Russia conducts Barents SAR exercise without Norwegian participants

From a previous exercise in the Barents Sea onboard the Russian rescue vessel ‘Murman’ in the Barents Sea. (Thomas Nilsen/The Independent Barents Observer)

An extensive Search- and Rescue exercise took place this week headed by the Marine Rescue Service of Murmansk in cooperation with FSB Border Guards and the military Northern Fleet.

Barents 2024 is a continuation of the bilateral Norwegian-Russian exercises annually arranged in the maritime border areas of the Varanger fjord. This year’s exercise, however, was without any Norwegian players.

“All contact with Russian rescue authorities regarding exercises has ended,” says Rune Danielsen with the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre for Northern Norway (JRCC) to the Barents Observer.

He says the Russian side has provided some information to Norway about their exercise, but the Norwegians are not sharing information the other way.

This week’s exercise took place in the Motovskiy Bay, waters southeast of the Fishermen Peninsula. This is the same area as the top-secret Russian intelligence submarine Losharik was struck by fire in 2019, killing all 14 crew members onboard.

Fast-roping to the deck of the Norwegian Coast Guard ship “KV Barentshav” from a Russian Mi-8 helicopter operating for the rescue service based in Murmansk during the joint Barents Rescue before the pandemic. (Thomas Nilsen/The Independent Barents Observer)

The scenario this year was a collision by two smaller vessels, a fishing boat and a pleasure boat, leaving 10 people in the water.

Search and rescue were performed with aircraft, helicopter and different services’ vessels in the area, including the Northern Fleet and FSB’s Coast Guard service, the Marine Rescue Service of Murmansk informs

Rune Danielsen with the JRCC says that although no joint exercises take place, Norway and Russia still have an agreement on search and rescue for the Barents Sea in case of real emergencies.

“We are from time to time involved in rescue incidents with Russian vessels,” Danielsen says.

Norway has operative SAR-helicopters based at a few locations along the northern coast and at Svalbard. Those helicopters are the nearest in case Russian seafarers get seriously ill, like heart attack, when on fishing in the western Barents Sea or in the waters around Svalbard.

“When emergencies,” Danielsen elaborates, “we are in contact with Russian rescue services when necessary.”

“There are of course some disadvantages not training together, but so far we have not experiences any significant challenges.”

The annual Barents Rescue exercise was put on hold because of the pandemic, followed by a full stop after Russia’s all-out war against Ukraine in 2022.

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: Northern premiers say Canada can’t have Arctic security without infrastructure, The Canadian Press

Norway: Russian missiles jeopardize Norwegian Arctic SAR response, The Independent Barents Observer

Thomas Nilsen, The Independent Barents Observer

For more news from the Barents region visit The Independent Barents Observer.

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