On May 1, 2021

Marine search specialists assemble for major capability exercise

Marine Rescue specialists from the NSW Far South Coast have assembled at Bermagui for the weekend for a major search and rescue exercise to test their response to a simulated plane crash offshore with multiple victims and casualties.

The search, starting at 8am today, is the focus of a two-day regional Search and Rescue Exercise (SAREX) designed to test agencies’ marine search and rescue practices and coordination.

MRNSW Deputy Commissioner Alex Barrell said more than 80 volunteers from seven MRNSW units were among more than 100 specialists taking part in the first of the 2021 SAREX series.

Members of the Bermagui, Batemans Bay, Tuross, Narooma, Merimbula, Eden and Alpine Lakes units are taking part, along with personnel from the NSW Police Force Marine Area Command, Australia Maritime Safety Authority, Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter and Surf Life Saving NSW.

“These exercises are staged along the coastline each year to hone marine rescue search and rescue skills and cooperation between agencies to ensure we can all operate seamlessly in an emergency,” Deputy Commissioner Barrell said.

“This weekend’s event is a major component of our ongoing professional training program for our volunteers in this busy boating region.

“Our volunteers are trained to the highest standards for their roles and the on-water experience they gain from a SAREX helps keep them rescue-ready around the clock.”

The search exercise is based on a scenario in which a plane crashes offshore from Bermagui, with the rescue crews challenged to locate the wreckage and search for survivors and victims.

The search starts about 8.30am on Saturday, with rescue vessels from the Marine Rescue Bermagui, Narooma, Merimbula and Batemans Bay units and a NSW Police vessel heading offshore from the harbour.

Rescue Water Craft from Marine Rescue Tuross and Surf Life Saving will search close to the shoreline. The Westpac helicopter will drop search mannequins as targets.

While our rescue crews are out on the water honing their search skills, just as many volunteers from all seven units will be hard at work on a range of incident management drills today. Navigation, logistics, incident control and operational and public communications will be on the agenda for our team on shore.

Deputy Commissioner Barrell said the SAREX series helped strengthen joint agency capability.

“This is essential to ensure that we have the best possible chance of finding and rescuing someone in the water as soon as possible in an emergency, when time is always of the essence,” he said.

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