Walmer RNLI volunteer takes part in international crew exchange programme

Lifeboats News Release

A volunteer from Walmer RNLI recently took part in a week-long lifeboat crew exchange organised by the International Maritime Rescue Federation (IMRF), joining colleagues from across Europe.

Walmer volunteer Helsman Lee Waddon in Estonia.

RNLI/Christopher Winslade

Walmer Helmsman Lee Waddon in Estonia.
Helmsman Lee Waddon, a volunteer at Walmer recently travelled to Estonia to join with other search and rescue (SAR) volunteers from France, Estonia, Germany, Sweden and Croatia working with the Estonian Maritime Rescue Organisation.

The programme, funded by the IMRF, has been running since 2012 and invites volunteers from 14 lifeboat services to send crew members to different European locations to work and train with that country's SAR team. Each participating organisation devises its own week-long programme of training, demonstrating the specialist activities they carry out and the best practice training methods appropriate to their climate and circumstances. The exchange offers a platform for crews to experience simulated SAR exercises, learn new operational techniques and skills and exchange knowledge, all with the common aim of preventing loss of life in the world's waters.

Speaking on his return, Lee said, 'I was really happy and excited when I discovered my application had been accepted. It was an honour to be representing the RNLI on the Exchange which provided a wonderful opportunity for me. I was able to learn from other crews as well as pass on search and rescue techniques from my RNLI training and from experiences on station here at Walmer. It was a truly unforgettable experience.'

'It was interesting to begin to understand the differing operating procedures of these nations. SAR work in Estonia is shared between the Voluntary Maritime Rescue Organisation and the Estonian Police Border Guard. I spent a lot of time with them at several locations, including the Russian border. They are young in terms of experience and there is no standardisation of kit or search and rescue craft, most of which is bought by the volunteers themselves. The RNLI is certainly better equipped but the Estonians should be commended for their resourcefulness, ambition and commitment.'

During the trip Lee was able to experience a night exercise which involved rescuing casualties from a life raft, navigation at sea and a helicopter winching exercise. The week culminated with a simulated mass major incident involving a collision between two vessels with over twenty casualties onboard. This gave the participants a chance to use their casualty care skills, including triage, and commanding multiple assets and vessels.

The ultimate goal of the exchange is to provide volunteer crews with experiences and knowledge which they can share with others on the programme and with their own crews when they return home with the aim of improving Maritime SAR responses and prevent loss of life in Europe's waters.
Walmer's Lee Waddon with other European SAR volunteers.

RNLI/Christopher Winslade

Walmer's Lee Waddon with other European SAR volunteers.

Key facts about the RNLI

The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.

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