New SA rescue craft and NSRI veteran scoop top international awards

15 September 2021 - 11:09
The new South African-designed JetRIB Sea Ranger allows rescuers to operate more safely in the water.
The new South African-designed JetRIB Sea Ranger allows rescuers to operate more safely in the water.
Image: Supplied

A new kind of South African-made surf rescue boat has won international recognition as a potential game-changer to save lives at sea.

The JetRIB Sea Ranger on Tuesday won the International Maritime Rescue Federation Innovation Award. It is a wholly South African-made and manufactured hybrid vessel that is already in use by the National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI).

What makes it different is its lack of propellers. It moves like a jet ski but has a stabilising extension hull like a rigid inflatable. This makes it safer to operate in surf conditions when a propeller can be dangerous to those in the water.

The design was born out of SA’s extensive experience in surf rescue along a notoriously dangerous 3,000km coastline, where hazardous conditions have spawned a boatbuilding industry renowned for robust designs.

NSRI veteran Pat van Eyssen
NSRI veteran Pat van Eyssen
Image: Facebook/NSRI

SA’s reputation as a surf rescue centre of excellence was also recognised with a second IMRF award on Tuesday. A lifetime achievement award went to 69-year-old NSRI volunteer Pat van Eyssen, who has been a member of NSRI’s Table Bay rescue station for 50 years.    

NSRI CEO Dr Cleeve Robertson welcomed the international recognition for the JetRIB innovation and Van Eyssen’s lifetime contribution.

“The NSRI operates in an austere and resource-constrained environment so innovation is a continuous process to ensure we adapt and flex to the demands for our rescue services in SA,” Robertson said.

“We are overjoyed about being recognised by the international search and rescue community, and with our partners to be able to make a contribution. The JetRIB is an amazing tool for surf rescue.”

He said Van Eyssen continued to serve as a mentor to future crews.

“There must be very few search and rescue coxswains in the world who can boast 50 years of operational service without a break,” Robertson said.

“My hearty congratulations to Patrick and the JetRIB team. I couldn’t ask for a better team, whether it is our volunteers or professional staff.

“Their exemplary dedication, commitment and passion for everything we do is the reason we are able to continue to operate as the only maritime search and rescue organisation in SA, funded entirely by donors and sponsorships.” 

The IMRF Awards were established to recognise search and rescue professionals around the world for their outstanding actions, skills, expertise and commitment or an innovation/technology that transforms rescue activities.

Alan Geeling, MD of Cape Town boatbuilder Admiral Powercats, which manufactures the JetRib Sea Ranger, said: “Receiving this level of recognition from the IMRF is indeed an honour for the team and our maritime community. All credit to the NSRI for believing in us and committing to the development and ongoing rollout to their fleet around the country.”