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Shoalhaven Marine Rescue SAREX success

May 27, 2024 1:59 pm in by

10 Marine Rescue NSW vessels crewed by dozens of volunteers took part in a successful simulated multi-agency search and rescue exercise (SAREX) off Shellharbour today.

More than 40 Marine Rescue NSW volunteers from the Shellharbour, Port Kembla, Shoalhaven, Jervis Bay, Sussex Inlet, Ulladulla and Kioloa units along with Water Police, PolAir, members from Surf Life Saving NSW and the Westpac Rescue Helicopter were tasked for a simulated on-water search under the direction of NSW Police Marine Area Command at the 2024 Marine Rescue NSW Illawarra SAREX at Shellharbour Marina.

Marine Rescue NSW Illawarra Inspector Stuart Massey said search and rescue exercises are a vital part of the training undertaken by Marine Rescue NSW volunteers.

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“The reason that we’re training constantly is to hone our skills in the event that somebody does need help out in the ocean, it’s important for our volunteers to be highly trained so they can do a professional job.

“These exercises are invaluable to our volunteers to create that muscle memory for major search and rescue exercises. They get the experience out there in a simulated and controlled environment and when the real thing happens, they are ready to go.

“We thank all our partner agencies for taking part in today’s exercise, we know the learnings will strengthen the operational response when we are tasked to an emergency,” he said.

NSW Police Marine Area Command Search and Rescue Coordinator Sergeant Ryan Spong said today’s exercise involved a capsized yacht east of Shellharbour.

“The scenario was that a person on board the yacht made a Triple Zero call stating that the vessel had overturned in heavy seas with all four persons on board wearing lifejackets and clinging to the hull before the call cut out.

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“Triangulation of the Triple Zero call showed that the vessel was approximately 10 nautical miles east of Shellharbour.

“The mission issued to participants today was to plan and execute an immediate search of the highest area of probability to locate and rescue survivors and recover all outstanding persons,” Sergeant Spong said.

Marine Rescue NSW Illawarra Inspector Massey said crews from all agencies involved performed exceptionally on the water.

“The outcome today was tremendous. We recovered all of the targets as per the request that we gave to our volunteers. They executed the tasks very well today and everything was recovered. The crews did a wonderful job,” he said.

Sergeant Spong said the search area spanned from Port Kembla to Minnamurra Head.

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“When we get one of these incidents we use a variety of drift calculations that are developed to a standard practice and we come up with a search area. In this instance, the search area was about 110 square nautical miles.

“These exercises are a really good chance for all the agencies to come together and practice these incidents without the real time consequences that may occur in a live search and rescue situation.

“We can iron out any deficiencies we may have, we can work on our communication with each other and it’s a really good chance to get together and develop close networks with our partner agencies,” he said.

Marine Rescue NSW also held a desktop search and rescue training scenario to hone the skills of volunteer radio operators while the on-water exercise was taking place.

Inspector Massey highlighted the crucial role of Marine Rescue NSW’s radio operators in the success of search and rescue missions and said today’s desktop exercise provided an excellent opportunity for volunteers to practice their skills.

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“Radio is where the ocean meets the land and it really does become vital for us to have good communications with our vessels and the general public on the water,” he said.

The NSW Government provided financial assistance for the Illawarra SAREX as part of its commitment to support the vital work of Marine Rescue NSW and its 3,400 volunteers.

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