New simulator trains coast guard's elite squad to handle boat capsize situations

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SINGAPORE - They are involved in high-speed interceptions and risky manoeuvres out at sea, but officers from the Police Coast Guard's (PCG) elite Special Task Squadron need to be prepared for when things go awry.

If the boat they are on capsizes, the inflated life jackets they are wearing may cause them to be trapped under the hull, and they may be disorientated in a confined space.

Despite the conditions, they must be able to quickly remove their gear and swim to safety.

To help them prepare for such situations, the officers now undergo training in a new simulator at the 10m diving pool at PCG's Brani Base.

The underwater egress training simulator (UETS), introduced in August, is an automated rig with a structure similar to the PCG's high-speed interceptor boats.

Able to accommodate up to five people, it can flip upside down in the training pool to replicate a boat capsize situation - submerging all the officers and subjecting them to the ordeal of being trapped underwater.

They must then execute drills they learnt to remove their gear and swim out to safety.

The commanding officer, Special Task Squadron Superintendent of Police Desmond Ong, said: "The UETS is the latest addition to our arsenal of training systems, to allow officers to train for maritime emergencies in a realistic yet safe training environment."

To ensure the conditions are realistic, a wave generator creates waves in the training pool to simulate backwash and various sea states.

Officers use tinted visors to train for night-time scenarios.

They are trained individually before group drills using the simulator.

The underwater egress training simulator was introduced in August. PHOTOS: SINGAPORE POLICE FORCE

For safety reasons, at least one trainer is in the simulator to monitor the trainees' condition underwater, while two divers and a pool supervisor are assigned to intervene if required.

The supervisor monitors the trainees using live closed-circuit TV feeds from different angles inside and outside the simulator.

The police told The Straits Times that the force drew lessons from a fatal incident in 2007 in developing the simulator.

Two PCG officers had died after their boat crashed and capsized while they were pursuing an Indonesian speedboat.

The latest simulator comes on the heels of the Tactical Boat Handling and Firing Simulator that officers started using in March last year.

The simulator duplicates how high-speed vessels behave in the real world when affected by factors such as wave movements or impact with other craft and floating objects, in a range of sea states with varying speeds.

Special Task Squadron officers also undergo seaborne training to execute interception tactics using interceptor boats and learn how to board other vessels that refuse to stop and continue travelling at high speed.

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