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The NSRI was recently invited to speak at an international workshop in Luanda, Angola, aimed at showcasing new technologies to mitigate the effects of climate change. We caught up with the NSRI’s Peter O’Hanlon, who attended, to find out more.

From 5 to 7 June, the GMES & Africa* Southern Africa Regional Workshop took place in Luanda, Angola, and the NSRI was invited to attend. The aim of the workshop – co-hosted by the Southern African Science Service Centre for Change and Adaptive Land Management (SASSCAL) and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) – was to showcase new earth observation technologies to mitigate the effects of climate change.

Why was the NSRI invited?

“A core principle of the GMES & Africa collaborators, which is a world of scientists and engineers, is that the work they do benefits communities, especially in Africa,” says Peter O’Hanlon, who gave a presentation at the event on behalf of the NSRI. Peter, currently a rescue coxswain, is a former station commander at the NSRI’s Melkbosstrand base, and has been with the organisation for 21 years. “The CSIR, in collaboration with NSRI, have developed an ‘OCIMS’ application, which uses geolocation and weather mapping to assist the first Search Rescue Unit [SRU], or Vessel, to reach a casualty as quickly as possible.”

Peter O'Hanlon

OCIMS – Oceans and Coasts: Information Management System – provides information and decision support to a variety of ocean and coastal initiatives. To this end, teams at the CSIR have been working with many South African research agencies and scientists to develop a range of online tools, including the OCIMS Coastal Operations at Sea (CoastOps) Decision Support Tool (DeST), an application that incorporates high-resolution weather and ocean data with the last known position of a person in the water.

The NSRI relies on a variety of tools and data streams to coordinate their search and rescue operations, most of them not optimally tailored to their operational needs. The CoastOps DeST provides a web-based utility that integrates all the necessary information into a digital virtual command centre to improve NSRI’s ability to coordinate and respond to search and rescue calls.

“We were asked to tell the audience of professors and scientists how the NSRI operates, and provide an element of reality to our work through sharing real scenarios and experience, from an initial call, to the actual operation in all weather conditions.”

The talk was well received, and the NSRI has been invited back to attend the next conference in Nairobi, Kenya, later in the year, which will have a specific marine focus.

These interactions provide NSRI with an opportunity to tap into some of the finest scientific minds in the world to assist with sophisticated tools that enable us to respond faster, with less risk of human error.

* Global Monitoring for Environment and Security and Africa (GMES & Africa) is an Africa-wide initiative that grew from the longstanding cooperation between Africa and Europe, with the aim of strengthening long-term European Union and Africa Union Commission cooperation on space science and technology, enabling the two continents to jointly address and solve global challenges and promote sustainable development. The goal of the initiative is to provide decision-makers with the information and tools needed for the implementation of sustainable environmental policies at continental, regional and national levels.


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