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Clifden RNLI Crewman Shares Lifesaving Skills On Danish Lifeboat

4th November 2013
Clifden RNLI Crewman Shares Lifesaving Skills On Danish Lifeboat

#RNLI - Clifden RNLI volunteer crewmember James 'Digger' Mullen was selected from thousands of RNLI volunteers to represent the charity last month on a European Lifeboat Crew Exchange in Denmark.

Lifeboat crew from seven European countries were invited on a week-long programme designed to improve maritime search and rescue (SAR) responses and help to prevent loss of life in Europe’s waters.

The initiative is run by the International Maritime Rescue Federation (IMRF) and comprises simulated search and rescue exercises as well as training modules, which were organised by the Danish Rescue Coast Service.

During an exhaustive week, Mullen had an opportunity to work with Danish lifeboat crew from three lifeboat stations and took part in various challenging scenarios with the Danish navy and the rescue helicopter crews.

Mullen, from the Clifden lifeboat in Co Galway, worked alongside lifeboat crew from Holland, Norway, Finland, Sweden, Iceland and Germany from a base in Hirtshals, a town on the north coast of Denmark. The area the local lifeboat crew operated in was completely different to Clifden with no breakers or islands off the coastline.

The group went to sea on Hirtshals lifeboat station’s two rescue boats: a 23m all-weather boat and a 9m fast response boat (FRB) that reaches speeds of up to 30 knots. The group travelled down the coast 40 miles to meet up with Thorup Strand lifeboat station and their 9m jet rescue boat Hurricane, which reaches speeds of 40 knots.

The team carried out a medical evacuation with a navy patrol boat and refueled the lifeboat at sea from the navy ship, while both vessels were travelling at 8 knots. The crew also took part in a joint lifeboat helicopter exercise; a common occurrence for lifeboat crew on Irish waters.

The week was full of simulated rescues and boat handling, with all the lifeboat crewmembers swapping their knowledge and feedback on what they found worked in different types of emergency scenarios in their own areas.

The final two days of the exercise were spent with the Danish navy and the team attended naval training school. They were taught how to board a life raft in big seas, how to abandon ship from a six metre bridge, and how to recover unconscious casualties into a liferaft.

At the end of the training there was a mass exercise. The pool was darkened, filled with smoke, wind, rain, lighting and thunder, and they evacuated their ship to find an unconscious casualty and recover them on to a nearby liferaft.

The final exercise was held in the navy fire fighting/damage control training centre. The group were taken onto a simulated navy ship and had to stem a growing ingress of water which was flowing in through numerous breeches and ultimately save the ship from sinking. This was to be done with timber, rubber mats, wedges, buckets, ropes, hand saws and hammers. In the freezing water which was pouring into the ship, the team all worked together to try and stem the flow and save the ship.

Commenting on the week, Mullen said: “I am extremely grateful that this exchange programme has been made possible through EU funding on the Lifelong Learning Programme. Our group of lifeboat crew from across Europe shared experiences with each other and listened to everyone’s feedback.

"Though we all spoke difference languages, we generally all do what we do the very same way, just using different boats with different equipment. Saving lives at sea is the same in every language."

RNLI divisional operations manager Owen Medland added: “We were delighted to have an RNLI volunteer crewmember on this exchange. The experience James has had in his role operating lifeboats off the west coast of Ireland is invaluable and we were keen to share this knowledge with a wider search and rescue community.

"There are always things we can learn from each other and it promotes a wider understanding of how saving lives at sea has evolved and continues to evolve due to improved equipment and continuing training.”

Published in RNLI Lifeboats
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Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLI) in Ireland Information

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) is a charity to save lives at sea in the waters of UK and Ireland. Funded principally by legacies and donations, the RNLI operates a fleet of lifeboats, crewed by volunteers, based at a range of coastal and inland waters stations. Working closely with UK and Ireland Coastguards, RNLI crews are available to launch at short notice to assist people and vessels in difficulties.

RNLI was founded in 1824 and is based in Poole, Dorset. The organisation raised €210m in funds in 2019, spending €200m on lifesaving activities and water safety education. RNLI also provides a beach lifeguard service in the UK and has recently developed an International drowning prevention strategy, partnering with other organisations and governments to make drowning prevention a global priority.

Irish Lifeboat Stations

There are 46 lifeboat stations on the island of Ireland, with an operational base in Swords, Co Dublin. Irish RNLI crews are tasked through a paging system instigated by the Irish Coast Guard which can task a range of rescue resources depending on the nature of the emergency.

Famous Irish Lifeboat Rescues

Irish Lifeboats have participated in many rescues, perhaps the most famous of which was the rescue of the crew of the Daunt Rock lightship off Cork Harbour by the Ballycotton lifeboat in 1936. Spending almost 50 hours at sea, the lifeboat stood by the drifting lightship until the proximity to the Daunt Rock forced the coxswain to get alongside and successfully rescue the lightship's crew.

32 Irish lifeboat crew have been lost in rescue missions, including the 15 crew of the Kingstown (now Dun Laoghaire) lifeboat which capsized while attempting to rescue the crew of the SS Palme on Christmas Eve 1895.

FAQs

While the number of callouts to lifeboat stations varies from year to year, Howth Lifeboat station has aggregated more 'shouts' in recent years than other stations, averaging just over 60 a year.

Stations with an offshore lifeboat have a full-time mechanic, while some have a full-time coxswain. However, most lifeboat crews are volunteers.

There are 46 lifeboat stations on the island of Ireland

32 Irish lifeboat crew have been lost in rescue missions, including the 15 crew of the Kingstown (now Dun Laoghaire) lifeboat which capsized while attempting to rescue the crew of the SS Palme on Christmas Eve 1895

In 2019, 8,941 lifeboat launches saved 342 lives across the RNLI fleet.

The Irish fleet is a mixture of inshore and all-weather (offshore) craft. The offshore lifeboats, which range from 17m to 12m in length are either moored afloat, launched down a slipway or are towed into the sea on a trailer and launched. The inshore boats are either rigid or non-rigid inflatables.

The Irish Coast Guard in the Republic of Ireland or the UK Coastguard in Northern Ireland task lifeboats when an emergency call is received, through any of the recognised systems. These include 999/112 phone calls, Mayday/PanPan calls on VHF, a signal from an emergency position indicating radio beacon (EPIRB) or distress signals.

The Irish Coast Guard is the government agency responsible for the response to, and co-ordination of, maritime accidents which require search and rescue operations. To carry out their task the Coast Guard calls on their own resources – Coast Guard units manned by volunteers and contracted helicopters, as well as "declared resources" - RNLI lifeboats and crews. While lifeboats conduct the operation, the coordination is provided by the Coast Guard.

A lifeboat coxswain (pronounced cox'n) is the skipper or master of the lifeboat.

RNLI Lifeboat crews are required to follow a particular development plan that covers a pre-agreed range of skills necessary to complete particular tasks. These skills and tasks form part of the competence-based training that is delivered both locally and at the RNLI's Lifeboat College in Poole, Dorset

 

While the RNLI is dependent on donations and legacies for funding, they also need volunteer crew and fund-raisers.

© Afloat 2020

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