Clifford Ireland, NSRI Durban station commander, said: “On Thursday, 09th December, at 11h00, approximately 1 to 2 nautical miles off Blue Lagoon (offshore of the Umgeni River Mouth), a joint sea rescue operation will be held to simulate a mass rescue at sea as part of normal routine training.
“This forms part of a search and rescue exercise supported by the Airports Company of South Africa (ACSA), who are a Platinum partner of NSRI. In ternational aviation law states that a sea rescue capability is essential for all coastal airports. The NSRI are the official rescue service responsible to be on 24 hour stand-by for aircraft search and rescue operations at sea around South Africa.
“While this particular operation will aim to exercise the joint emergency services for any form of mass rescue operation at sea, (a passenger ship, an aircraft, a large bulk carrier or tanker, a fishing vessel, a mass drowning incident etc), it also gives us the opportunity to get some of the relevant emergency services together, services that normally form part of sea rescue operations, and we work on areas such as the dispatching of the necessary emergency services – as they are required, communications between the necessary emergency services through a “JOCC” (Joint Operations Control Centre) – which is a mobile platform that can be deployed anywhere along the coast and houses a communications expert from each service to streamline information and requirements of each particular emergency service, and aims to exercise the combined emergency services joint participation on the scene and on the shore.
“Sea Rescue Durban will deploy 3 sea rescue craft. The Transnet National Ports Authority will deploy their helicopter (often used in deep-sea rescue operations and crewed by a sea rescue swimmer); the South African Air Force (SAAF) 15 Squadron and The South African Navy will send personnel to observe; the KZN Emergency Medical and Rescue Services, SA Police Service (SAPS) and SAPS Search & Rescue will deploy resources.
“Although only a total of eight people (casualties) will be physically rescued from the sea in this simulation the emphasis will be (imaginary) that it could be as many as hundreds of casualties.
“While this exercise gives Sea Rescue an overview of the ongoing joint cooperation between services for a particular event it is also being held at a time when there necessitates a traditionally closer working relationship between all of the emergency services responsible for a sea rescue emergency at a time of the year that is often busiest as more people flock to the ocean on vacation.
“Sea Rescue Centres in other parts of the country will also be briefed post this exercise in order to draw experience from the exercise that can be applied where necessary.
“In any sea rescue operation Sea Rescue enjoy a close and favourable working relationship with all of the Emergency Services responsible to assist in sea rescue emergencies.
“The handling of this simulated rescue operation will attempt to achieve as real a scenario as possible.”