A seven day Lifeboat Crew Exchange Program involving rescue volunteers from nine countries has proved to be a fulfilling training exercise for all 55 participants. With the aim of exchanging knowledge, sharing ideas and building relationships between the voluntary institutions, the project is designed to help reduce the number of people losing their lives in Europe’s waters.
Instigated by the International Maritime Rescue Federation (IMRF) and the Search and Rescue (SAR) organization KNRM from the Netherlands, the program has four clear objectives. The first is to exchange practical experience and best practice between European Maritime Emergency Search and Rescue (MESR) organizations to support improvements in quality of practices. The event also helps personal development allowing volunteers to acquire skills increasing their employability in European rescue activities and acts as a transnational communication platform between MESR organizations, enabling the exchange of results, evaluations and experiences. Improving the knowledge of the Maritime English terminology for Lifeboat Crew members, because English is the worldwide and European working language in maritime organizations is the fourth and final objective.
IMRF Chief Executive, Bruce Reid explained, “So much of the SAR work in Europe and in many other parts of the world is undertaken by volunteers trained to a professional standard.”
“The Crew exchange is providing a platform to build on the best practice of the seven host countries sharing knowledge and skills that have been tried tested and proven, Reid continued. “When it comes to the safety of our people and those they are assisting we must look for continuous improvement and with the exchange there is an opportunity to compare and measure SAR training against that delivered through other organizations.”
The volunteer crews involved, collectively commit thousands of hours of their time every year to serving their communities to keep those going out on the water safe.
The Crew Exchange is project managed by IMRF members the KNRM of the Netherlands with Linde Jelsma heading the initiative. The program is in its second year with funding secured through the Life Long Learning program of the European Union for this year and 2014.
Linde Jelsma said, “Learn, explore and enjoy are the key words of this exchange and the IMRF exchange 2013 has been fantastic for all participants – crew members and host coordinators, sponsors and head office people have had the chance to talk about the similarities and differences between the European rescue organizations. It was great to see after the first day they were a team and created wide exposure through social media, press and evaluation forms. We are very pleased to have the support of the Life Long Learning program of the European Union.”
The variety of activities trainees were exposed to included everything from running a rescue boat up onto sand on the north west coast of Denmark because there are no harbors, to helicopter night training in Iceland.
The host organizations were the Danish Coastal Rescue Service (DaMSA), The Finnish Lifeboat Institute, the U.K.’s Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), The German Maritime Search and Rescue Service (DGzRS) ,The Swedish Sea Rescue Society (SSRS), The Norwegian Society for Sea Rescue (NSSR) and The Icelandic Association for Search and Rescue (ICE-SAR). Crew members from Estonia and 2 guests from Canada also participated.