RNLI innovation saves first lives

by RNLI 
Torbay Severn class lifeboat Alec and Christina Dykes
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The lives of three fishermen have been saved thanks to the RNLI’s new and unique MOB Guardian man overboard and vessel locater alert system. This is the first time that the system has demonstrated its full effectiveness in helping to save lives in a real emergency situation.

The RNLI Operations Room in Poole, Dorset received a vessel overdue alert off Sark at 6pm, Tuesday 24 June. After verification the alert was transferred to the agencies responsible for coordinating maritime search and rescue – first to Falmouth Coastguard, who then passed it to the Channel Islands Search and Rescue authority. The RNLI St Peter Port lifeboat from Guernsey was then tasked to search for the missing fishing vessel, Guyona.

Using the last MOB Guardian verified position and taking into account weather and tides, the RNLI lifeboat worked out the likely position of the fishing vessel. At the time the lifeboat was on exercise only 12 miles away from the predicted position and the fishermen were located in a liferaft at 6.50pm, five miles south southwest of Sark 25 minutes, after the lifeboat was alerted.

Peter Bradley, RNLI MOB Guardian and Operations Manager explains:

‘This incident clearly demonstrates the effectiveness of the RNLI MOB Guardian safety system which we have purpose-designed and developed to save fishermen’s lives. The crew of the Guyona were found safe in a liferaft that had deployed as their vessel sank. However they had also been in the water for 20 minutes and were battered and bruised by their ordeal.’

Andrew Freemantle, RNLI Chief Executive adds:

‘Our charity’s trustees decided to invest a significant amount in developing MOB Guardian to try and take the search out of search and rescue. Yesterday, without the MOB Guardian alert the three fishermen would have been in the water for several hours at the mercy of the elements. There would inevitably have been a lengthy and costly rescue operation involving many search and rescue agencies – with the strong possibility of a tragic outcome.

‘On average 20 fishermen lose their lives every years in our waters. I sincerely hope that more UK fishermen will now decide to take advantage of the heavily subsidised MOB Guardian offer and that we will be able to save more fishermen’s lives in the future.’

The fishermen, two from the South West and one from Scotland, were safely brought ashore where they received medical attention and were cared for by the Mission to Seafarers and members of the lifeboat station. Still feeling the effects of their ordeal, they will return to the mainland later today.

The MOB Guardian system

The MOB Guardian system, which has been developed by the RNLI to save fishermen’s lives, gives an early alert to an emergency, helps reduce search time and provides the rescuers with an up to date position for the vessel or man overboard by satellite.

It means search and rescue agencies including RNLI volunteer crews on lifeboats don’t have to start a search with little or no information about the location of the casualty. If a single-handed fisherman falls over the side of their vessel the system will automatically alert search and rescue agencies and can also shut down the boats engine remotely.

Also fishermen can wear a fob incorporating a panic button, so should a crew member become ill or caught in machinery, they can easily request help. The system is confidential so location information about a particular vessel is not available publicly.