Search and rescue (SAR) organisations in Africa can face some unique challenges. However, in common with all SAR organisations the world over, their personnel are dedicated to saving lives at sea.

One such person is Captain Isa Noah Amwe from RMRCC Lagos in Nigeria, who in October 2022 won the 2022 IMRF People's Choice Award for his ongoing contribution to maritime SAR and his leading role in a number of SAR operations over the last year amid challenging circumstances.

In February 2022, he led a SAR mission following the FPSO Trinity Spirit explosion, saving four lives and assisting in a recovery effort to save five stowaways in Nigeria's Exclusive Economic Zone. He also participated in operations that saved five sailors onboard M/V Marco and 13 crew members onboard MV Sunny in April 2022.

Credit: Captain Isa Noah Amwe

In addition to his efforts at sea he has also led a number of training programmes for maritime SAR operations in Nigeria, contributing to the training of maritime SAR organisations in the Gulf of Guinea and the wider West Africa region.

"It was an honour and a privilege to win this prestigious award for my career in maritime SAR. To me it shows that everyone in SAR matters. The essential thing in SAR is saving human lives when it matters,” Captain Amwe noted.

For Captain Amwe, it was the Titanic disaster and the resulting movie that inspired him to join his local SAR organisation in Lagos.

“As one of the most devastating maritime incidents of all time, I grew up watching the film repeatedly. Each time I watched it, I realised that so many lives were lost, and maybe if it happened today, with today’s technology, as well as the knowledge and dedication of SAR personnel, the passengers would stand a better chance of being saved and that is what inspired me to get involved in maritime SAR," he adds.

His engagement in SAR operations over the years has been exciting but fraught with the same challenges that African SAR personnel, particularly in Northeast Africa, are facing to provide efficient levels of SAR capabilities. This includes advanced levels of training, additional investment, and more adequate equipment.

"Due to the recent maritime challenges facing the Gulf of Guinea region, I have been very busy with the search and rescue of displaced people within the area. I have also been involved in a series of special missions to assist the Support of West Africa Integrated Maritime Security Strategy (SWAIMSS). This has also allowed me to make a tremendous and meaningful impact on the lives of SAR officers and personnel in the Gulf of Guinea region," he adds.

Credit: Captain Isa Noah Amwe

Being part of a top maritime volunteer platform in the Gulf of Guinea has given Captain Amwe the self-confidence to empower other local and international officers, maritime institutions, and government agencies to improve maritime SAR capabilities.

One of the most interesting programmes he is involve with is the coastal community for the youth, which hosts those interested in the maritime community. It was during these sessions that he discovered that there are people waiting to be ignited in the same way that he was inspired to join the SAR community.

"These training sessions have empowered the latest generation and given them a sense of belonging. When these initiatives are well-funded and encouraged, they will go far beyond my reach to international levels. The youth are the strength of a nation. The power of young people, if well managed, can be used widely to engage in SAR operations which is a critical line of duty," he adds.

The IMRF has supported African maritime administrations as part of its ongoing Global SAR Development – Africa project, To read about our initiative, click here: