BAR HARBOR, Maine — It may look realistic, but according to town officials an exercise scheduled to take place in local waters next week will simply be a practice run in case something goes wrong.
Local, county, state and federal officials plan to participate in a staged mass rescue operation
in the harbor on Wednesday, May 18, according to Anne Krieg, the town’s planner and public information officer. The rehearsed scenario, which will take place around 10 a.m., will simulate the collision of two cruise-ship tenders in the harbor during foggy conditions.
Besides town officials, representatives of the Coast Guard, Acadia National Park, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Maine Department of Transportation, Maine Warden Service and emergency management agencies from the state and Hancock County will be involved in the exercise. The cruise ship firm Royal Caribbean, area hospitals, Bar Harbor Whale Watch Company and the Red Cross also will have staff on site to participate in the exercise.
No cruise ship will be in Bar Harbor that day, so other boats will be used to simulate cruise ship tenders that carry passengers between the waterfront and ships anchored in Frenchman Bay. The training exercise, according to Krieg, is a requirement of Bar Harbor receiving U.S. Department of Homeland Security funds that are used to help manage the town’s seasonal cruise ship activity.
The town’s cruise ship season started this year on April 29, the earliest date ever, with the arrival of the 720-foot Maasdam in Frenchman Bay. By the end of October, the town is expected to have 118 cruise ship visits, which would be the most ever in a single year.
In the planned scenario, responders will simulate pulling collision survivors out of the water, even though no one will actually be in the water as part of the exercise, according to Krieg. Other boats will be included in the exercise as Good Samaritan vessels that respond to help. The exercise is aimed at testing emergency communications systems, response operations, command coordination and emergency medical services.
Krieg said pedestrian and vehicular access to the town pier and adjacent areas will be restricted while the exercise is under way. Businesses are being asked to keep their patrons informed that this is only an exercise and not an actual emergency. Printed information about the exercise will be made available to local businesses to help keep the public informed about the drill, she said.
Volunteers are needed, however, to help play the role of victims during the rehearsed response. Information on how to volunteer, as well as on the town’s official list of scheduled cruise ship visits, can be found online at www.barharbormaine.gov. People participating in the exercise are expected to be involved from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.