22 May 2024

Check out the Marine Rescue Illawarra fleet as it takes to the water on Saturday

| Zoe Cartwright
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Marine Rescue Ulladulla Crew Mandy Newton, Marine Rescue Jervis Bay Watch Officer and Senior Crew Stefania Nitto and Marine Rescue NSW Illawarra Zone Duty Operations Manager Inspector Stuart Massey will take part in Saturday’s major seach and rescue exercise. Photo: Marine Rescue.

Keen mariners, young and old, who are at Shellharbour Marina on Saturday 25 May will be rewarded with a rare sight.

Ten vessels from the Marine Rescue Illawarra fleet will take to the water from 9 am as part of a major search and rescue exercise, with watercraft ranging from a 13.7-metre flybridge cruiser to a four-metre jet ski.

More than 60 volunteers from the seven units between Port Kembla and Kiola will take part, alongside partner agencies such as Surf Life Saving NSW and the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter.

The exercise will be coordinated by NSW Police Marine Area Command and gives volunteers a crucial opportunity to practise their life-saving skills.

Marine Rescue NSW Illawarra Zone Duty Operations Manager, Inspector Stuart Massey said exercises of this scope were only run every few years.

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“It’s one of the only times the majority of our fleet is together, and when they head out in formation on Saturday morning it will be quite a sight,” he said.

“In the event we do need to go out there for real, this gives them the practice, the experience and the skills to help people on the water.

“Like any emergency, if we don’t practise the skills we need, when we’re out there things can go wrong.

“If someone is out there in trouble in the water we want to know we do the absolute best job we can to bring them home safely.

“Conditions on the ocean can change so quickly, and sometimes we don’t always know what we’re searching for, that’s why we will have multiple targets out there on Saturday for our crews to practise searching for.

“We are also running a search and rescue desktop exercise for our radio operators and that’s where we’re getting about 20 people in a room simulating an emergency and they go through their radio operations, search and rescue techniques and navigation.

“When it happens for real, good communication is paramount.”

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Stefania Nitto is a watch officer in the radio room and will be part of Saturday’s search and rescue exercise.

She and her partner began volunteering with Marine Rescue Jervis Bay after an incident where the boat she and her family were on sank.

“We were very lucky to have Marine Rescue come out rescue us and ever since then me and my partner thought what an amazing opportunity to provide the same service to other people out on the water,” she said.

“In the radio room we are the first point of contact for calls coming into our base, logging on, logging off and communicating with us if they get into trouble and then we organise our vessels to respond.

“This weekend provides insight on everything involving different bases around the Illawarra, and we can share and extend our knowledge.

“We are looking after people’s lives out on the water, and if our skills aren’t up to scratch, we’re playing with those lives. We have to be the best we can be.”

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