When I saw the below press item about the 307 lives SARSAT helped save last year, I wondered whether it was an unusually high number. It is, a little. But maybe it’s more important to take a longer view. So I went to http://www.sarsat.noaa.gov/ and found that the system has helped save 2,653 lives over the last decade. That’s a pretty impressive number.
If you are sending satellites into space anyway, it costs very little extra to include this kind of technology. Yet, in my experience, it is always a struggle to justify the relatively small expense.
Are over 2,500 lives every decade worth the effort and expense? I think so.
Let’s hope that the folks who run our government think so too, in spite of the many pressures to worry about only one budget year at a time.
D.A.G. – Chairman
NOAA satellites helped save 307 lives in 2016
Forty-six crew members, with their lives hanging in the balance, were safely pulled from a sinking fishing vessel in the Bering Sea near Alaska last July. It was the largest single rescue in, or around, the United States credited to NOAA satellites and ground systems.
In 2016, a total of 307 people were rescued — the highest number since 2007, when 353 people were saved.
NOAA satellites are part of the international Search and Rescue Satellite Aided Tracking System, known as COSPAS-SARSAT. This system uses a network of spacecraft to detect and locate distress signals quickly from emergency beacons employed on aircraft, boats, and from handheld personal locator beacons, or PLBs.
When a NOAA satellite pinpoints the location of a distress signal, the information is relayed to the SARSAT Mission Control Center at NOAA’s Satellite Operations Facility in Suitland, Maryland. From there, the information is quickly sent to a Rescue Coordination Center, operated by either the U.S. Air Force for land rescues, or the U.S. Coast Guard for water rescues.
Of the 307 rescues in 2016, 205 were waterborne rescues, 23 were from aviation incidents and 79 were land based rescues utilizing PLBs. Other rescue highlights from 2016 include:
“On any given day, at any given time, NOAA satellites can play a direct role in saving lives,” said Chris O’Connors, NOAA SARSAT program manager. “These rescues underscore SARSAT’s true value.”
Since the program’s inception in 1982, COSPAS-SARSAT has been credited with supporting more than 41,000 rescues worldwide, including more than 8,000 in the United States and its surrounding waters.
Owners are required to register their emergency beacons with NOAA online. That registration information often helps provide better and faster assistance to people in distress. It may provide information about the location of the emergency, how many people need assistance, what type of help may be needed and ways to contact the owner. At the end of 2016 NOAA’s registration database contained more than 515,000 entries.
Editor’s note: AFRAS supports volunteer maritime rescue services trying to prevent such tragedies. We raise and donate funds, and help US taxpayers make tax-deductible donations, to support such efforts.
NBCnews.com by >DON MELVIN
February 21, 2017
The sea continued to claim the lives of migrants desperate for better lives, with 74 bodies washing ashore in Libya.
Mohammed al-Misrati, a spokesman for the Libyan Red Crescent, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the human remains would be taken to a cemetery for unidentified people in Tripoli.
International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies posted photographs on its Twitter account of dozens of corpses in body bags, lined up along the shore.
Migrant deaths have risen to record levels on the Libya-to-Italy smuggling route across the Mediterranean Sea. They generally attempt the crossing in flimsy inflatable craft loaded with small amounts of fuel which are intended to get them only as far as European rescue vessels stationed in international waters.
Libyan coast guard spokesman Ayoub Gassim said more than 500 migrants were rescued at sea on Friday and Saturday. The migrants’ boats were 5-7 miles from the coast of Libya.
Gassim said the coast guard is seeing the smugglers use larger rubber boats in order to pile more migrants into the weak vessels — some taking on as many as 180 people.
“This is going to be even more disastrous to the migrants,” Gassim added.
Last year a record 181,000 migrants crossed between Libya and Italy. More than 4,500 are known to have died.
Blog Editor’s Note: Mario Vittone is a widely recognized maritime survival expert, long time AFRAS member and has served on our board.
Staying With The Boat And Other Safety Myths
Written by Mario Vittone
I’m amazed at how long bad advice perpetuates when it’s given in a catchy phrase. An example: Don’t leave the boat until the boat leaves you. This might be the most misguided advice ever to cross the lips of otherwise sensible men and women. Another example: Red sky at night, sailor’s delight.
These stick around not because they are always true, but because they sound good. Don’t be fooled. The ocean is no place for absolutes, even when they rhyme.
When I was a Coast Guard rescue swimmer, I spent most of my time in the back of a helicopter flying out to sea to look for the lost. Far too often we came back empty, having gotten the call too late or with too little information. I wonder how many of those sailors fell victim to trading precaution for poetics, pinning their hopes to some ditty such as, You don’t step off until you have to step up. These sayings may roll off the tongue easily, but staying aboard your vessel until the last possible minute is almost always a bad idea. With your safety on the line — as well as the safety of your rescuers — you must consider the realities of each situation when making decisions at sea.
Myth 1: You Are Safer On The Boat
Staying with the vessel until it sinks is what sailors did when there was no other choice, before we had VHF radios. If you are offshore without propulsion and cannot arrange a tow, you’re going to abandon your vessel, one way or another. Your choices about how and when will determine the shape you’re in when you do.
In all likelihood, your boat is much tougher than you are. I’ve picked up more than one sailor whose decision to stay with the vessel led to serious injury. A broken collarbone offshore will immediately douse the romance of self-reliant sailing. That your vessel is still afloat is not reason enough to stay aboard. A captain with a broken rudder once told my crew that he was going to “wait it out tonight” and make repairs when seas lay down in the morning. Low on fuel, we returned to base. We never heard from him again, and his vessel was never found.
Opportunities to abandon a boat safely come in windows that open based on such factors as weather, drift, sea state and the availability of rescue assets. The best time to abandon your vessel is when it is safest for you and those who come to get you.
Although rescue organizations will come when it’s dark and stormy, they prefer sunny and calm conditions; the chances of success go up, and risk goes down. An orderly daylight climb over the rail to a waiting vessel may make you feel like you gave up too early, but the alternative is often a harrowing fight against waves in a high-risk nighttime helicopter evacuation, with the potential for someone to be seriously injured — perhaps worse.
Getting off the boat is not the same as leaving the boat. If you are going to inflate the raft, get into it as soon as possible, particularly in bad weather. It is always better to climb down into the life raft, dry and well-supplied, than to fight your way through waves, hoping you can make it aboard. You don’t have to cut the painter if your vessel is still floating. Being found is about being seen, and rescuers will have a better chance of spotting you if you’re tethered to the boat.
Blog Editor’s Note: Each year dozens of cruise ships go out of their way to rescue those in distress and perform other humanitarian missions. The rescue described in the article below is just one example of many. They are so frequent that AFRAS, working with the Cruise Line Industry Association, has decided to recognize a particularly noteworthy case each year. The first “Cruise Ship Humanitarian Assistance Award” will be presented at our annual Gold Medal reception and award ceremony in September on Capitol Hill.
The crew of a cruise ship saved six men from a leaky Tongan fishing boat on Saturday. The men had not had water for three days.
The Rescue Coordination Centre of New Zealand organized for the German cruise ship Albatros to change course after the fishing vessel crew set off an emergency rescue beacon 400 kilometers (250 miles) west south west of Tonga. The ship diverted 300 kilometers (186 miles) to help the distressed 11.5-meter (38-foot) fishing vessel.
An Airforce crew dropped emergency equipment and a radio to the boat crew, who were then able to communicate that they could not start their motor due to a flat battery.
When the Albatros rendezvoused with the fishing vessel, the fishermen jumped into the water to swim to the ship. Their fishing boat had been taking on water and was unlikely to remain afloat for more than 24 hours.
The Albatros crew helped transfer the men aboard the larger vessel, which is now bound for Auckland. A day in the Bay of Islands has been lost for the cruise passengers due to diverting to the rescue.
While the fishing boat was not carrying adequate radio equipment, its EPIRB rescue beacon enabled the crew to call for help. The men are reported to be in good health.
Short powerful video regarding the Greek Coast Guard’s effort to save migrants on the Mediterranean.
This is not about politics. It is about safety of life at sea.
AFRAS supports volunteer search and rescue efforts in the Mediterranean through the IMRF and multiple organizations operating in the area. Your support literally saves lives. No one should drown at sea.
Skip Bowen President, Association for Rescue at Sea Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard (ret)
Tanzania Sea Rescue is one of the world’s newest volunteer maritime rescue and safety organizations. Less than a year old, it has already:
- Acquired a rescue boat and recruited over 30 volunteers
- Had its first rescue
- Partnered with the Red Cross on water safety programs
- Had two training team visits, one from the UK’s RNLI and one from France’s SNSM
- Been featured on the TV News Program “Africa Live” See video below
AFRAS is proud to be a financial supporter for Tanzania Sea Rescue.
Information on how you can make a US tax-deductible in-kind or monetary donation to Tanzania Sea Rescue via AFRAS is available here.
Last year was the deadliest ever for the Mediterranean and Aegean. But as bad as it was, without the efforts of volunteer lifesavers, it would have been even worse. The Association for Rescue At Sea (AFRAS) was proud to be able to support volunteers who saved over 5,000 lives.
Attached is a briefing sheet from the International Maritime Rescue Federation about the efforts we supported to establish and improve sustainable volunteer maritime rescue capabilities in the region.
Well done to all.
Let’s all resolve to do even better this year.
—- Donations to AFRAS to help save lives in the Mediterranean and Aegean received before the 30th of June 2017 will be matched by the Tatman Foundation. We want to thank the Tatman Foundation for their generosity. —-
On Friday, a seafarer was evacuated from his ship off Sunderland in a coordinated operation between a volunteer lifeboat crew and a UK Coastguard rescue helicopter.
At 1300 hours on Friday, the UK Coastguard Operations Centre at Humber received a call from the captain of the geared bulker HC Jette-Marit, who reported that his chief engineer may have suffered a heart attack. The vessel was about four miles east of Sunderland, where it was due to anchor.
However, the situation was somewhat complicated: the chief, a Ukrainian national, refused to be evacuated from the ship by helicopter. He signed a disclaimer confirming his intentions, meaning that the Coastguard was unable to offer further assistance beyond urging him to change his mind.
Shortly thereafter, the captain radioed UK Coastguard to tell them that the engineer had been persuaded to evacuate by sea instead. The authorities asked the Tynemouth RNLI all-weather lifeboat to rendezvous with the bulker, and the lifeboat and its six volunteer crew members launched just six minutes after being paged.
The Association for Rescue at Sea’s original logo was based on the mission statement of AFRAS when it was formed in 1976 – to assist the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) with raising funds here in the U.S. The logo was designed in 1977.
The mission of AFRAS has changed over time. While we still help the RNLI, we now do so much more. We honor heroism in our maritime community with awards such as our Gold and Silver medals, the AMVER award and our newest – the Cruise Ship Humanitarian Assistance Award, to be presented by AFRAS and the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA).
Our new logo represents that mission, as well as our other major mission – assisting not only voluntary Coast Guards in raising money, providing expert advice and training, but assisting in supporting missions such as search and rescue for the mass migration crisis in the Mediterranean and Aegean seas.
The logo represents a person requesting assistance, who is in distress in the water, and someone providing that assistance.
This is the Association for Rescue at Sea.