On May 16th, 2017, the Port of Valletta in Malta witnessed a mass evacuation exercise on board a cruise ship, called MALTEX-EVAC 2017. Organized by Transport Malta on the Costa neoRiviera, a cruise ship with a capacity for 1700 passengers, berthed at the Valletta Cruise Port. This simulation involved all the stakeholders required in a coordinated inter-agency emergency response operation on board a high capacity passenger ship.
This exercise was undertaken as part of the PICASSO Project, funded by the European Commission under the Connecting Europe Facilities (call 2015) and led by Transport Malta and the Italian Ministry of Transport. This project, in which the ICT department of CIMNE takes part as technological partner, is headed by the Spanish Maritime Rescue and Safety Agency and has brought together 14 partners from 9 different countries namely: Cyprus, Greece, Israel, Italy, Malta, Sweden, Portugal, Spain and UK.
Local authorities in Malta were critical in the execution of the exercise as well as Costa Cruises, part of the Carnival Group, the world's largest cruise company. In particular, in the exercise participated the Civil Protection Department, Health Authorities, the Armed Forces, the Accident and Emergency Department, the Police Force, Valletta Cruise Port, Tug Malta Ltd. and Malta Maritime Pilots, among others.
Local authorities explaining the exercise to the press
MALTEX-EVAC 2017 allowed participants to test new technologies and properly tune on-board, port, health and civil protection plans that underpin a successful coordinated action when an emergency occurs. The Armed Forces of Malta (AFM) coordinated the rescue operation and supported the Costa neoRiviera with its own craft. Following a distress call to Rescue Coordination Centre Malta by the ship, all agencies were alerted as per routine Search-and-Rescue (SAR) procedures. The drill simulated the evacuation of injured passengers or passengers needing immediate medical assistance who were later followed by the remaining passengers. ‘Injured’ passengers were either taken to a hospital or transported by sea to another safe berth across the port (Boiler Wharf) for a simulated triage process.
The emergency simulation exercise brought together different stakeholders to align with mass evacuation requirements. The exercise concluded in the port tested and confirmed the response readiness and the safety plan process on safe evacuation in case of emergency. This will allow properly coordinated plans with set priority paths in place in an event of a real emergency, to ensure the safety and well-being of the cruise passengers.
Safety, particularly on board passenger ships, is a priority for Malta and for the PICASSO Project. The commitments towards “ensuring a high and uniform level of maritime safety and security” were also highlighted in the Valletta Declaration on Maritime Transport Policies, one of the concrete outcomes of Malta’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union (EU). This declaration, unanimously signed by the Transport Ministers of all EU countries, enshrines the common and continuous objective of EU Member States towards “adapting qualifications and training of personnel to technological innovation,” for the benefit of passengers and crew.