FEATURE: International cooperation saves lives in mid-Atlantic

Photo: Royal Canadian Navy
Photo: Royal Canadian Navy – Charlottetown

Maritime search and rescue (SAR) has made great progress in recent years, with multi-agency co-operation, and excellent long range communications both being features of the modern SAR scene.

June 9 saw lives saved in mid-Atlantic by a highly professional SAR operation, when winds of up to 130km/hour struck a 22-strong fleet of yachts taking part in the Royal Western Yacht Club of the UK’s single/double handed race from Plymouth, England, to Newport, USA.

Five of the competing yachts suffered significant damage, and following the receipt of distress signals, an impressive array of search and rescue units was mobilised, under the direction of the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG)/Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre (JRCC) in Halifax, Canada.

Six aviation assets were deployed to provide top cover, and communications relay. These were: a CP-140 long range maritime patrol (LRMP) aircraft of the RCAF; a P3 Orion LRMP aircraft of the Portuguese Air Force; two RCAF and one British Royal Air Force Hercules transport planes; and an RCAF Cormorant SAR helicopter,

Ships tasked by the JRCC for rescue operations were the Royal Canadian Navy frigate Charlottetown; the CCG cutters Peakes and Cygnus, the offshore support vessel Thor Magni; the tug ALP Forward, and the cruise liner Queen Mary 2.

Thor Magni and ALP Forward rescued two crew members each from the yachts Furia and Happy respectively. The 79,300-tonne Queen Mary 2, for its part, made good use of its bulk to provide a lee, while one of the liner’s two high speed rescue craft picked up the sole crewman of the yacht Tamarind.

Following this textbook international SAR operation, another two damaged yachts were able to continue sailing, as the storm abated.

Once again the maritime community has provided an example of what can be achieved by international co-operation in pursuit of humanitarian goals, but inevitably the question of long range yacht racers putting up financial bonds to help cover the cost of possible SAR requirements is once more being raised….


Trevor Hollingsbee

Maritime security expert and columnist, Trevor Hollingsbee was a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy, Senior Superintendent with the Hong Kong Marine Police, Assistant Secretary for Security in the British Hong Kong Government Security Branch, and Intelligence Analyst in the UK Ministry of Defence. As an independent defence and security analyst he has had some 1,500 articles on maritime security, and geopolitical topics, published in a range of international journals and newspapers. He is an Associate Fellow of the Nautical Institute, and a past Vice-Chairman of the Institute’s Hong Kong branch.