The IMRF (International Maritime Rescue Federation) has held the very first Mass Rescue Operations workshop in Uruguay, South America.

The two-day event took place earlier in June, in partnership with the National Navy of Uruguay at the Uruguayan Naval Academy in Montevideo.

Tourism is a valuable part of the Uruguayan economy. Approximately 200 passenger cruise ships call at Uruguayan ports over the summer period, and more than 8,000 people use regular passenger ferries from Buenos Aires every weekend. The Uruguayan authorities supported the workshop, as it was an important contribution to the country’s search and rescue (SAR) planning and operational preparedness.

The specialist SAR training was delivered by representatives from the IMRF, the United States Coastguard, the Uruguayan Navy and the National Emergency System (SINAE) in Uruguay.

Theresa Crossley, CEO IMRF said: “This was a very successful course and we thank all of the partners involved for their support and contributions.  The IMRF’s Mass Rescue Operations (MRO) Project shares valuable lessons learnt from the most challenging of SAR events. It really helps those responsible to plan their response to complex incidents, particularly at senior command, control and coordination levels.”

The workshop was welcomed by the attendees, as it offered an opportunity to focus on this specialist aspect of maritime search and rescue, bringing all the relevant stakeholders together and promoting positive collaboration.  It offered an interactive opportunity to study maritime MRO issues, guided by expert in the field.

Initially planned for 30-40 participants, the workshop was significantly over-subscribed.  To enable more people to take part, the workshop structure was adjusted and the capacity of the event was increased, enabling more than 200 participants to attend on the day.

Eduardo Tucci, a Board Member from the Association of Maritime and River Rescue of Uruguay attended the event and said afterwards: “The IMRF Mass Rescue workshop highlighted the need for coordination, not only between the institutions involved in the search and rescue operation, but also between the many other parties assisting.

“Furthermore, the efforts of the IMRF to secure the attendance of such valuable speakers, and their assistance in establishing links between the participating institutions resulted in a first-class event all round.”

He added that: “The specialist speakers shared a range of important lessons learned, while encouraging the official representatives and many SAR volunteers to share their experiences too.”

At the workshop, participants were given guidance on preparing for, and handling, a mass rescue operation, enabling them to further develop their own local response plans.