How would you behave if you were on a passenger ship at sea in the event of an emergency? That’s what Marine Institute research scientist Robert Brown is trying to determine.
In a province mostly surrounded by water, travel by sea is not unusual. Large capacity ferries serve as the link between the island part of the province and the mainland, and smaller ferries serve the various remote coastal areas on the island as well as in Labrador.
In addition to that, a growing cruise industry regularly brings large numbers of tourists to the province on short-term visits and many locals and visitors vacation on adventure cruise vessels in our home province.
Brown and his team at the Marine Institute have been working in collaboration with colleagues in the United Kingdom, France, Norway and Italy through the recently completed SAFEGUARD project, in which scientists and engineers carried out full-scale sea trials on three large passenger ships — two ferries and a cruise ship.
Approximately 6,000 passengers were assembled at sea and the team collected data to characterize people’s behaviour at various stages of an emergency evacuation. The research aimed to understand and quantify how people reacted when they heard the ship’s alarm, what route they chose to reach the assembly areas onboard and how quickly they did so.
Brown hopes his work over the past 10 years will improve the safety of passenger ships, not only in Newfoundland and Labrador, but globally.