NSRI’s new search and rescue (SAR) vessel, The Donna Nicholas, joins Station 10 in Simon’s Town, Cape Town
The National Sea Rescue Institute’s (NSRI) second Offshore Rescue Craft began its maiden voyage to its home station in Simon’s Town on Saturday, 17th April 2021. The second vessel, which was imported as “hull, deck and bulkheads”, was completed by Two Oceans Marine in Cape Town. The innovative French-designed offshore rescue craft (ORC) will take the NSRI’s crew safety and marine rescue capability to a new level. Named the Donna Nicholas, the R20 million vessel was destined for service at Station 10 in Simon’s Town.
“The station is very proud to be receiving this high-tech search and rescue (SAR) vessel and we look forward to being able to reach those in peril speedily and in all weather conditions. The vessel has been purposely designed in France by Pantocarene Naval Architects and built for the worst of the conditions the Cape has to offer”, said Station 10, station commander, Darren Zimmerman.
The new self-righting and purpose-built rescue vessel is designed for rescue operations in extreme conditions. At 14,8m long and 4,8m wide, it can be deployed on rescue missions as far as 50 nautical miles (over 92km) from land and has an expected lifespan of at least 40 years.
An excited Simons Town rescue crew will begin training and testing the new vessel before it is officially welcomed to the NSRI’s growing fleet later this year.
“Station 10 Simons Town is buzzing with activity as we make the final preparations for the arrival of our new search and rescue (SAR) vessel Donna Nicholas. With any new vessel comes planning and facility alteration in order to accommodate her. The rescue base has been rebuilt and the slipway and winch gear upgraded in order to house this magnificent vessel. The upgrades are now complete and the crew is busy adding the final touches to make it home for Donna Nicholas and crew”, added Zimmerman.
“Our fleet replacement programmeme will see the entire NSRI all-weather search and rescue fleet replaced with the new vessels over about 10 years, allowing for increased operational capability,” said NSRI CEO, Dr Cleeve Robertson.
The new world class search and rescue vessels will accommodate six volunteer rescuers on board, in shock mitigating seats to allow for high-speed operation in difficult sea conditions and has the ability to carry up to 23 survivors.
“Although most rescues are coastal and inshore, an increasing number of our operations require search and rescue vessels with extended range and advanced capability in safety and technology,” said Dr Robertson. “As the only maritime rescue service operating in Southern African waters, we needed to make this investment to ensure all round safety for crew and those being rescued.”
“In addition to the building works is the need for crew training and upgrading of the coxswains and crew skills in order to man the new vessel. She is a huge step from what we are used to and we have really had to adjust our culture in order to safely and effectively crew Donna Nicholas. Once she is on station, we will continue with the training programme to ensure we are fully operational in as short time as possible to be ready to put to sea for any rescue operations. Station 10 is very appreciative of all the efforts that have gone into making the arrival of Donna Nicholas possible and we wish to thank everyone involved. We would like to especially thank Mark Hughes, NSRI executive director of Capital Projects, who has driven the project for the past five years” added Zimmerman.
With crew and casualty safety a top priority, the new rescue boats will have the latest electronic navigation and communication equipment. They are also self-righting, which provides increased safety for those on board.
“We see this investment in the new rescue craft as a concrete response to the need to modernise our fleet to execute search and rescue missions including deep sea operations, medical evacuations and mass rescue incidents along South Africa’s coastline.”
Dr Robertson also cited the additional impact on South Africa’s maritime economy. “Our new vessels will be a safety net for a range of industries such as tourism, fishing and water-based recreational industries. Not only will they improve safety but the fact that we are investing and assembling locally also presents an opportunity for the maritime boatbuilding industry.”
The NSRI is entirely funded by donations, receives limited government support and is the only national organisation delivering coastal rescue services. “This is a huge investment for a non-profit organisation but it had to be done. The investment into lessening the risk of lost lives, of our crews and those stranded at sea, is more than worth it. Our coastline is busy and the people who make our blue economy thrive deserve to be protected.”
The NSRI is inviting all South Africans to assist in funding the new offshore rescue crafts.
Through the NSRI’s “Launch a Legacy” campaign, donors and supporters can celebrate or commemorate a loved one by making a donation of R2 000 and submitting a loved one’s name that will then appear in the lettering of the third offshore rescue boat in the fleet. “We are appealing for donations from as many people as possible – that way we will ensure that our rescue craft and services touch the lives of all South Africans” added Dr Robertson. To donate to the ORC project, go to www.nsri.co.za.
Source: The National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI)