The prestigious IMRF Awards return for an eighth year to recognise volunteer and professional SAR personnel, organisations and technologies from around the world.
Winner: Henry Ategeka, Ministry of Works and Transport, Uganda
Henry oversaw the establishment of a fully-fledged Maritime Department in the Ministry of Works and Transport in Uganda, and is spearheading the establishment of nine SAR centres and a Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre on Lake Victoria, Lake Albert, and Lake Kyoga 5. Henry’s quick thinking and timely response to rescue operations like that of MV Nodi diverted catastrophe and saved lives and goods. He has led safety campaigns including distribution of more than 4,000 life jackets to vulnerable and economically disadvantaged water users, and established a toll-free call centre to handle emergencies.
Runner Up: Xu Fan, Beihai Flying Rescue Service, China
Since participating in rescue duty work in 2008, Xu Fan has safely flown for a total of 6,138 hours, carried out 429 rescue missions, and rescued a total of 613 people in various types of distress. During the period from 2022 to 2023, he successfully rescued five fishermen in distress on the sunken cargo ship Qiongchangyu 20318, rescued 25 people in distress on the stranded ship BLUE WAYS, and rescued nine crew members on the out-of-control cargo ship Crowdship 33.
Winner: Ramsgate RNLI Lifeboat Station, RNLI, United Kingdom
Ramsgate RNLI Lifeboat Station has been recognised for saving 42 lives from a small boat crossing the Channel in extremely difficult and deteriorating weather conditions. The conditions were deemed too dangerous for any other rescue vessel to attend, but the crew successfully rescued and provided emergency care and support to all 42 individuals on board. The tasking lasted for three hours and was significantly draining on the crew. The mission was high-intensity and was ultimately successful due to the teamwork of the crew and their extraordinary seamanship and skill.
Runner Up: Coastguard Waiuku, Coastguard New Zealand, New Zealand
Coastguard Waiuku showed amazing teamwork and resilience when a runabout capsized in the Manukau Harbour, with 3 missing in the water. The crew swiftly located two missing crew members and administered first aid, but sadly one of those rescued did not survive. A third crew member, a 10 year-old child, was not found. The crew kept up the search for the missing child for two weeks, displaying incredible strength and fortitude in a difficult search, and kindness and compassion in responding to offers of help from the local community.
Winner: Inmarsat Maritime Safety Team, United Kingdom
The team’s efforts encompass a range of initiatives geared towards supporting SAR operations and ensuring the safety of seafarers worldwide. A significant contribution is the development of Inmarsat's RescueNET, a free service facilitating fast, reliable and approved SAR communications. A free Distress Chat function also aims to promote better coordination among MRCCs and has already helped to foster improved relationships between SAR organisations of different countries. The team are on call around the clock to assist in SAR efforts and provide training for SAR authorities worldwide.
Runner Up: Beach Safety Camera Network, NSRI, South Africa
The volunteer-operated Beach Safety Camera network was conceptualised and implemented by NSRI Drowning Prevention Manager Andrew Ingram and Jason Kampel, Director of Delve Aquatic Systems and an NSRI volunteer. NSRI initially installed two Pan Tilt Zoom (PTZ) cameras on apartment buildings looking onto two Cape Town beaches that are well-known for rip currents and have had multiple drownings. This cut the time to check a possible emergency from 20 minutes to a matter of seconds, and enabled preventative action by spotting rip currents and flash rip currents building up.
Winner: Amber Sheasgreen, Royal Canadian Maritime Search and Rescue (RCMSAR), Canada
Amber Sheasgreen serves as Operations Manager for Royal Canadian Maritime Search and Rescue (RCMSAR) where she advocates for active recruitment of female crew. Amber has pushed to diversify RCMSAR promotional materials to dispel the perception that SAR is a male-orientated activity, and has set up a programme to showcase RCMSAR and how women can get involved at female community-centric events. Amber has also donated her time to developing and encouraging other women in maritime SAR, such as working alongside less experienced female crewmembers volunteering with Sea-Eye and Refugee Rescue.
Runner Up: Jelena Simović, Mountain Rescue Service (MRS) Republic of Srpska, Bosnia & Herzegovina
Jelena has dedicated her life to serving others through SAR operations in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Jelana has been pivotal in numerous rescue missions and her dedication is evident in the countless lives she has saved. Jelena’s courage, expertise and skills have made her invaluable in challenging and hazardous situations, and her ability to remain calm under pressure provides hope and reassurance to those in need. Jelena is a shining example for aspiring rescuers, and her mentoring, training and outreach work has helped create an inclusive culture within the SAR community.
Joint Winner: Geoffrey Denman, Canadian Coast Guard, Canada
Geoff’s 38-year career at the Canadian Coast Guard has spanned all aspects of SAR. He has orchestrated hundreds of SAR exercises from one-day events to enormous, complex, intergovernmental and international exercises, and most recently created Mass Rescue Operation plans for ports up and down the Pacific coast. Geoff has brought the same enthusiasm, consistency, and positivity to all his roles. His ability to reach out and connect with all stakeholders and partners is truly extraordinary and leaves a legacy of cooperation that will endure long past his upcoming retirement.
Joint Winner: Anders Bagge, Swedish Sea Rescue Society (SSRS), Sweden (posthumous)
Anders saved thousands of lives during his career with SSRS. He was station manager on the busiest station in Sweden and was on call for more than 30 years. Anders’ seamanship and SAR abilities were legendary. He was the most proficient Coxswain on all types of SSRS vessels. He passed this knowledge to thousands of aspiring coxswains and SAR personnel around the world, as well as taking part in the SSRS mission to the Aegean to save the lives of those crossing between Turkey and Greece.
The IMRF would like to thank the following organisations that are sponsoring this year's IMRF Awards.