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The IMRF’s Chair of Trustees, Captain Udo Helge Fox, writes:

First, let me – on behalf of the whole of the IMRF Board, our Chief Executive, Bruce Reid, and the Secretariat – wish you a safe and successful 2017.

For many people around the world, of course, life is uncertain, and neither safe nor successful. Perhaps the unexpected political events of 2016 have made it more uncertain for more of us. But hope for the world lies in mankind’s humanitarian instincts – including the work you do , if you are in SAR or support our work.

So: thank you for what you have done, and keep up the good work!

As Bruce wrote in the December issue of LIFE LINE (which you can find in the newsletter archive 2016 was another very busy year for the IMRF, and there is no sign that 2017 will be different.

Africa regional Meeting & Training in Nigeria, April 2016

Far too many lives are still lost at sea, often unreported and most in circumstances when they could have been saved by better safety gear (or any safety gear), better training, better communications or better SAR capability.

IMRF members save lives all over the world, and those who have been doing it for a long time try to assist colleagues who are new to it, or who need training and equipment to help them do it better. The ‘Global SAR Plan’ – the International Maritime Organization’s aspirational worldwide system for saving lives at sea – has many gaps in it. IMRF members try to help fill those gaps.

Bruce wrote about our ongoing projects, especially in the Asia-Pacific and African regions where so many preventable deaths occur in the water. The IMRF can look at the big picture and develop long-term solutions, locally and regionally, supported by our worldwide family of members. Our neutral role, and our consultative status at the IMO, enable us to encourage and facilitate collaboration between the government and nongovernment organisations with an interest in SAR, so that real improvements can be made.

We have worked hard on other SAR challenges too. Our mass rescue operations project is one example – join us at our conference in Sweden in June: you can find details elsewhere in this issue. And our European members’ Crew Exchange programme is another success story. Take part if you can, or see if you can organise something similar in your own region. The fundamental purpose of the IMRF is to help us learn from, and support, each other. 

Photo Credit: Kenny Karpov/ 2016

But let us not underestimate the scale of the problems we face, or the advocacy we must engage in. The crisis in the Mediterranean brought new focus to the problems of migration last year. These are problems that SAR crews cannot solve. Governments and international agencies must do more to reduce the need for people to move so dangerously and in such large numbers. The IMRF is the international voice of maritime SAR, representing SAR people the world over at the IMO and in other forums. We will continue to speak out about the needs for action.

And these are not all to be found in the Mediterranean.

Drowning is a global crisis, of pandemic proportions. Most drownings around the world are not covered by the news media. They are mostly ‘silent deaths’: we don’t hear about them, and action to address their causes falters as a result. The IMRF coordinated a high-profile effort in the Aegean last year – but we have never lost sight of the needs elsewhere, including the need to support small, poorly-resourced SAR organisations trying to save lives away from the world’s attention.

One more thing before I close. Elsewhere in this newsletter we report on the importance of managing traumatic stress.

This is a highly important matter in SAR, far too often disregarded. I know from personal experience and from colleagues’ reports that significant numbers of rescuers suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. We want to save lives – but we must look after the rescuers too. We should be careful not to encourage over-motivated and mostly young people to do jobs which harm their own health and which really require specialists. Once again the role of the IMRF is to be the advocate for those in distress – including people engaged in SAR who can be overwhelmed by what they see.

What did Martin Luther King say? “I have a dream...” It is a humanit arian dream, and it has not yet come true. But we are working on it!

If you are a supporter of our work – as an individual, as part of a member organisation, as an Associate or a sponsor – thank you. You are helping to save lives.

And if you are not yet a supporter, let me urge you to consider becoming one.

Visit "Become a Member", email, or telephone +44 (0)1569 767405. You can help too!

And again: my best wishes for 2017

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