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Second IMRF Course in Mass Rescue Operations Planning Held in Sweden

Second IMRF Course in Mass Rescue Operations Planning Held in Sweden

On 4-6 September 2018 the IMRF held its second ‘subject-matter expert’ course in maritime mass rescue operations, at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden. There were 26 participants from around the world – from Australia, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Malta, Morocco, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Russia, Sweden and the UK.

The course considered, in some depth, issues common to such events – especially how to fill the SAR ‘capability gap’ implicit in the International Maritime Organization’s definition of an MRO, which is “characterised by the need for immediate response to large numbers of persons in distress, such that the capabilities normally available to the search and rescue authorities are inadequate”.

Participants discussed details of such operations and their coordination, the need for effective communications in what are complex and stressful circumstances, and the necessary training and testing regimes.

Read More

First maritime mass rescue operations course, involving senior emergency planning officers from around the world, sells out

What’s the worst that can happen at sea? A passenger ferry capsizing? A cruise ship on fire? An airliner ditching? An oil rig explosion? Any incident that requires the rescue of large numbers of people at sea will be immensely challenging – and is likely to be beyond normal response capabilities. What can be done about that? How can we prepare for such events?

The International Maritime Rescue Federation (IMRF) has held a maritime mass rescue operations subject-matter expert course – believed to be the first of its kind – at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden, on 14-16 June 2017.

The event attracted 40 senior personnel with emergency planning responsibilities from a total of 18 countries: Australia, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Canada, Finland, France, Hong Kong, Iceland, Malaysia, the Maldives, Malta, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Portugal, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Uruguay and the USA.

Bruce Reid, the IMRF’s Chief Executive, said: "This course has brought senior emergency planners together to discuss common challenges and highlight important issues relating to maritime mass rescue operations. Working together, we can share our experiences and ideas. While we cannot stop accidents occurring, we do have the capacity, by working with SAR services around the world, to improve preparedness and save more lives."

Mass rescue operations are, by international definition, beyond normal search and rescue (SAR) capability: there are more people in distress than there are SAR units available to save them. How many people this will be depends on the circumstances – location, weather and sea conditions, the availability of rescue craft locally – but mass rescue operations are a global concern, in developed as well as developing States. Emergency response organisations need to ‘be prepared for the unprepared’, ready to respond to emergencies of a scale they are not resourced for – which may be rare, but are extremely challenging.

The aim of the course was to study in depth the generic issues identified by the IMRF’s mass rescue operations project, enabling the participants to develop subject-matter expertise. Focus on the issues enables the review and development of detailed plans to fill the ‘capability gap’ back home.

The participants worked in facilitated breakout sessions to discuss the issues in turn, coming together again to present their results. There was also a lively tabletop exercise delivered by specialists from the United States Coast Guard, which allowed some of the mass rescue challenges to be demonstrated in an example scenario, based on a passenger ferry fire.

Ahmed Mujuthaba Mohamed, Commanding Officer of MNDF Coast Guard Ship Ghazee, said: "This has been the best brain-drain session on SAR that I have attended in my 18-year career. It was beneficial in every aspect of mass rescue operations and maritime SAR, with so much experience and knowledge shared passionately among colleagues from all corners. I am sincerely grateful to the IMRF for opening this avenue for the Maldives and its SAR community, where this experience will be utilised in the best way possible."

The IMRF’s mass rescue operations project manager, David Jardine-Smith, says: "The commitment and enthusiasm of all involved in this course was great to see. The participants are well aware that they or their organisations may have to conduct a mass rescue operation one day, and they are determined to be as ready as they can. They know it’s not ‘if’, but ‘when’…."

"The IMRF ran a conference on mass rescue operations in Gothenburg immediately before the course. Both events sold out, so the desire to work on these issues is clear. We also offer a workshop package, designed to bring local response organisations together so that they can talk through the issues with the partners they will work with when such an operation is required. The workshop enables better mutual understanding and communication – before a response is needed, at the planning stage, as well as during the operation itself."

"We will now be following up with the participants for their thoughts on this first course, and will offer it elsewhere as resources become available. We also want to hear what the effects of the course have been – how it has helped the participants prepare for mass rescue."

The course was run with the support of the EU Picasso Project, which aims to achieve modern and well-developed maritime transport, with a well-trained and up-to-date work force, that enables the sector to become greener, safer and more efficient and sustainable.

For more information on the Project see, and on the course hosts, Chalmers University of Technology, Funding from the Trinity House ( allowed scholarship places to be offered to delegates from developing countries.

The course was also generously supported by the Swedish Sea Rescue Society (, the Swedish Maritime Administration (, and Orolia McMurdo (

More information about the IMRF’s work on mass rescue operations can be found on the project website,


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About ....

20170615 155313smallaAbout the IMRF Mass Rescue Operations - Subject-Matter Expert Course - 2018


The IMRF’s Mass Rescue Operations (MRO) Project shares lessons learned in these very challenging SAR events via conferences and workshops and in our online material at

Building on the success of the first IMRF MRO subject-matter expert course, held in June 2017, a second course will be held at Chalmers University, in Gothenburg, Sweden, in association with the Swedish Sea Rescue Society (SSRS) from Tuesday to Thursday, 4-6 September 2018.


Aim of the Course

The aim of the subject-matter expert course is to help prepare those with responsibilities for complex incident planning and response, particularly at senior command, control & coordination levels.

Attendees will already have extensive SAR / emergency planning expertise.

The course will enable them to study maritime MRO issues, challenges and potential solutions in depth, acquiring subject-matter expert skills which can then be applied in their local / regional planning and preparation.


Course Format

Self-preparation, before the course, including assessment of the attendee’s local MRO capabilities and challenges
Three full days of interactive study of the maritime MRO issues, guided by expert facilitators
Post-course application of lessons learned and skills acquired, supported by the material available in the IMRF’s online MRO reference library.

The First Course in 2017

The first IMRF Mass Rescue Operations Subject-Matter Expert course in 2017 was a hit, and it sold out very quickly!

Below a selection on what the very first course was about...

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International Maritime Rescue Federation
50 Allardice Street
AB39 2RA
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Tel: +44 (0) 1569 767405


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