As with most industries, technology is becoming an increasingly necessary part of operations for maritime search and rescue (SAR). The need to use modern vessels and systems to improve the capabilities of SAR personnel and organisations has transformed from ‘nice to have’ to ‘must have’, particularly if the sector is to improve its ability to save more lives at sea.

However, utilising technology outside of operations is also just as necessary. Increasingly, simulators and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are being used in the industry to support continuous learning and training of operators of SAR vessels to improve their effectiveness while allowing them to train and operate in safe conditions.

Hefring Marine is one such company that is doing just that. The Icelandic-based company, which joined the IMRF earlier this year, has developed an AI-based on-board system that is designed to enhance safety, decision making and efficiency in maritime operations, known as the Intelligent Marine Assistance System (IMAS). The system has been utilised for training SAR vessel operators within the Icelandic Association for Search and Rescue (ICE-SAR) by creating personalized training scenarios that helps them make more informed decisions during critical missions.

For Björn Jónsson, Chief Operating Officer and Co-Founder of Hefring Marine, the IMAS platform has proven to offer a significant advantage for the maritime SAR sector.

“IMAS’s role in the risk management process aligns perfectly with the challenges encountered in maritime SAR operations. By improving the situational awareness in harsh environmental conditions, maritime SAR personnel can identify risks quicker and optimise their response, helping to keep the crew safe throughout an operation,” he noted.

Although it originated in Iceland, Hefring Marine now boasts a global presence, with set ups in Australia, Hong Kong, the Netherlands and the United States. Crucially, it has partnered with the Royal Netherlands Sea Rescue Institution (KNRM) to fully integrate the IMAS system into its SAR vessel, Van Wijk.

“Our partnership with KNRM has proven invaluable so far as we are able to receive practical feedback of the system in maritime SAR operations. We can therefore enhance and optimise the system, specifically for maritime SAR operations, based on the input of KNRM’s expertise and experience in real-world scenarios, as well as sharing best practices and lessons learned for the continuous improvement of IMAS,” said Jónsson.

“Most importantly, we want the system to be able to address critical challenges faced by the SAR community in order to empower operators, enhance decision making and contribute to safer and more successful SAR operations globally,” he added.

The scope of Hefring Marine’s work in the maritime sector has also evolved beyond the technology on offer. The company has recently initiated a research project, supported by the Icelandic Student Innovation Fund, and financed by the Icelandic government and the University of Iceland, to examine the impacts and vibrations experienced by high-speed boat operators and their potential effects on crew members.

Early research has indicated that 60% of vessel operators that responded to their survey have suffered injuries related to vibrations, 60% have needed medical intervention and 30% required surgery.

“Ultimately, we want to use this research project to raise public awareness about the potential health risks associated with whole-body vibrations onboard high-speed boats to enhance the well-being of sailors and promote safer practices in the maritime industries,” Jónsson noted.

In order to better understand the needs of the maritime SAR community, Hefring Marine joined the IMRF earlier this year. Jónsson noted that being part a like-minded community is vital if it is to best understand the capabilities and needs of the industry.

“Our commitment to maritime safety, innovation, and collaboration aligns well with the IMRF's mission. By joining this community, we are excited to connect with like-minded organizations that share passion for enhancing maritime safety and rescue operations. The IMRF offers a platform for exchanging insights, best practices, and expertise, which we believe will greatly enrich our understanding of the complex challenges and opportunities within the maritime SAR domain. In essence, we hope that our journey as an IMRF member will represent a commitment to progress, excellence, and a safer maritime environment for all.”

You can find out more about Hefring Marine on their official website here: