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.
In 2014 the nine host countries recorded over 80,000 calls for help and assisted more than 50,000 people in trouble on the water. 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 seven intensive days they will spend with their counterparts from the other rescue organisations on the exchange provides a perfect platform to share their experiences, knowledge and best practice in Maritime SAR matters.
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.
“Through this programme we are helping to build a bed rock of knowledge amongst rescue volunteers from Europe and elsewhere which can be passed on to their colleagues,” said Bruce Reid, Chief Executive of the IMRF.
“The European Lifeboat Crew Exchange Programme is a catalyst, enabling rescue crews to share knowledge on best practice in maritime SAR and to go back to their respective countries with ideas from fellow volunteers and instructors alike.”
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 secured through the Erasmus + within the EU life-long learning programme.
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 Ms Jelsma is delighted that the project has expanded and that representatives from more countries will be attending the event.
She said: “Running the fourth IMRF exchange, I am delighted to see that more countries are sending representatives abroad to share knowledge and give further insight into how rescue teams operate in different kinds of conditions.
It supports the main goal to cross borders and learn from each other. Although we could not invite all countries that are interested, we are happy to increase as much as is practical.”
Teams of crew members go to nine countries – each hosting a seven day long programme from the nine participating nations – Norway, Denmark, Germany, Finland, UK, Iceland, Sweden, The Netherlands and, for the first time, France. Also participating, although not hosting, are crew members from Russia, Greece, Ireland, Estonia, Portugal and Canada.
The skills and experienced gained will help save more lives in European waters and, through the IMRF, across the world. The exchange runs from 26th September to 3rd October.