15 September 2023

Be prepared: Major search and rescue exercise takes to the water at Batemans Bay

| Katrina Condie
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Rescue boats

Nine rescue vessels from across the region will take part in the exercise. Photo: MRNSW.

Eurobodalla residents shouldn’t be alarmed if they see rescue vessels zooming around their waterways over the weekend.

More than 100 Marine Rescue NSW volunteers and staff from units across the Monaro and Illawarra regions are gearing up to take part in two days of complex training exercises at Batemans Bay.

Marine Rescue NSW Southern Zone Commander Mike Hammond said the annual Search and Rescue Exercise (SAREX) on 16 and 17 September would be coordinated by Marine Area Command and involve other agencies including Surf Life Saving NSW and NSW Water Police.

“We do this to practice our search and rescue skills and to make sure that we’re using the best possible techniques and learning from real incidents we’ve experienced over the course of the year,” he said.

The Batemans Bay SAREX is a crucial training exercise to ensure volunteers are rescue-ready ahead of the busy summer boating period.

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An on-water component will be held on Saturday morning when a search and rescue scenario is presented by Marine Area Command.

“The scenarios are realistic partly because they are based on real events and rescues that we have performed,” Zone Commander Hammond said.

“Sometimes they are modified with different lessons from different incidents combined.

“A lot of time is taken to make sure that they are as realistic as possible so that we really test our capability and provide the opportunity for learning and growth.”

people in boat

Marine Rescue volunteers will converge on Batemans Bay for the training exercise. Photo: MRNSW.

The intention at Batemans Bay this weekend is to hold the realistic on-water component offshore.

“It’s important that we exercise in the types of conditions we’re likely to experience in a real search, so unless it’s really, really bad weather, we’d be out offshore,” Zone Commander Hammond said.

Saturday’s Search and Rescue exercise will involve almost 70 MRNSW volunteers, nine vessels and two rescue water craft.

The Batemans Bay, Narooma, Bermagui, Merimbula and Tuross Moruya units will all contribute vessels, with two rescue water craft from Tuross and Moruya involved.

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MRNSW volunteers from the Illawarra region’s Ulladulla and Kioloa units will also take part in the SAREX with Ulladulla 30 and Kioloa 20 joining the fleet along with a Water Police vessel and Surf Life Saving IRBs and jet skis.

A desktop search and rescue exercise will also be held involving 26 volunteers.

Zone Commander Hammond said thorough planning had been carried out to make this weekend’s exercises a reality.

“They’re really worthwhile in testing our ability to coordinate lots of resources, lots of people, different agencies and to deal with scenarios that evolve over time,” he said.

“It’s not just a simple scenario where we go out and deal with one thing, it usually evolves over the course of the exercise to bring in different variables and that really tests out our capabilities.”

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