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Station 19 celebrated the addition of a state-of-the-art rescue Offshore Rescue Craft (ORC) to their fleet with a well-attended boat blessing on 16 August.

On a mild and sunny afternoon in mid-August, over a hundred Richards Bay locals joined the NSRI’s Station 19 crew for the highly anticipated blessing of “Ocean Guardian”, a state-of-the-art 14m ORC. This is the fifth of these ground-breaking new vessels to be rolled out within the NSRI since 2021, symbolising a new era of sea rescue excellence.

boat blessing

The latest addition to the Station 19 fleet is a culmination of tireless fundraising efforts – most notably via the IVS Annual Golf Day, which garners incredible support from the shipping industry – and an epic five-day voyage covering 1060 nautical miles to sail the “Ocean Guardian” from Cape Town to its new home in Richards Bay, bringing with it new technology for rescue operations in extreme weather conditions. At 14.8m long and 4.8m wide, the new ORC is a self-righting vessel that can be deployed on rescue operations as far as 50 nautical miles off shore and has an expected hull lifespan of at least 40 years.

“Ocean Guardian” will be replacing “Spirit of Richards Bay”, the station’s cherished 12m Lochin vessel, which is still in good condition and for sale.

After station commander Mike Patterson welcomed guests, the General Manager for Island View Shipping (IVS) South Africa, Brandon Paul, expressed his congratulations and support for Station 19.

NSRI’s Executive Director of Capital Projects, Mark Hughes, gave a brief background as to why the decision was taken to retire the 38-year-old “Spirit of Richards Bay”, and replace it with the latest vessel design. “We had a fleet of six vessels in the 10m and 12m size that were built in the early 1980s, and we needed to replace them to ensure our crew safety and operational effectiveness. This new vessel has a well-proven design, with around 160 ORC vessels in operation in SAR [search and rescue] and Pilot duties in Europe, Australia and now South Africa.”

Reverend Cedric Rautenbach blessed the boat, and called up Patria Patterson, who named the vessel in the age old tradition – “I hereby name this vessel ‘Ocean Guardian’. May God bless her and all who serve on her” – to cheers and applause from the crowd.

boat blessing

The blessing was performed the day before the 2023 IVS Annual Gold Day, which has been raising funds for the NSRI since 2006. Held at the Richards Bay Country Club, the day is a joyous celebration that unites the local shipping community in a display of camaraderie and sportsmanship – and 2023 was no exception.

“We are very fortunate to have such a fine purpose-built rescue craft, and thank our donors and all who have made this a reality,” says Station Commander of NSRI Richard Bay, Mike Patterson. “There is no doubt that ‘Ocean Guardian’, which is fully equipped with the latest modern search and rescue equipment, will provide us with many years of saving lives on the KwaZulu-Natal coast.”

The NSRI extends its thanks to IVS for its continuous generous support, and to the larger shipping community in Richards Bay.

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