BNS Bijoy to observe the drills.
The newsmen boarded the three ships from Inani Rezu Khal’s Jetty of Cox’s Bazar, on the night of November 27, with the drills beginning at around 1:30pm on November 28. Chief Staff Officer Captain Rashed Sattar briefed journalists on the exercises.
He said: “The IONS has brought all countries on the Indian Ocean’s coastline under an umbrella. By increasing ties, Bangladesh can strengthen its position in the bay, and work together with other coastal countries when accidents occur.”
The naval drills were concluded with practice on how to recover a missing airplane, at dawn on November 29.
A corvette-series warship, BNS Shadhinota, received a message that a wing of a missing airplane was seen floating at Bangladesh’s maritime border area in the Bay of Bengal. The warship soon reached the area, as did a ship of the Indonesian Navy.
A shark boat carrying some navy personnel from the Bangladeshi warship recovered the wing, as well as some other important parts of the missing airplane, and returned to the ship.
After completing the exercise, the BNS Bangabandhu saw off the foreign warships at the last border point of the Bay of Bengal’s Exclusive Economic Zone – about 200 kilometres from the shore of Cox’s Bazar.
With Bangladesh Navy Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Nizamuddin Ahmed serving as IONS’s current chair, Bangladesh’s President Abdul Hamid inaugurated IMMSAREX-2017 at the Hotel Royal Tulip, in Inani of Cox’s Bazar, on November 27.
The IONS was formed in 2008 to ensure maritime security and develop friendly ties between the members, in the effort to stop terrorism, smuggling and other criminal activities. The forum is comprised of 23 member countries and nine observer nations.
The 23 IONS members are: Bangladesh, France, India, Indonesia, Iran, Kenya, Maldives, Mauritius, Mozambique, Myanmar, Oman, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Seychelles, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Lesotho, United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom.
The nine observer nations are: China, Germany, Italy, Japan, Madagascar, Malaysia, Netherlands, Russia and Spain.