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The JetRIB has become an invaluable addition to the NSRI’s fleet. NSRI Training Manager Graeme Harding tells us more about this award-winning craft.

A star is born

The JetRIB’s story started a few years ago, when members of the NSRI realised that they were facing a few challenges with their smaller rescue crafts, the most pressing one being the safety of casualties and crews in the surf when propellers were involved. The second challenge was the planned discontinuation of the production of two-stroke outboard engines, which are used on the NSRI’s smaller boats.

Graeme and his team started looking at different ideas and concluded that a jet-powered craft would be their best option. A lot of the people that they approached with this concept told them they were crazy, but then Droomers Yamaha decided to take the idea seriously.

“We went down to Melkbos and did some testing on what they had built, and I was immediately super impressed with its handling capabilities and everything it could do,” Graeme recalls.

The team made some small suggestions for changes before giving Droomers the go-ahead to build the craft. Graeme then toured the country, taking it to every surf-launch base and launching it with all the crews to get their feedback.

A few minor tweaks were made and so the JetRIB was born. The craft is a combination of a four-stroke Yamaha VX1050 Jet Ski with an extension hull and Hypalon pontoons. In addition to being safer, it’s also more environmentally friendly as it doesn’t require two-stroke engine oil. It played a crucial role in the NSRI’s rescue efforts during the recent KwaZulu-Natal floods. Boats with propellers can’t be used in flooding conditions because of debris in the water.


Plans for the future

The world is starting to take notice of the JetRIB, with interest growing among those in the know. The JetRIB also walked away with the award for Innovation and Technology at last year’s International Maritime Rescue Federation (IMRF) Awards.

“A couple have gone to New Zealand already. The guys from Safe at Seas in Norway have taken agency to sell these in Europe. There’s also one going to Ascension Island. It’s really taken off now,” Graeme says.

“We’re looking at getting at least 40 JetRIBs to replace our current class four boats. We’re also asking ourselves why we have lifeguards paddling out on a kneeboard when we could get them out on something like this. They’re going to get there so much quicker, and they’ll also get the casualty back to the beach quicker. We’re probably looking at rolling them out to the lifeguards, so at the end of the day, we might end up having 100 JetRIBs in our fleet.”

“As stations need them, we fund them out of our general donations. Obviously if we can get donors who would like to donate all the money for one, then we don’t have to take that out of our monthly donations and can budget better for it,” Graeme says.

And donors, according to Graeme, are not just people who donate money – they’re members of the NSRI crew.

“When people ask me how many volunteers we have, I say, well, we have about 117 000. We’ve got 1 500 of us that run around on boats at sea, and then we’ve got many thousands more that donate their money. It took them time to make that money, so they’re also donating their time to us. That’s a huge thing, and the level of respect we should have for that should be extremely high,” he says.

Etienne van Zyl

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