London, Thursday, 26 September 2013. Rescue volunteers from across nine European nations are to participate next week in a seven day Lifeboat Crew Exchange Programme sharing experiences and knowledge, to improve maritime Search and Rescue (SAR) responses and help to prevent loss of life in Europe's waters.

The volunteer crews involved, collectively commit thousands of hours of their time every year to serving their communities to keep those going out on the water safe.

The 7 intensive days they will spend with their counterparts from the other rescue organisations on the exchange provides a perfect platform to share their experiences, knowledge and best practice in maritime SAR matters.

The Crew Exchange is comprised of simulated search and rescue exercises as well as training modules from the host organisation in areas such as first aid, navigation, off road driving, crisis management, leadership and maritime English.

Participants will also experience day and night time exercises including towing, navigating, man overboard recovery, sea survival training, lifeguard training, recovering boats and helicopter transfers.

"Collaboration and experience sharing is key to improving maritime search and rescue responses to prevent loss of life in the world's waters," said Bruce Reid, Chief Executive of the IMRF, "The European Lifeboat Crew Exchange Programme is a great example of how nations through their volunteer crews can share knowledge on best practice in maritime SAR.

"With IMRF co-ordination, these volunteer rescue organisations from around Europe can cost effectively share the burden of developing rescue capability to help meet the ever growing challenges in European waters by learning from the experiences of others.

Each organisation operates its own training programme because of the specialist activities they carry out and the conditions they operate in. The crew members will experience this training first hand over the course of the week, exposing them to new training content as well as the different styles and approach their hosts may use.

The Crew Exchange is project managed by IMRF members the KNRM of the Netherlands with Linde Jelsma heading the initiative. The programme is in its second year with funding secured through the Life Long Learning Programme of the European Union for this year and 2014.

The outcomes of the programme year one included increased experience of lifeboat crew members along with improved professional knowledge, working in a trans-national team, continuous sharing of knowledge and increased mutual understanding of the challenges faced in maritime search and rescue.

As project manager Ms Jelsma has been very pleased with the feedback from the first Crew Exchange and received good support for continuing the programme from all organisations involved.

"We now have a model in place to build and improve on, knowing there is support in place until the end of 2014. We have been working hard with the coordinators from each country to make this years' experience a step up on the successful programme run last year," she said.

Teams of seven crew members go to seven countries - each hosting a seven day long programme from the nine participating nations - Norway, Denmark, Germany, Finland, UK, Iceland, Sweden, The Netherlands and Estonia.

The skills and experienced gained will help save more lives in European waters and, through the IMRF, across the world. The exchange runs from the 28th September to the 5th October 2013.

The IMRF European Lifeboat Crew Exchange programme is delivered with the support of the Life Long Learning Programme of the European Union.