With Covid-19 pandemic restrictions in Europe lifting, this year’s G5 conference, which had the suitable theme of ‘Sharing Experiences in Difficult Times’, saw a return to normality following a challenging two years.

The fifth iteration of the IMRF’s Mass Rescue Conference was originally scheduled to go ahead in June 2020 but the pandemic, along with the need to engage with other SAR organisations in-person, pushed it back to June 2022.

The three-day event was hosted by the Swedish Sea Rescue Society (SSRS) in Gothenburg, Sweden, and involved a live exercise on the first day, followed by two days of discussions and coordinated training focused on best practices to improve the capabilities of search and rescue (SAR) organisations during mass rescue operations (MROs).

“Exchanging lessons learned, as well as ideas, innovations, tools and methods, can make a significant difference to saving people in distress,” said Cia Sjöstedt, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of SSRS, during her opening remarks to conference delegates.

“It was an honour to host the IMRF’s Mass Rescue Conference for the fifth time. One of the keys to successful sea rescues, and especially MROs, is cooperation, which is something we at the SRSS value highly and are pleased to have promoted at G5,” she added.

“To be back in-person with old and new friends at G5 was a fantastic experience,” said Theresa Crossley, CEO of IMRF. “Thankfully while MROs remain rare, it is incredibly important for SAR organisations to be as prepared as possible for every eventuality. Our ‘G’ series of MRO conferences are a vital part of our work with SAR organisations globally and I am incredibly proud that the IMRF continues to play its part by putting on these events.”

G5 kicked off with a live exercise that simulated a real-life MRO in the waters outside of the SSRS headquarters.  The live exercise proved to be incredibly beneficial for delegates, with all casualties successfully rescued and the coordination centre working well. All participants felt they had benefited from the experience, with the importance of communication proving the main takeaway from the live exercise.

“It was a real learning point,” said Theresa. “The live exercise broke the ice, got people working together and really set the scene for the rest of the conference.”

You can check out some of the official photos from the event here: https://www.international-maritime-rescue.org/news/g5-conference-media-gallery

The remaining two days of the conference included a number of fascinating talks from across the SAR community, kick started by a speech from keynote speaker Peter Hinchliffe, former Secretary General of the International Chamber of Shipping and a trustee of MOAS UK. 

MOAS is an international humanitarian organisation that provides humanitarian aid and SAR operations to assist migrants in the Central Mediterranean and Aegean. Most recently it has been involved in recent Russia-Ukraine conflict, providing mobile medical support units across Ukraine.

In addition, the IMRF was honoured to have a wide range of excellent speakers from across the SAR community including SSRS, the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency, SoS Mediterranee, RNLI, KNRM, the Swedish Coast Guard, the South African Maritime Safety Authority, the World Maritime University, Arctic Airboats, Yellow Scorpion and the US Coast Guard.

The speakers covered a wide range of topics focused on the challenges of MROs, including how to plan and prepare for as many eventualities as possible, effective communications and coordination during MROs, and responding during pandemics.

The IMRF also launched its #SARyouOK? Project: an initiative to raise awareness and further breakdown the stigma that is attached to mental health and wellbeing issues faced by those working in the maritime SAR sector.

“SAR workers often face stresses that are not present in other high-risk fields of work. First responders put themselves in harm's way, repeatedly putting their physical and mental wellbeing at risk. It’s time we come together as a maritime SAR community to discuss how we can best tackle this issue for the benefit of all SAR professionals,” Caroline Jupe, IMRF’s Head of Fundraising and projects, said as she launched the project.

In addition to the course, the IMRF has also released the latest version of its Mass Rescue Operations (MRO) Summary Guidance documents.

The documents are available to download from the IMRF’s official MRO website: https://www.international-maritime-rescue.org/mro-library-mro-summary-guidance-example-mro-plan

The IMRF’s latest guidance documents are designed to offer SAR organisations a framework to develop their own MRO plans, as well as provide practical advice on issues related to funding, resources and communication strategies.

You can read more about the IMRF’s MRO guidance and access additional resources to aid your MRO planning here: https://www.international-maritime-rescue.org/mro-home