“Not only does this support an organisation which provides an invaluable service to all South Africans who use the sea and inland waters, but by building these vessels in South Africa, this project supports local industry and job creation.
“What’s more, the project will develop skills in the boat-building industry, most notably the specialisation of composite offshore search and rescue craft building,” he said.
Investing in safety and longevity
Construction on the first fully local vessel began a few months ago. It is expected to be delivered in early 2021 and will be able to accommodate six volunteer rescuers on board, in shock mitigating seats to allow for high-speed operation in difficult sea conditions, and has the ability to carry up to 23 survivors.
“Although most rescues are coastal and inshore, an increasing number of our operations require search and rescue vessels with extended range and advanced capability in safety and technology,” said Dr. Robertson.
“As the only maritime rescue service operating in Southern African waters, we needed to make this investment to ensure all-round safety for the crew and those being rescued.”
With crew and casualty safety a top priority, the new rescue boats will have the latest electronic navigation and communication equipment. They are also self-righting, which provides increased safety for those on board.
“We see this investment in the new rescue craft as a concrete response to the need to modernise our fleet to execute search and rescue missions including deep-sea operations, medical evacuations and mass rescue incidents along South Africa’s coastline.”
Robertson also cited the additional impact on South Africa’s maritime economy.
“Our new vessels will be a safety net for a range of industries such as tourism, fishing and water-based recreational industries. Not only will they improve safety, but the fact that we are investing and assembling locally also presents an opportunity for the maritime boat-building industry.”
Whilst it provides a critical service to the general public, the NSRI also supports South Africa’s national institutions to fulfil their mandates in maritime rescue. For example, all coastal airports must be supported by a maritime rescue service to comply with international aviation law. The NSRI is that partner in SA.
The NSRI is entirely funded by donations, receives limited government support and is the only national organization delivering coastal rescue services.
“This is a huge investment for a non-profit organisation, but it had to be done. The risk of lost lives, of our crews and those stranded at sea, is more than worth it. Our coastline is busy, and the people who make our blue economy thrive deserve to be protected.
“From a people’s point of view, this is also a vessel that will provide the best level of safety to our crews and enable us to deliver services in a really safe environment. Our commitment to our volunteer crew is to provide top class rescue boats that are suited to the severe conditions in which we operate.” said Dr. Robertson.
The NSRI’s 1 500 strong rescue crew are all unpaid volunteers, who are on call day and night throughout the year.
The NSRI is inviting all South Africans to assist in funding the new ORCs.
“We are appealing for donations from as many people as possible – that way we will ensure that our rescue craft and services touch the lives of all South Africans. To donate to the ORC project, go to www.nsri.org.za.
“We also invite South Africans to follow the fascinating story of our journey as the new vessels come out of the mould and make their appearance at bases along the country’s coastline,” he concluded.