More than 25 Marine Rescue NSW volunteers have practiced their skills alongside members of NSW Police Marine Area Command and Surf Life Saving NSW during a Search and Rescue Exercise (SAREX) in Sydney Harbour today.

Three Marine Rescue NSW vessels from Port Jackson and Middle Harbour units departed their respective bases this morning after being tasked to a simulated incident coordinated by Marine Area Command.

Marine Rescue NSW Central Zone Commander Dan Duemmer said the real-time exercise involved a capsized vessel off Dobroyd Head, drifting towards Balmoral, with multiple people in the water requiring urgent assistance.

“Volunteer crews were deployed from their respective units just after 8.30am and requested to undertake an inshore search in Middle Harbour. This simulated response is exactly how Marine Rescue NSW vessels and crews would be tasked in a real emergency and this exercise was run to ensure we test our deployment, communication and multi-agency response,” Zone Commander Duemmer said.

The on-water response was supported by volunteer radio operators at the Marine Rescue NSW State Communications Centre at Belrose and officers from Marine Area Command at Balmain.

NSW Police Marine Area Command Search and Rescue Coordinator Sergeant Ryan Spong said there were two search areas, inshore in Middle Harbour and offshore near Bondi Beach, with Marine Rescue NSW crews tasked to the inshore search.

“The inshore search area was defined using a variety of drift calculations and was bounded by Grotto Point to Middle Head, extending up to Clontarf. The objective was to find five manikins in the water along with floating debris. The search was complicated by unfavourable conditions reducing visibility,” he said.

Sergeant Spong said PolAir, NSW Ambulance Rescue Helicopter Service and the Westpac Life Saver Helicopter also provided aerial assistance to the on-water response.

“During a live multi-agency search and rescue operation multiple agencies and assets are committed and exercises like today help to iron out any deficiencies, look at communication and build relationships with partner agencies. All targets in this morning’s exercise were located during a thorough three hour search.”

“The inshore search crews located two manikins, one at Balmoral and another at Clontarf Beach. PolAir located two manikins offshore in the Bondi area which were retrieved and transferred to NSW SLS crews on shore. The final manikin was found by Westpac Life Saver Helicopter two nautical miles off Maroubra. Casualties were conveyed to Marine Rescue Middle Harbour and Bondi Surf Club to awaiting NSW Ambulance paramedics.” Sergeant Spong said.

Zone Commander Duemmer highlighted the crucial role volunteer radio operators from the Marine Rescue Sydney State Communications Centre played in today’s simulated exercise.

“The scenario provided an excellent opportunity for our volunteers to practice their skills. Radio is where the ocean meets the land and it is vital for us to have effective communications with our vessels, multi-agency partners and the public on the water. We thank all our partner agencies for taking part in today’s exercise, we know the learnings will strengthen the operational response when we are tasked to an emergency,” he said.

The NSW Government provided financial assistance for the Greater Sydney SAREX as part of its commitment to support the vital work of Marine Rescue NSW and its 3,400 volunteers.

Marine Rescue NSW is a volunteer based not-for-profit professional organisation dedicated to keeping boaters safe on the water and supporting local communities.