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Exercise Bluewhale 2018: Sharpening Our Capabilities at Sea
Working as one to respond to a terror incident at sea – here’s what happened at Exercise Bluewhale, held in the waters off Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal.

It’s natural to leave a room when you smell something foul in the air, but what do you do if you’re out at sea and there’s nowhere to run?

Enter Exercise Bluewhale, a Chemical, Biological and Radiological (CBR) response exercise that tests the Whole-Of-Government response to tackling incidents at sea.  

The exercise involved six public agencies – the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF), the Singapore Police Force (SPF), the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority, the Ministry of Health (MOH), the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) and the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA). About 35 emergency and support vehicles were deployed during the exercise, which took place in the waters off Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal on 28 March 2018.

“This exercise is a good platform to test our preparedness,” said Senior Warrant Officer 1 (SWO1) Mohamed Affino Bin Mohd Amin, an SCDF marine specialist. “It also highlights the unique conditions faced at sea compared to land, such as limited space for decontamination.”

28 Mar 2018 Ex Bluewhale SCDF Pic in Ferry

A coordinated response to terror incidents at sea. PHOTO: SCDF

Afternoon showers and a persistent breeze had made the coastal waters choppy. As the exercise began, passengers onboard a passenger ferry started falling ill after inhaling an unknown gas. Several passengers collapsed while others began coughing uncontrollably and gasping for air.

28 Mar 2018 SCDF Fire Vessel With Ferry during Bluewhale

Two SCDF Marine Firefighting Vessels swiftly attended to the affected ferry. PHOTO: Desmond Ang

Responding to a distress call from the ferry, the SCDF deployed two Marine Firefighting Vessels to the scene. Meanwhile, MPA vessels and Police Coast Guard patrol boats cordoned off the affected area.

28 Mar 2018 SCDF Hazmat in Ferry during Bluewhale

SCDF officers, in protective suits, locate and contain a backpack emitting the “harmful gas”. PHOTO: Hanafi Kasmani

Boarding the ferry, SCDF marine specialists traced the “harmful gas” to an unattended backpack inside the ferry. They got to work on the pressing matters at hand – containing the gas while aiding affected passengers. This was made harder by the constant movement of the ferry, as well as the limited space onboard. But the SCDF officers were up to the task. 

28 Mar 2018 Bluewhale scenario man over board SCDF RIHB

SCDF marine specialists also simulated a scenario that involved rescuing passengers who had fallen overboard. PHOTO: Desmond Ang

As new challenges presented themselves, other SCDF officers stood ready to assist. “A ‘man overboard’ scenario was played to simulate panic on the ferry,” said SWO1 Mohamed Affino. “The Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats (RFIBs) on our Marine Firefighting Vessels are very handy; while our main vessels managed casualty decontamination and evacuation, the RHIBs picked up ferry passengers who’d fallen overboard.” 

28 Mar 2018 Bluewhale Decontamination on Fire Vessel SCDF

Quick action – ferry passengers undergo an initial decontamination at sea. PHOTO: Hanafi Kasmani

Affected passengers were quickly decontaminated on the Marine Firefighting Vessels. Contaminated clothing was discarded and the passengers were issued with a fresh set of clothes before being transported to land via by SAF vessels. 

28 Mar 2018 SCDF Bluewhale Decontamination Unit

Back on land, MOH officers worked alongside their SCDF counterparts to treat affected passengers. PHOTO: Hanafi Kasmani

At Tanah Merah Ferry Terminal, Mass Decontamination Vehicles were deployed by the SCDF to conduct further decontamination of affected passengers. Those with injuries were treated by the SCDF’s medical team, assisted by staff from the MOH and SAF.

Quick, coordinated and professional – these were my impressions of Exercise Bluewhale from start to finish. After completing their challenging – and exhausting – mission, the SCDF officers were ready to do more. “Having a CBR exercise at sea was a new learning journey for me,” said Captain (CPT) Landon Leong, a Marine Rota Commander with the SCDF. “After going through this, we have a new set of lifesaving skills, and I’ll continue to train my men to sharpen our readiness and response!”

© 2019 Ministry of Home Affairs, Singapore. All Rights Reserved.

  1. by Desmond Ang
  2. 06 April 2018
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