The International Maritime Rescue Federation (IMRF) is to strengthen the capacity and effectiveness of the Hellenic Rescue Team (HRT), an IMRF member organisation which is constantly rescuing migrants in the Aegean Sea. The IMRF will do this with the support of European maritime search and rescue (SAR) organisations who are also IMRF members.
Following a temporary drop in the number of people trying to reach the Greek islands by sea in November, figures from the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) are showing an increase again. The relative number of women and children also continues to grow – for example on the island of Chios, where, in November 2015, 33 percent were women.
In close cooperation with the Hellenic Coast Guard, IMRF member organisations from across Europe, including the UK and Ireland’s Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), the Swedish Sea Rescue Society (SSRS) and the German Maritime SAR Service (DGzRS), will work with the local SAR services in the Aegean, giving assistance with coordination and training and the provision of equipment and rescue boats, as well as volunteer support over the next 12 months.
Bruce Reid, CEO of the IMRF, says: “At the request of the Hellenic Coast Guard, our primary task will be to mentor and support the Hellenic Rescue Team to a point where they can be in a position to provide consistent and appropriate community-based SAR as an auxiliary to the Coast Guard across the four main island centres of Lesvos, Chios, Samos and Kos.”
The IMRF will provide a coordinated support package which will include a common training framework for the HRT based on the IMRF’s new Rescue Boat Guidelines and structured around basic seamanship and specific training by type of boat. The IMRF will also provide train-the-trainer opportunities and will explore of the possibility of a crew mentorship programme.
In addition, the IMRF will be assisting HRT to set up a new lifeboat base on Chios and will provide further support to grow their maritime SAR capability by providing advice in areas such as governance, maritime SAR management, public relations and fundraising.
The IMRF project objectives are focused in the short term on helping fill capacity gaps for 2016 and strengthening the regional SAR capability, in order to save more lives.
In the longer term the IMRF wants to use the experience of its membership to help improve the overall capacity and capability in the Aegean to cope with the current high demand and then to help the local organisations develop a sustainable structure for the future.
This will be achieved through the donation of a number of rescue boats, along with training and equipment from the donor organization. The exact number of boats may vary according to need and deployment capability. This SAR strategy will be continuously evaluated and developed in close cooperation with HRT and the Coast Guard.
The IMRF project manager, Andreas Arvidsson, will work closely with the Hellenic Coast Guard and Hellenic Rescue Team for up to six months to help coordinate the NGO activity and develop and implement a support plan. A Greek National will also be appointed as Operations Coordinator.
“The IMRF exists to help prevent loss of life in the world’s waters and we are daily seeing tragedies unfold in the Aegean Sea,” says Reid. “Through this coordinated effort from our members we hope to boost our fellow rescuers in Greece, help share some of the burden they carry and ultimately share our knowledge, expertise and resources to develop the local SAR community so fewer lives will be lost.”