Increased resource exploration and transportation in the Arctic has catalyzed the evaluation of equipment and procedures to determine their suitability for ice covered waters. Remote operating locations and harsh physical environments present new operational challenges and increased complexity that must be addressed to ensure environmental and personnel safety is not compromised. Emergency response in sea ice is a specific area that must be assessed to ensure that personnel are able to escape, evacuate, and be rescued in conditions that will be experienced during operations in the north. Regulators will expect that operators will be able to demonstrate that lifeboats can be safely launched and that the craft can navigate to a safe zone for rescue of personnel.
The paper describes an investigation into the operability of conventional lifeboats in pack ice conditions. The investigation was based on field trials of a small Totally Enclosed Motor Propelled Survival Craft (TEMPSC) lifeboat that was operated in a range of controlled pack ice conditions. The study focused on observing how operators with different levels of experience and backgrounds operated in ice, how their behaviors impacted their ability to maneuver through the ice field and the impact on the vessel and crew. Participants in the trials had different levels of experience operating in ice and in small crafts. The coxswains who participated in the investigation had a range of operational experience with vessels in ice, including operators who have worked aboard icebreaking vessels, but with limited experience operating in small vessels, and operators with experience operating small vessels, but with limited experience operating in ice. During the field trials, coxswains employed different tactics for advancing through ice. The outcomes of the study were used to analyze the impact of different driving techniques on the ability of the coxswain to successfully maneuver through ice and the impact of driving style on vessel integrity and crew comfort. The results of the study assess the tactics which can be employed by coxswains in different ice concentrations and the outcomes can be used to define learning objectives for training programs designed to prepare coxswains for emergency operations in ice covered waters.