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The NSRI’s fourth mobile Survival Swimming Centre is on its way to Spain, to take part in the biggest swimming pool show in the world. We asked Drowning Prevention Manager Andrew Ingram for the lowdown.

This June, the fourth NSRI Survival Swimming Centre (SSC) will be shipped to Barcelona, Spain, to participate in the world’s largest swimming pool show: Piscina & Wellness Barcelona.

“It was quite an emotional moment, shutting the doors and sealing the container for transport,” says NSRI Drowning Prevention Manager, Andrew Ingram, who has managed the Survival Swimming Centre project from its inception in 2020. “It’s been quite a journey so far, and to get to this point is, well, amazing.”

These world-first mobile centres are converted shipping containers that have been fitted with a heated indoor swimming pool, which can be monitored remotely by NSRI management in order to maintain hygiene and safety standards, under the supervision of the local Survival Swimming instructors.

The first two SSCs installed in the Eastern and Western Cape have already won the 2022 International Maritime Rescue Federation Award for Innovation and Technology, and a third was installed at a school in KwaZulu-Natal.

ssc

“This is definitely our best Centre yet,” says Andrew. “The construction of each container has come with a steep learning curve. But we’ve been able to produce each successive centre in less time, making adjustments and applying lessons learnt. For example, the latest Centre has a larger changing room, which will improve the comfort of students. We’ve applied a new rust treatment to the metal, as rust has been an issue in prior containers due to the temperature of the salt-water pool. Small changes add up. I am proud of what we’ve achieved.”

Fluidra South Africa, a leading company in pools and wellness, has been involved with the project since inception, donating expertise and equipment, and the fourth SSC has been sponsored by their international foundation, Fundació Fluidra. This includes the conversion of the centre, transport to Barcelona and entry into the show. “Fluidra have bought into the project 150 percent. It’s been incredible to work with people who are equally passionate about this project, and all of whom are giving their time and expertise for free. PoolClear has also been very generous with its expertise, as we’ve had to navigate the challenges of keeping the Centres hygienic and functioning. Some of the Centres host lessons for more than 40 children per day, which can put a strain on the water filtration system. We have an entire team of experts on hand, monitoring the water quality of each Centre on a daily basis, providing guidance to the instructor on how to manage the water quality. People don’t realise that behind each of these centres is a network of people working around the clock, every day, to ensure they remain hygienic and in good working order.”

ssc

Andrew hopes that the SSC sent to the Piscina & Wellness Barcelona show will improve the outlook for the project’s financial sustainability and lead to technological upgrades through skill sharing. “We’re hoping that showcasing what we’ve achieved will attract international sponsors – as each container costs hundreds of thousands of rands to produce. Loadshedding is a big problem, and while there is scope to include solar panels on the roof of the container, they’re expensive. Sponsors could help with this.”

In addition, says Andrew, he hopes to connect with those who have the expertise to take this project further from a technical perspective. “For example, as we build more containers and expand, we’ll need to consider how we might continue to manage the water quality remotely. We’ll need more automation, and AI may be able to help us with that. For that, we’ll need help. We are not holding our cards close to our chest. Anyone who wants to know how to produce these centres, we’ll gladly share our knowledge. We hope others will, in turn, share theirs.”

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