With the highest number of rescues in Australia, Fremantle Sea Rescue has to be on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Despite the workload, the rescue group has a queue of mariners wanting to help because being a part of this tribe is something to be proud of.
From the top of Western Australia to the furthest point south, 1400 volunteers across 37 marine rescue groups are keeping our oceans as safe as possible for mariners. Operating from new premises at the iconic Cantonment Hill site, Fremantle Sea Rescue is one of these groups and is making a big difference to safety on local waters.
Fremantle Sea Rescue is in charge of the waters between South Fremantle up to City Beach and approximately 50 nautical miles out to sea (or as far as the rescue boats will take them), plus the Swan and Canning Rivers. Of all the busy harbours and oceans around the country, this huge stretch of ocean and river keeps Fremantle the busiest marine rescue group in Australia according to Fremantle Sea Rescue spokesperson Mark Zuvela.
“Our record was at the end of 2015 when we hit 750 rescues in that one year and last year we had over 600,” Mark says. “The next busiest group was actually Sydney Water Police who do the Sydney Harbour and they do around 300.”
Volunteers man the marine radio frequency 24 hours, seven days a week with state-of-the-art technology so they never miss a call and often work with the water police who need recordings of incidences. Once an emergency callout occurs, the operational manager volunteer decides on the course of action and calls on up to five volunteers to complete the rescue. The well-trained volunteers will tackle the scariest of ocean conditions to ensure the safety of mariners.
“We’ve done some massive rescues, one that I was involved with that was pretty scary was a yacht getting pushed ashore a couple of years ago in Alkimos,” Mark explains. “That night was around six-metre swells with winds gusting up to 60 knots, but we train very hard to handle difficult situations.”
The 110 volunteers at Fremantle Sea Rescue are put through a thorough and vigorous training program, so by the time they’re ready to crew or skipper a rescue boat they have first aid, advanced resuscitation, a radio operator’s license and their skipper’s ticket, and need to adhere to a hefty training manual that results in the highest level of skill and professionalism while performing rescues. Despite the rigorous training program and the group being totally volunteer based (aside from one paid administration staff member), Mark says they have to turn people away.
“We have an unusual problem in our group in that we have too many applicants to volunteer,” Mark says. “We actually get to pick the top 20 applicants, it’s almost like getting into a tertiary institution!” So what does Fremantle Sea Rescue look for in a volunteer?
“The biggest thing is attitude,” Mark says. “Teamwork and the way you get along, and the way you interact with everyone are some of the most important attributes you need to be a part of the group because we teach everyone basically from scratch on the way we operate.”
As a result, all members are proud of being a part of the group and attendance rate to training, monthly meetings and performing rescues is virtually 100 percent.
The latest additions to the team are two new rescue boats looking for sponsors for naming rights. The nine-metre rescue boats race around Perth rivers and oceans performing rescues, plus run the safety of the Rottnest Channel Swim and Port to Pub swim each year, so these boats get plenty of eyes on them. Who wants in? It’s unlikely they’ll be nameless for long. #thepowerofand
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