Representatives of IMRF member organisations from across Europe met in mid-November in the fishing village of Cascais, on the outskirts of Lisbon, for their annual regional development meeting. The Portuguese Platform for Defence Industries (idD) and the Portuguese Lifesaving Institute (ISN) kindly hosted the event, which coincided with the inaugural IMRF Honouring Excellence in Rescue Operations (HERO) Awards.
The meeting also included opportunities for delegates to hear about a wide range of SAR related initiatives, and to take part in a demonstration of Portuguese SAR capability, courtesy of ISN.
The IMRF delegates were welcomed by the Vice President of Cascais City Hall, Miguel Pinto Luz, and keynote addresses were given by Dr Marcos Perestrello, Secretary of State for National Defence; Admiral Luis Macieira Fragoso, Navy Chief of Staff; and Captain Udo Helge Fox, IMRF Chairman. The speakers agreed the importance of working together to improve maritime SAR, sharing experience worldwide.
The Executive Director of the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA), Markku Mylly, explained the Agency’s role in reducing the risk of maritime accidents by helping to enforce European Union legislation, and mentioned EMSA’s environmental protection measures and ways in which the Agency can assist Rescue Coordination Centres by, for example, sharing monitoring information.
Commander Pedro Carvalho Pinto and Lieutenant Michael Barradas dos Santos gave presentations on the Portuguese SAR region and MRCCs, and on ISN.
Maritime SAR in Portugal is primarily the Navy’s responsibility, with the harbourmasters acting as local coordinators. The very large Portuguese SAR region requires partial reliance on additional facilities, such as shipping which happens to be in the incident area, and the military authorities work with civilian volunteers and service providers. ISN are interested in supplying SAR aid, especially to Portuguese-speaking countries in the southern hemisphere; and MRO studies are ongoing.
To conclude the first day’s work, Eduardo Neto Filipe, President of idD, introduced a series of short presentations by industry representatives, who discussed rescue craft, surveillance and unmanned systems, software, salvage & towage, and ‘U-Safe’, a remote controlled, self-propelled lifesaving buoy.
The meeting was chaired by Jori Nordström of the Finnish Lifeboat Institution and the Regional Development Meeting itself was divided into two main parts. First, brief reviews of ongoing IMRF project work, and new work already proposed, together with several short ‘member focus’ sessions; and, second, a development workshop.
David Jardine-Smith of the secretariat gave a brief update on the IMRF’s mass rescue operations (MRO) project; Anna Classon of the RNLI introduced the Future Technology Panel; Linde Jelsma of KNRM spoke about the IMRF’s Crew Exchange project – now five years old: 310 people from 17 countries have been involved so far, not counting all the host team members who have also benefited – and Andreas Arvidsson of SSRS reported on the IMRF-coordinated assistance to the Hellenic Rescue Team and the Hellenic Coast Guard during the ‘mixed migrant’ crisis in the Aegean. HRT’s President, Giorgios Kalogeropoulos, offered heartfelt thanks to the five IMRF members who had participated directly – RS, KNRM, RNLI, SSRS & DGzRS – and to the IMRF for the coordination of the response.
Jolan van den Broek of KNRM explained a proposal for an IMRF fundraising panel. Communication processes and fundraising methods are changing fast, she said: we need the right people, the right culture, passion and pride, and database-driven fundraising, acknowledging that we can expect returns only after investment. Jolan is a big fan of ‘copy, paste and innovate’; that is, borrow other people’s good ideas as well as developing your own. To that end KNRM will be organising a fundraising skill-share event in the Netherlands, 22-23 June 2017. Watch www.international-maritime-rescue.org for details.
Anna Classon and Andreas Arvidsson began the workshop part of the meeting by introducing a proposal for a work plan for future regional work. They suggested that subjects raised at regional meetings and agreed for action should be allocated to specific working groups or specialist panels. Work done between regional meetings would be reported back, and would help set the next meeting’s agenda. Results would be placed online on the IMRF websites and/or stored securely for members’ future use as one of the main aims is to avoid costly duplication of effort. Members working together should be able to learn from each other’s experience and achieve synergies and cost efficiencies. Added value would be an essential requirement of this work. The meeting welcomed this proposal.
Delegates then divided into working groups to discuss funding and fundraising, now the subject of a panel to be led by Jolan van den Broek; volunteer recruitment and motivation (subjects which might also benefit from panel work); organisational development and sustainability; and how the IMRF should be involved in ‘lobbying’ activity – it was agreed that, while this is appropriate at the international and sometimes the regional level, the IMRF does not become involved in national discussion.
Jori closed the meeting with thanks to the organisers and all attendees. The two days had been very productive and some delegates were able to stay on and enjoy an outing in two of ISN’s lifeboats. It was agreed that, as the regional development process is evolving quickly, annual meetings should continue to be held, supported by the intersessional work of the various specialist panels and working groups which regional members establish.
Many thanks to all the organisers of this event and especially to our hosts the Portuguese Platform for Defence Industries (idD) and the Portuguese Lifesaving Institute (ISN).