Crew guidelines for search and rescue situations

The captain and crew of a 121ft/37m superyacht were central to a search and rescue last week which saw 16 people safely recovered from the hull of an upturned fishing boat, on the night of Tuesday 28th March.

The stricken fishing vessel is believed to have been carrying migrants from the island of Antigua to St Thomas, in the US Virgin Islands. Tragically a further 16 people are thought to have died in the incident.

Earlier this year, the captain and crew of the 85-metre superyacht Victorious rescued five sailors whose sailing yacht had capsized in the mid-Atlantic. The rescue was completed after 16 hours of SAR operations.

But if you are caught in an emergency situation – how should you and your crew react?

Captains and crew have to face the reality that they may encounter or be called upon to render assistance to a vessel in the near future. The key is being prepared. Masters should carry out a full risk assessment to identify the hazards, as well as safety and security risks associated with a large-scale rescue at sea.

Points to be considered when preparing the Risk Assessment and Standard Operating Procedures:

IDENTIFY | Identify known sailing routes and mark on charts, post extra lookouts, and be vigilant. Report any sightings immediately to the nearest RCC (Rescue Coordination Centre).

PREPARE | Have contact details of RCCs and authorities on the bridge. Check PPE, medical, and lifesaving supplies.
TRAIN & DRILL | Make humanitarian rescue part of the muster duties. Allocate tasks, practice embarkation methods, hold tabletop discussions on best practices and train on crowd control.

RESCUE | Provide immediate assistance if persons are in the water. Consider the use of life rafts if a vessel is sinking. Consider launching tenders. Board women, children, and frail first. If vessel is floating, consider standing by until the Coast Guard arrives. Manoeuvre your vessel to provide shelter to the affected vessel.

SECURE & PROTECT | Before embarking any persons, set up a reception area where people are searched and documented before being allowed to the holding area. Treat all persons with humanity, and your crew should work in pairs. Wear PPE and reduce entry to one designated point. Allocate sanitary facilities, provide food and water and render medical assistance.

RESTORE | Disinfect and sanitize the vessel, give crew adequate rest. Offer trauma advice and replenish used medical and PPE supplies. Always check for stowaways.

Being prepared can, and will, save lives.

Priavo Security Maritime is a security and risk management company dedicated to the protection of superyachts, utilising physical, electronic and cyber security measures. we work directly with owners, captains and crew to provide bespoke, tailormade security solutions that meet our individual client needs. To learn more about our services, click here. If you’re looking to speak to a member of our team, please contact

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