London, Wednesday, 12 November 2014. Changing demands in communities across the globe make it more challenging to recruit and retain volunteers for maritime search and rescue operations.
This was one of the main conclusions drawn at the International Maritime Federation's (IMRF) European Regional Meeting held in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Picking up on this theme in a speech at the meeting Roemer Boogaard, CEO of the KNRM (Dutch Lifeboat Service) said: "The image of our volunteer rescuers being traditional seafarers and sailors, living and working in in coastal towns or ports is an outdated one. But, do we actually have a good idea of what our future demographic structure will be? Will there be enough volunteers available, will we be able to train them, who are these volunteers and how can we find them?"
"Any volunteer's most crucial core value is giving of their time. In this modern age, time has become a precious commodity. Whilst coastal residents in bygone days could be relied upon for their sound seamanship and their knowledge of (local) coastal waters under any weather condition, these days this can no longer be taken for granted."
During the two day meeting it was also agreed that the systematic collection of data relating to survivor's experiences using harmonized feedback and the development of the increasingly innovative technologies available to improve operational performance were to be encouraged.
The attendees acknowledged that the issue of maritime mass rescue operations continued to be a matter of common concern and should be kept high on the strategic agenda through the IMRF's Mass Rescue Operations Project which was making good progress.
On training standards, a working group was established to update the current IMRF "Training Standards for Maritime SAR Unit Coxswains, Mechanics and Crew Members". Newly appointed IMRF Regional Coordinator Jori Nordstrom, of the Finnish Lifeboat Institute, will head the review with a target of having the revised standards available early in 2015.
Strong support was provided for the completion of the Rescue Boat Guidelines for maritime SAR units of less than 24 metres in length, in time to launch at next year's IMRF World Maritime Rescue Congress 1-4 June 2015 in Bremerhaven.
Reflecting on a successful 2 days of intensive discussion, IMRF Chairman, Michael Vlasto, said "The European Regional Group continues to be a 'hot house' for the ongoing development of the IMRF. With an increasing number of lifesaving projects being supported by the European member organisations, the further refinement of evidence based training standards to improve operational effectiveness and making best use of rapidly changing technologies the IMRF continues its work to reduce the loss of lives on the world's waters."