World Maritime Rescue Congress (Minutes & Report)

Posted in General News

The IMRF’s third World Maritime Rescue Congress was held in Bremerhaven, Germany, 1-3 June, hosted by the Deutsche Gesellschaft zur Rettung Schiffbrüchiger – the German Maritime Search and Rescue Service (DGzRS). The Congress coincided with the celebration of the DGzRS’ 150th Anniversary, and with the IMRF’s Quadrennial General Meeting.

Click here for the WMRC Minutes and the Report

Nearly 500 people attended the Congress in all, 275 as delegates and 223 as crew of the rescue craft old and new that gathered for the occasion. 104 IMRF member and other organisations were represented, from some 40 countries around the world. There were 70 speakers in all, covering a very wide range of maritime SAR subjects. And 45 organisations took part in an International SAR Exhibition nearby.dgzrscelebration

Delegates were welcomed to Bremerhaven by the city’s Mayor, Melf Grantz; the DGzRS Chairman, Gerhard Harder; and Enak Ferlemann, Parliamentary State Secretary of the German Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure.

Opening the Congress, IMRF Chairman Michael Vlasto highlighted how the combination of advances in rescue craft design, improved training regimes and better communications had reduced the overall risk to those carrying out the often difficult and dangerous work of rescuing those in distress at sea. He also noted the growing importance of prevention and education strategies which had a vital part to play in reducing the loss of lives in the world’s waters.

dgzrscelebration2Congratulating DGzRS on their 150th Anniversary, IMO Secretary-General Emeritus and IMRF Patron Efthimios Mitropoulos remarked that, while SAR practice and technology has changed considerably in those 150 years, the need for SAR services remains as vital as ever.

He highlighted the too frequent loss of life in accidents on ferries in domestic trades; the IMRF’s mass rescue operations project, which, he said, is a good example of the positive action the Federation can take to enhance safety through the application of its special expertise (see page 10); and the terrible and ongoing loss of life among people trying to cross the Mediterranean as migrants and refugees.

Paul Boissier, Chief Executive Officer of the UK & Ireland’s Royal National Lifeboat Institution, and Martin Xuereb of the Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS), also gave keynote speeches.

Paul said that every SAR organisation has to decide what it wants to achieve, and reflect that ambition honestly and openly in its vision statement. It then needs to create a strategy that will allow it to move in the right direction, and a structure that gives it the best possible chance to deliver the strategy.

Martin described the situation faced by SAR organisations responding to the migrant and refugee crisis in the Mediterranean, and the establish-ment and work of his own charity as part of that

The Congress delegates also heard from Bruce Reid, IMRF’s CEO, who introduced brief reports by the project leaders on the Federation’s ongoing work on SAR development, mass rescue operations, rescue boat guidelines, and the crew exchange boat.

The main work of the Congress was divided into three parallel work streams under main headings of ‘SAR Organisation & Management’, ‘SAR Coordination’ and ‘SAR Operations’, each loosely divided into ‘workshops’. The opportunity to discuss the wide-ranging subjects raised, and to network generally, was enhanced by a programme that included many breaks and social events.

We encourage you to join in the conversation! The full Congress report and minutes can be downloaded below and all the presentations may be dowloaded in pdf format on the Presentations & Workshop Download pages.


As a taster, here are the workshop titles and contents:

Click here for the WMRC Minutes and the Report


o to significantly impact drowning worldwide, do we need to look beyond just rescue organisations?
o the WaterWise Academy, South Africa
o risk identification and ‘black spot’ models
o Coastguard New Zealand’s Boating Education programme


 Mass Rescue Operations

o the IMRF’s online MRO resource library
o unconventional solutions in improving MRO response
o operational prioritisation in MROs
o the Local Incident Coordinator function
o process-optimised communications
o the FIRST project: hoistable liferafts
o the Medical and Psychological Emergency Cell, France

Unmanned Systems

o unmanned aircraft and surface systems in SAR – potential roles, benefits & limitations (3 presentations)


o domestic ferry safety in the developing world
o the SAR response to ferry accidents
o an appraisal of maritime SAR in Nigeria
o transforming a charity into a social business in Uganda
o restructuring a long-established SAR organisation
o developing a culture of innovation
o an analysis of maritime and riverine SAR services in Brazil


o NikooSAR – SAR management software package
o modelling maritime casualty investigation
o a study of deaths due to drowning in Africa
o open source projects, ideas and innovations



o research into decision-making in maritime SAR
o Vessel Triage: enhancing situational awareness


o is it possible to cut costs and deliver a better service?
o a case study of funding SAR support
o better use of modern mass communications
o the power of stories, pictures and social media
o a fundraising and budget allocation workshop

Special Cases

o international humanitarian law and SAR in conflict zones (2 presentations)
o migration and loss of life at sea
o UNHCR’s perspective on the ‘mixed migration’ problem


o the potential of simulation in complex incident training (3 presentations)
o training and practice in high-speed navigation
o stress exposure training: ‘drills versus reality’
o training in low cost and low technology environments
o the IMRF European Region’s crew exchange project
o a resuscitation course for rescue craft crews
o an intuitive first-aid assistance application



o challenges & opportunities in the ‘SAR ecosystem’
o MEOSAR and 2nd generation emergency beacons
o a close scrutiny of the GMDSS
o SAR-related communication issues
o SAR and the Global Navigation Satellite System
o crisis communication management and social media

Organisational Culture

o building an effective organisational culture
o leadership and innovation in high-risk teams
o volunteers in rescue service organisations
o making safety a core cultural component

Casualty Care

o what happens during drowning and how this affects resuscitation
o medical support by SAR crew: strategic considerations
o an integrated approach to casualty (patient) care

Other Presentations

o ‘KNRM Helps’: an innovative mobile safety app
o responding to floods in low-income countries
o experience gained from a liferaft exercise
o the effects of Whole Body Vibration
o the response to major marine incidents in China

The Congress is over – but it’s still not too late to join in!

You can find the presentations and videos on the WMRC Website: the Presentations & Workshop - Download page and the Media Gallery.

To download and read the minutes and report, please see below.

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Contact Info - WMRC

International Maritime Rescue Federation
50 Allardice Street
AB39 2RA
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0) 1569 767405
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

German Maritime Search and Rescue Service (Host congress)
Werderstrasse 2
Tel: +49 421 53707 400
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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