by Ken McManus
Sailors along the east coast of Australia, if you see a lot of frantic activity among rescue boats in the ocean off Greenwell Point south of Sydney this Sunday, don't be alarmed. The six victims they are looking for are volunteers, probably not of the human kind.
Rescue exercises off Greenwell Point this weekend
Rescue specialists from the Illawarra region will take to the water off Greenwell Point this Sunday, February 16, to search for six 'victims' missing at sea as part of a major capability exercise.
The search will be the culmination of a two-day regional Search and Rescue Exercise (SAREX) designed to test agencies’ marine search and rescue coordination and practices.
Marine Rescue NSW Deputy Commissioner Dean Storey said up to 90 volunteers and seven rescue vessels from six MRNSW units would take part in the two days of theoretical and practical training sessions.
'This SAREX is the first in our 2014 series of exercises to be held along the coastline to hone marine rescue search and rescue skills and cooperation between agencies,' Deputy Commissioner Storey said.
'It’s a major component of our ongoing annual training program for our Illawarra volunteers.
'Members of our Marine Rescue Kioloa, Ulladulla, Jervis Bay, Shoalhaven, Shellharbour and Port Kembla units will assemble for the weekend.'
The event will also involve personnel from the NSW Police Force Marine Area Command, NSW Roads and Maritime Services (RMS), the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA), Surf Life Saving Illawarra (SLS) and the Lifesaver Helicopter.
The weekend will start with a day of table-top exercises and lectures at the Greenwell Point Bowling Club on Saturday.
On Sunday morning, the fleet of MRNSW, RMS, Police and SLS vessels and Lifesaver chopper will work together in a practical exercise aimed at locating and retrieving the six dummies dropped into the ocean off Greenwell Point to simulate people missing at sea in a major emergency.
The public will be able to watch the exercise unfold from about 9am, with Crookhaven Heads the best vantage point to take in the action.
Deputy Commissioner Storey said the SAREX series helped strengthen joint agency capability.
'This is essential to ensure that we have the best possible chance of finding and rescuing someone in the water as soon as possible in an emergency, when time is always of the essence,' he said.
Photo: Shoalhaven 30, one of seven rescue vessels in the Illawarra SAREX