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In June, the NSRI joined its global counterparts at the 2023 World Maritime Rescue Congress in Rotterdam. CEO Dr Cleeve Robertson and Executive Director of Drowning Prevention Dr Jill Fortuin give us the inside scoop.

Jill + Cleeve

Delegates from various corners of the globe recently gathered on the iconic ocean liner SS Rotterdam for the 2023 World Maritime Rescue Congress, hosted by the International Maritime Rescue Federation (IMRF) and the Royal Netherlands Sea Rescue Institution (KNRM). Here, search and rescue (SAR) practitioners, industry and governments were brought together to share their experience and best practice, and to set the course for the future of maritime SAR.

NSRI CEO Dr Cleeve Robertson and Executive Director of Drowning Prevention Dr Jill Fortuin attended on the Institute’s behalf, and both gave presentations at the event.

“I talked about our structured training programme and the mix of theoretical training, via eLearning, and practical skills training,” says Dr Cleeve, adding that there was plenty of interest from the other delegates in the NSRI’s eLearning and content.

He also spoke about how the NSRI has transformed from a boat-based organisation to a more human-focused one, and outlined the Institute’s sustainability challenge, which was broken down into categories such as diversity, mental health, environment and technology, among others.

“The NSRI is well ahead of other countries when it comes to addressing volunteer security and care, thanks to robust life and injury insurance, as well as mental health services supplied by Life Healthcare,” says Dr Cleeve. “We’re also ahead when it comes to our gender balance, with 30% female volunteers. However, we have loads of work to do in terms of ethnic representivity.”

The need for the formulation of Mass Rescue Operation plans was also highlighted.

On the Drowning Prevention front, Dr Jill spoke of the positive influence extensive research has had on the NSRI’s Drowning Prevention Initiatives.

“The feedback was extremely positive,” says Dr Jill. “We made valuable contacts within the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the IMRF, as well as the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI). The NSRI is doing well and exceeding international expectations in SAR. This was an excellent opportunity to strengthen our collaborative networks.”

Some of the most interesting takeaways from the Congress for Dr Cleeve included future technologies that may be employed to enhance SAR efficiency (such as drones, simulations and thermal imaging infrared cameras), as well as new, cutting-edge rescue vessels and rescue equipment – noting that the NSRI is a global leader when it comes to the JetRIB. The Congress also brought home the need to reduce carbon emissions, with various solutions proposed such as switching to a ‘cleaner’ form of diesel.

In summary: “We are ahead of the curve and our innovation is being adopted internationally,” says Dr Cleeve. “Delegates were genuinely impressed by our Survival Swimming Centres, Pink Rescue Buoys and other programmes, as well as our our fatal drowning data. Many researchers struggle to acquire this quality of data. I think our future is in high impact, low-cost and volume interventions to prevent drowning in the first place.”

We look forward to the 2027 World Maritime Congress in Sweden, when the NSRI will be able to report back on the goals and improvements influenced by this seminal event.

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