For the fifth consecutive year, rescue volunteers from European nations are to participate next week in a seven-day Lifeboat Crew Exchange Programme organised by the International Maritime Rescue Federation (IMRF).
The well-established programme will include representatives from 13 countries and nine will host a full exchange seven days in their respective locations with each country able to send seven crew members each going to a different country..
They will share experiences and knowledge with the aim of improving Maritime Search and Rescue (SAR) responses and help to prevent loss of life in Europe’s waters.
The countries involved in this multi-organisation lifeboat training are Germany, Iceland, Norway, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, England, France, The Netherlands, Portugal, Estonia, Curacao and Latvia.
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 comprised of simulated search and rescue exercises as well as training modules from the host organisation in areas such as first aid, navigation, vessel helming techniques, crisis management, leadership and maritime English.
The 65 participants will also experience day and night time exercises including towing, navigating, man overboard recovery, sea survival training, lifeguard training, recovering boats and helicopter transfers.
“Over time this programme is building a significant depth of expertise across Europe with volunteers able to pass on the knowledge they have picked up to colleagues back home,” said Bruce Reid, Chief Executive of the IMRF.
“The European Lifeboat Crew Exchange Programme has become a permanent fixture in the IMRF calendar and it is encouraging to see new countries getting involved along with the core group who have helped sustain the project.”
Each organisation operates its own training programme because of the specialist activities they carry out and the conditions they operate in. The crew members will experience this training first hand over the course of the week, exposing them to new training content as well as the different styles and approach their hosts may use.
The Crew Exchange is project managed by IMRF members and the maritime rescue service KNRM of the Netherlands, with Linde Jelsma heading the initiative. The programme has funding for half the countries involved, secured through the Erasmus + within the EU life-long learning programme. The balance have to fund from their existing training budgets a situation the IMRF is looking to change by finding appropriate funders and sponsors.
The outcomes of the programmes to date have included increased experience of lifeboat crew members along with improved professional knowledge, working in a trans-national team, and continuous sharing of knowledge and increased mutual understanding of the challenges faced in maritime search and rescue.
Project manager Linde Jelsma who has been the driving force behind the Programme since its inception is looking forward to the fifth event.
“Each year we see new faces and I’m always impressed by the commitment, willingness to learn and outright enthusiasm of the participants. They set a splendid example and I know the week-long event gives them skills and insights they can use themselves but also pass on to other volunteers.”
Most of the countries in Europe rely heavily on the maritime volunteer SAR organisations to keep the people heading out on their waters safe. The skills and experienced gained will help save more lives in European waters and, through the IMRF, across the world. The exchange runs from Saturday, 24th September to Saturday, 1st October.