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We caught up with NSRI Rescue Services Director Brett Ayres for the latest developments in the deployment of this innovative vessel to station crews.

The NSRI’s JetRIB was recently back in the public eye – only this time, it wasn’t because this game-changing vessel had won another award for Innovation and Technology, as it did at the 2021 International Maritime Rescue Federation (IMRF) Awards. Rather, sadly, it was because one was stolen on Saturday, 27 May, from Station 16 in Strandfontein; its burnt remains, sans engine, were found the following day in an open field in Blikkiesdorp, Delft, in the afternoon. A case has been opened, and the South African Police Service, assisted by the City of Cape Town Law Enforcement and Metro Police are investigating.


The pioneering JetRIB model is a result of a collaboration between the NSRI and Droomers Yamaha in 2019. The vessel’s water-jet propulsion is more eco-friendly than traditional two-stroke outboard petrol engines and, by removing propellers from the water, the real danger of a propeller strike to casualties and rescue swimmers has been eliminated.

“Our goal is to acquire a fleet of 58 JetRIBs,” says NSRI Rescue Services Director Brett Ayres. At a cost of R650 000 per JetRIB (including road trailer, kit and personal protective equipment (PPE) for the crew), that is no mean feat. Yet – thanks to generous donations – 30 NSRI stations have already acquired a JetRIB each.

“We estimate completion of the rollout to be sometime in 2025, but it’s funding dependent. Not all stations have a need for a JetRIB; some just have a larger craft. But our vision is for the vast majority of stations to have one. We also want to expand them to lifeguard units, once the station fleet is rolled out.”

Indeed, they have been very well received by NSRI volunteer crews so far, and are definitely a game-changer.

“They are quicker than our ‘old’ tiller arm fleet, and much more stable in the surf. They’re also rightable, so if one capsizes, you just roll it back over and carry on, without the need for expensive and time-consuming repair work. The fuel consumption is much better, so it has a far greater range. Lastly, and most importantly, it is much simpler and more intuitive to operate, so the training time to get volunteers up to speed is far shorter. It is just safer, and more effective, all around.”


That said, a few challenges have been identified, says Brett. “It is impeller, rather than propeller, driven – i.e. jet powered – so operating the vessel in water that is too shallow can lead to damage to the impeller via sucked up sand or stones… One can drive it much shallower than a vessel with propellers, but that doesn’t mean one should! And some places with eel grass, for example, have had some fouling issues with the intake – but this has been mitigated by modifying the intake grids.”

Although it is much safer to operate than previous RIB (rigid inflatable boat) models, says Brett, it is still a vessel; it is not “fool proof” and still requires respect and skill to operate safely.

Many of the JetRIBs acquired so far have been funded by organisations and individuals, as well as crowd-funding, says the NSRI’s National Fundraising Manager Alison Smith. “For example, ‘Hansie’ at Station 4 (Mykonos) was funded through a crowd-funding initiative created by the community to honour a friend who had passed away. ‘Spirit of Gabi’ at Station 8 (Hout Bay) was funded by a bequest from the estate of the late Gabrielle Jacqueline De Bie. ‘Zelda’ at Station 9 (Gordons Bay) was funded by Western Cape Disaster Management, while ‘Spirit of Santam’ at Station 16 (Strandfontein) was funded by Santam.”

If you would like to contribute towards the funding of a JetRIB, so that the NSRI can reach its target of acquiring 58 of these lifesaving vessels, visit their Given Gain campaign page here and click ‘Donate’.

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