International Maritime Rescue Federation
Too many people lose their lives in the world’s waters. Estimates range from 360,000 per year (WHO Drowning report 2014) to 1.1m (International Life Saving Drowning Prevention Conference 2013).
Many of these deaths could be prevented through safety interventions and improved maritime SAR coordination and response.
Who Are We?
The IMRF is the international charity focussed on preventing loss of life in the world’s waters. We work with Government and Non-Government SAR Organisations to achieve this.
We now have 112 organisations in 48 countries paying a subscription as members of the IMRF and working together to reduce the loss of life. The membership includes Maritime Rescue Coordination Centres, Coast Guards and Volunteer response organisations.
What Are We Doing?
The objects of the Charity are to prevent loss of life, to promote safety and to provide relief from disaster at sea and on inland waters throughout the world by, in particular (but not limited to):
|•||promoting cooperation, exchange of information, research and development, advice and consultancy between maritime search and rescue services of the world;|
|•||encouraging and promoting the formation and development of maritime search and rescue services throughout the world; and|
|•||the promotion to members of public education and awareness regarding safety on water.|
IMRF has targeted key projects that will improve safety and rescue response for those heading out on the water.
Mass Rescue Operations - It Is Not If, But When
Our work on maritime mass rescue operations highlights a problem that needs attention at all levels: international, national, regional and local. Maritime SAR organisations, shoreside emergency responders, maritime industries, planners and regulators – including the International Maritime Organization (IMO) – are all key players.
Through a series of conferences and workshops across the world, supported by guidance developed by subject-matter experts, the IMRF has launched a programme for improved planning and preparation which will ultimately mean that, when a large-scale rescue event is required, there will be better preparedness and a reduction in lives lost.
The IMRF has organised a series of international maritime mass rescue conferences: the 3rd in this series was held in Gothenburg, Sweden in 2014. The event attracted 140 delegates from 27 countries with representatives from SAR response and coordination services, government policy developers, and the passenger shipping sector; all looking to reduce the risks involved in mass rescue operations.
The IMRF has also developed a mass rescue operations workshop package to help responders discuss mass rescue issues and agree the development of their own MRO response plans. Workshops have been held in Uruguay, Bangladesh, Malta, China, Hong Kong and Malaysia. More are planned.
Rescue Boat Guidelines
Many of our member organisations operate rescue boats outside the IMO regulations, so the IMRF is developing flexible but risk-based guidance for maritime SAR operations by vessels of less than 24m in length, including risk and safety assessments and the identification of appropriate equipment, procedures and training.
The IMRF’s Rescue Boat Guidelines were launched June 2015 as an on-line application that brings together 2,500 areas of guidance to help established organisations benchmark their systems and processes. For developing SAR organisations the guidelines will help develop and implement tried and tested systems, structures and training, reducing time and cost as well as improving safety for the rescuers.
Lifeboat Crew Exchange Programme
By cooperating, through the IMRF, with their fellow rescue organisations around the world, maritime SAR organisations can cost-effectively share the burden of developing rescue capability to meet ever-growing challenges, whilst learning from the ideas and experiences of others. The Lifeboat Crew Exchange (2016) takes 65 volunteers from 12 countries to 9 different countries for 7 days to train together and share an experience of a lifetime. The exchange continues to build closer relationships between lifeboat services and to help develop rescue skills across borders.
Representing Maritime SAR Internationally
We continue to use our consultative status at the IMO to encourage practical regulation that does not impose unreasonable cost on industry or States but will improve safety and SAR, and to improve the SAR guidance available at the global level, including the International Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue (IAMSAR) Manual.
The IMRF is the only organisation at the IMO solely focussed on improving maritime search and rescue. Recently we successfully lobbied to maintain the status of maritime SAR as a main agenda item at the IMO.
The IMRF also works closely with IMO member States and secretariat to complete the Global SAR Plan, the essential network of facilities for maritime SAR coordination across the world to provide a consistency of communication and response. To date, we have established regional groups working to this end in South America, North West and West Africa, Europe and Asia-Pacific. We also participate in IMO regional SAR development meetings.
Independently of the IMO, the IMRF conducted SAR development meetings in Europe, the Asia Pacific region, North and West Africa, Lagos (Nigeria), Canada and New Zealand.
Building SAR Capability Through Training
SAR coordination training has been facilitated by the IMRF and our member organisations in China and North West Africa.
In 2014, two training courses and a practical SAR exercise were run in North and West Africa in partnership with the IMO, as well as a SAR management course and a regional development meeting in the Asia Pacific region.
In partnership with the IMO, SAR coordination training has been facilitated by the IMRF and our member organisations in North and West Africa, and SAR management courses and regional development meetings have been held in the Asia Pacific region.
The IMRF Now Has a Registered Regional Office in Shanghai
As well as building SAR capability the IMRF is expanding its presence and influence with the establishment of a permanent office in Shanghai, China. The Asia Pacific Regional Centre is the result of an initiative by IMRF Trustee Captain Song Jiahui, in 2009, supported by China Rescue and Salvage and the Donghai Rescue Bureau.
Safety on Water Education Awareness Project (SWEAP)
The IMRF recognises that the need to rescue can be reduced by safety and education initiatives. SWEAP encourages members to include on-water safety and education initiatives where possible to improve the knowledge and awareness of those heading out on the water. Members assist members by providing information on their initiatives via an on-line open-source library containing safety and education resources and knowledge.
Supporting Our Work
To undertake this work the IMRF needs to continue to build a membership and financial supporter base that will allow us to deliver on our commitment to reduce the loss of life in the world’s waters. The value of the work we are doing is measured by improving maritime SAR capability around the world.
Preventing loss of life in the world’s waters is why we exist. We are making significant progress – but can do nothing without our members and supporters.