Jori Nordström joined the Finnish Lifeboat Institution (FLBI) in 2000 as head of training, having volunteered onboard a number of lifeboats and participating in different training courses and excursions for more than 13 years.

In 2006 he became head of operations and deputy director for the FLBI, which involved maintaining the safe and efficient operations of its more than 140 rescue vessels. During his tenure he also built the service’s Operations and Training Centre on Bågaskär Island that became operational in 2009.

After a brief secondment to the Finnish Border Guard in 2014 he returned to the FLBI, becoming temporary chief executive officer in 2018 before taking on the role permanently in 2019.

The Finnish Lifeboat Institution was founded in 1897 as an umbrella organisation for Finland’s voluntary lifeboat associations.

The institution promotes maritime safety and effective communication at sea. It provides training resources at a national level, as well as the development of professional competence, vessel acquisition, maintenance and inspection systems, and communication and relationship management across its 58 voluntary maritime rescue associations.

The FLBI continues to be active internationally and continuously brings new ideas back from the International Lifeboat Federation and IMRF gatherings.

Today the FLBI has about 1,500 volunteers, operating on more than 140 rescue vessels across 60 rescue stations throughout Finland.

In 2021 the organisation conducted more than 2,100 search-and-rescue missions, aiding more than 4,200 people.

For Jori, lifeboats run in his blood. “My family has always been a lifeboat family. My father was a lifeboat coxswain and station manager. My mother was an active lifeboat fundraiser. My brother volunteered before joining the navy and my sister was one of the first female lifeboat coxswains in Finland.”

“Their enthusiasm and commitment to the cause passed on to me quite naturally and gave me a good insight on the work and challenges the FLBI faces in all sectors.”

Running one of the leading maritime lifesaving organisations in Finland has its challenges however. Nicknamed ‘The Land of A Thousand Lakes’, Finland’s coastline is more than 4,600 km long and its archipelago in the Archipelago Sea – the largest in the world – is only 60 m deep. These shallow waters and vast areas makes navigating the Finnish coastline exceptionally challenging.  

“The conditions and challenges we face every day along the coastline, as well as on inland waters, are unique in comparison to any other country,” he said.

In order to keep FLBI’s more than 1,500 volunteer maritime search-and-rescue personnel operating over 140 lifeboat vessels safely and effectively, Jori sa maintaining the high standards that the FLBI set itself is the main challenge.

“Our biggest obstacles are finding volunteers, building up the competence of our crews, and ensuring that they and the vessels they operate are safe. We also need to find people willing to put in that extra effort to bring everything together and help support our local stations to operate effectively,” he noted.

This year will see the FLBI’s 125th anniversary of its founding. To mark the occasion, the organisation has planned a number of events to celebrate, including a crew party, an annual sea rescue competition at the Åland Islands, the first-ever gala dinner for the FLBI’s supporters and partners, and hosting the IMRF’s #WomenInSar seminar and training programmes.

For Jori, being able to host the #WomenInSAR events felt like a natural fit. “All of our courses and positions have been equally open to women and men for so long, we have not thought about the male to female representation in our organisation for some time.”

“Today we have full lifeboat crews with women only, as well as more and more female lifeboat coxswains. On some of our recruitment courses, there are sometimes even more women than men participating.”

Despite these milestones, Jori admitted that there is still more to be done to promote women in maritime SAR organisations. “Only about 20% of our lifeboat crew members are women.”

“We need to look to inspire more women to represent the FLBI, its values, and its work. I believe the best person to do that is another female SAR crew member. Despite that, we do not target specific groups but instead offer the same information to everyone who is interested. We also make sure to promote ourselves to all genders and ages,” he noted.

Importantly, however, Jori said that commitment is what he looks for most when it comes to new recruits. “A really committed professional volunteer lifeboat crew member is always willing to train and learn more, regardless of gender. Our volunteers and their skills are changing as generations shift, but in a good direction.”

Constantly adapting to changing crew members and volunteers means that Jori is always looking at building up teams that can meet the FLBI’s expectations.

“I am a big fan of building quality. Good quality boats and equipment, combined with quality and competent crews, leads to high quality action and operations. This is something that we monitor closely.”

“I see my job as kind of a quality manager, ensuring that we follow our own protocols and guidelines that comply with the objectives stated in Finnish and international laws,” he added.

Jori’s enthusiasm for the FLBI and its volunteers has never wavered in his more than 15 years as a part of the organisation and he is even more positive about its future.

“The future for the FLBI is full of opportunities as long as we continue to work towards the goals we have set and keeping our professional touch. Our communities need us so we have to ensure we are there for them when needed and have to find the right way to do it.”

The IMRF’s first-ever International #WomenInSAR Training and Seminar will take place on 26-28 August 2022. The event, which will be hosted by the Finnish Lifeboat Institution (FLBI), will be held in Finland.

The training is intended for women operating on maritime SAR vessels from IMRF Member organisations only.

It will include several aspects of leadership on SAR vessels, including communication, mission handling, and different tools and procedures to assist in leading the unit, as well as both classroom discussions and practical exercises.

The training will be followed by the #WomenInSAR Seminar, open to all men and women, including organisations who are not IMRF Members.

At the seminar, SAR organisations and individuals from around the world will share their insights, experiences and initiatives for increasing the representation of women in their respective organisations and regions.

Click on the following link to find out more about the #WomenInSAR Training & Seminar events and how to register.