Helicopter crash training, survival techniques in cold water, rescuing crew mates from capsized boats and lifeguarding were just some of the activities for the 65 volunteers in the latest European Lifeboat Crew Exchange Programme.
For the fifth successive year, the International Maritime Rescue Federation (IMRF) brought together lifeboat crew members from across Europe to share their experiences and learn new techniques – and support for the event was universal.
Participants were incredibly enthusiastic: Orn Smarason, from Iceland, said: “I feel blessed having had an opportunity to visit SNSM in France. They gave us the perfect week of exercises.”
Jesper Jensen, from Sweden, added: “I have learnt a lot of things and my week as host has been superlative.”
Whilst Tina Aalborg, from Denmark, said: “You’ve been a great team from day one and it’s been a pleasure to introduce you to other crews around Denmark and our training facilities.”
Set up by the International Maritime Rescue Federation (IMRF) and organised by the Search and Rescue (SAR) organisation KNRM from the Netherlands, the programme has a number of objectives.
The most important is to exchange practical experience and best practice between European Maritime Emergency Search and Rescue (MESR) organisations to support improvements in quality of practices.
“Each year a new group of lifeboat crew members are able to interact and gain practical experience in waters and situations that are often unfamiliar. They come away after an intensive week with a wider knowledge and ideas and solutions that can be applied back home,” said Bruce Reid, IMRF CEO.
“This event has proved to be a really important exercise and we are grateful to the Erasmus + within the EU life-long learning programme for contributing the funding for half the countries involved. However, we are looking for sponsors for future programmes and are keen to continue with what has become a vital training project.”
The seven-day event also helps personal development, allowing volunteers to acquire skills increasing their employability in European rescue activities. It also acts as a transnational communication platform between MESR organisations, 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 organisations is the final objective.
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 management, fire-fighting, capsize drills leadership and maritime English. A key part of the event has become the visits to lifeboat stations and an opportunity to see how the host organisations operate on the coast.
Project Manager Linde Jelsma said: “All our participants were fully committed to the activities and showed a great willingness to learn. The value of this exercise is giving crew members’ practical skills but also teaching new ideas and stimulating discussion about personal experiences.”
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 host organisations were the Danish Coastal Rescue Service (DaMSA), The Finnish Lifeboat Institute, the UK and Ireland’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), The Netherlands Search Rescue organisation (KNRM) and France (SNSM). Crew members also attended from Portugal, Estonia, Curacao and Latvia.
The skills and experienced gained will help save more lives in European waters and, through the IMRF, across the world.