For smaller maritime SAR organisations, the need to utilise limited resources and work closely with local residents to ensure maritime operations are conducted effectively is incredibly important.

One such organisation that has a small pool of resources yet a wide scope of responsibilities is the Madeiran Sea Rescue Association (SANAS Madeira), a non-profit organisation that is responsible for the International Madeira Airport’s Sea Safety and Rescue operations.

SANAS Madeira also operates a network of lifeboat stations at Madeira Island and its corresponding archipelago, including Porto Santo and Desertas islands. Despite having such a wide area to cover, the organization only has 34 members, 27 of which are volunteers. Despite this, they also have a unit dedicated to lifeguards and offer sea education for the younger generations on the island.

For Angelo Abreu, Commander-in-Chief at SANAS Madeira, one of the main challenges his organisation faces is the lack of knowledge that people have about the dangers of the sea. This is particularly the case with tourists that put themselves at risk when swimming in the edges of some of Madeira’s natural sea pools, which can sweep them away to sea without any chance of swimming back to shore safely. 

“These are the most frequent emergency calls we receive, and despite all warnings, it is a recurring problem, and some incidents have resulted in a loss of life.  

“We are fortunate that we have an excellent relationship with the residents who support our mission and have received a strong response from them when we offer our basic courses to become a volunteer,” said Angelo.

SANAS Madeira offers monthly training on various SAR aspects, including manoeuvring of a SAR boat, first aid, communications and survival at sea. In addition, they also offer some external courses, such as advanced emergency medical technician (EMT) training, firefighting, and leadership. 

SANAS Madeira was recently in the news for having some of the highest levels of performance in Europe, and Angelo believes that this is due to the outstanding performances of its crew. 

“We are involved in lifeboat and lifeguard rescue operations and sometimes the combination of these. Our crew performance objectives for every mission are search and rescue, evacuation, tow, needing assistance, body recovery, etc. 

“The only time we would go back to the station before the end of a mission was to change rescue vessels; for example, the B-Class couldn’t handle the sea conditions, so we went with an A-Class lifeboat. Although our equipment may not be the latest, our crews are committed, focused and unsurpassable", said Angelo. 

Like many other SAR organisations worldwide, SANAS Madeira takes its responsibility very seriously and this focus resonates with its crew in turn.

“The self-sacrifice, experience of our crew members and well-maintained boats puts our performance on an incredibly high level,” he added.

It is of utmost importance that SAR organisations worldwide educate the public. SANAS Junior, the section responsible for education and sea literacy, was created for this purpose. SANAS can make improvements on boats, have the latest technology, and increase its knowledge but without educating people on safety at sea, the same problems will occur again and again. 

Regardless, Angelo is optimistic about the future of his organisation and detailed his plans for 2024.

“Our aim for next year is to broaden our knowledge and improve our first aid capacity. We also want to upgrade our lifeboats and recruit more volunteers. Although we have a long way ahead, we know we can be better, and many of these will become a reality with more funding. I believe we can get there, and with consistent efforts, focused on the wellbeing of our crews and those we rescue, we will continue to make a difference daily,” he Noted.

Angelo believes it is now more important than ever to be part of a worldwide organization such as the IMRF. He says joining the IMRF will allow them to tap into the knowledge of the global SAR community learning from shared experiences and having greater access to expertise. 

“We can improve and learn a lot from each other. Every one of the members of IMRF has their own experiences” he added.