The IMRF European Lifeboat Crew Exchange, coordinated by Linde Jelsma of KNRM, the Royal Netherlands Sea Rescue Institution, attracted participants from 13 countries this year: two more than in 2014. The primary aim of the exchange, now in its fourth year, is to share SAR experience and to improve Europe's maritime SAR services by helping them learn from each other.
This highly successful and ongoing project has a number of important objectives. The first is to enable the exchange of practical experience and good practice. The seven day event also helps personal development, allowing volunteers to acquire new skills. It acts as a transnational communication platform between SAR organisations, enabling the exchange of results, evaluations and expertise. And it helps lifeboat crew members improve their maritime English, because English is the global working language in maritime organisations of all kinds.
The exchange comprises SAR exercises as well as training modules from the host organisation in areas such as first aid, navigation, vessel management, firefighting, capsize drills, and leadership. Visits to the host organisations' lifeboat stations have become a key part of the event,
providing a first-hand opportunity to see how others operate.
IMRF Chief Executive Bruce Reid explained: “The European lifeboat crew exchange programme has now become an important fixture in the calendars of maritime SAR volunteers across the continent. Through the backing of the European Union's Erasmus+ programme, which funded
the event for the first time this year, and Linde's initiative, enthusiasm and hard work, the exchange has become a vital component in the IMRF's ambition to spread knowledge and best practice.”
The volunteer crews involved collectively commit thousands of hours of their time every year to serving their communities. In 2014 these crews rescued more than 25,000 people.
Project manager Linde Jelsma says: “We were again impressed by the enthusiasm, willingness to learn and allround expertise of the participants in this year's event. The volunteers tell us that they go away with fresh ideas which will benefit both their organisations and fellow rescuers back home.
“I would like to thank all host coordinators for the effort they put into this programme to create an educational exchange including the big fun factor. Looking to the future, my task will be finding optional ways to fund and continue this European success, which we would like to extend to a worldwide exchange programme.”
The initial feedback from those attending this year's exchange provides even greater incentive to expand the initiative.
A KNRM host commented: “You became a team in one week; although you were from all over the world, you all do a magnificent job – with different boats, equipment and budgets, but all with the same hearts and minds.”
A participant from Iceland, hosted in Denmark, said: “What a week has passed. Now I go back home with laughter, lots of new things, experience and thanks in my mind to those who made this a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
The host organisations this year were KNRM, the Danish Coastal Rescue Service, the Finnish Lifeboat Institute, the UK and Ireland's Royal National Lifeboat Institution, the German Maritime Search and Rescue Service, the Swedish Sea Rescue Society, the Norwegian Society for Sea Rescue, the Icelandic Association for Search and Rescue, and the French National Society for Rescue at Sea. Crew members from Russia, Greece, Ireland, Estonia, Portugal and Canada also took part.