All around the world, search and rescue operations are being affected by the introduction of significant travel restrictions, the challenge of socially distanced operations and dramatically enhanced health and safety procedures as a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

IMRF members in China, in common with many other SAR organisations, are doing their best to carry on as normal and still provide emergency SAR services wherever needed, despite the challenges. 

At 10:30 on 30 May 2020, the CRS Donghai Rescue Bureau (DRB) Operations Centre in Shanghai received an alert from Zhejiang RCC, saying that a cargo ship, United 7, with 14 crew members onboard, was in extreme distress and sinking about 10 nautical miles east of Xiangshan.

The ship’s second deck just above the surface of the water surface and the crew were in urgent need of rescue.

DRB immediately launched its emergency plan, sending the nearest standby rescue vessel, Donghaijiu 117, to the scene to provide immediate assistance.

At about 13:00, the rescue vessel arrived at the location. 

The conditions were extremely difficult, and the rescue vessel had to battle a 7-8 cyclone wind and extremely rough seas with a considerable amount of large floating debris.

After three hours, the crew members were successfully transferred to the Donghaijiu 117 using small rescue boats and life rafts, before being taken to safety on land. 

In another incident, on 5 July 2020, at 13:50, the tug, Tongsheng 001 (belonging to Shangjai Sun Glory, another IMRF member) was carrying out a routine escort task, when it received an alert from the Shanghai Rescue Coordination Centre  that a nearby cargo ship: Mingyangzhou 87, was on fire.

The Tongsheng 001 was immediately dispatched at full speed to assist the stricken vessel.

Tongsheng 001 arrived at the scene at 14:05 to find an enormous amount of smoke coming from the stern of the badly damaged vessel. 

The frightened crew were waving and shouting for help on the main deck. The situation was deemed to be very urgent, with a high risk of explosion.

The captain of the tug immediately opened the external firefighting system, approached the starboard side of the stricken ship and successfully picked up all 12 crew members, including one who was badly hurt. 

Zhang Rongjun, Director of the IMRF Asia Pacific Regional Centre and IMRF Trustee says: "Despite the operational challenges posed by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, all of the IMRF members in China remain committed to saving lives at sea. We are following the IMRF COVID-19 guidelines for SAR operations and have been able to reassure all of the victims of the maritime accidents and incidents that we have responded to, that in every way we have their safety and best interests at heart."