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Major gaps in search & rescue revealed

| 27/02/2017 | 28 Comments

(CNS): Cash, people and better use of existing resources and agencies are all needed to improve the issues surrounding the search and rescue service in Cayman, according to a report made public Monday. The report by the UK’s Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) found there are a “number of challenges” relating to the need for investment in people, training and equipment, with four out of the six marine unit boats out of service. The British officials also said the fire service and volunteer local seafarers could help support search and rescue.

The report, which was funded by the British Government, is the first in a series of reports on search and rescue at sea in all of the overseas territories. Cayman came first because of the loss of three men and two children at sea just over a year ago that led to concerns about the capabilities of the local emergency services to deal with emergency situations and rescues at sea.

The report was presented to the Legislative Assembly Monday by the acting deputy governor, Jennifer Ahearn, who said government welcomed the report and that money was being released to repair boats and acquire new equipment. She said that a second helicopter pilot has been engaged by the RCIPS.

Among the revelations in the report is the underfunding of the RCIPS Joint Marine Unit, which is down to 50% of the crew, “operating well below the complement originally intended”, and only two of its boats are in working order. The maintenance budget for the unit was cut in this year’s the budget, the authors of the report said, from $500,000 for a 12-month financial year to $270,000 for the current 18-month period, meaning the unit is short $320,000.

The report also suggests that the fire service could be much more involved in search and rescue, given the fact that the stations are manned 24/7 and strategically located. Currently, the service would only be involved in marine rescue in relation to an incident at the airport.

“The Cayman Islands Fire Service presented an option to purchase wave runners at a low cost to help resolve the inshore response concerns,” the report stated.  “This would have the additional benefit of the dispersed location of fire stations across the island and the 24/7 availability of trained personnel.”

Another way to boost the search and rescue capability is to create a private sector volunteer support service, not unlike the UK’s Royal Life Boat service, especially given the maritime skills possessed by many local people. The report recommends investigating the use of volunteer resources to assist and supplement the emergency services, including a dive response network with specialist skill sets. It also recommends a formal register of private boats and their captains who could be called upon during an emergency, rather than the current ad hoc call for help in the wake of an emergency.

Among the other issues raised in the report, the UK Coastguard said that alongside the desire and need to have a modern, competent search and rescue service, Cayman is also obligated in international law because of the treaties signed by the UK that includes its territories.

Finding shortcomings in communication, a lack of formalised cooperation with neighbouring countries, a paucity of information and statistics about rescues, as well as insufficient financial support for search and rescue, the authors recommended an SAR coordinating committee.

While the report highlights a serious shortage of resources and some challenges relating to a wide range of issues, from accurate data to training and promoting safety at sea, but also makes it clear that staff involved in search and rescue at the JMU and Air Operations Unit are working very hard and they are keen to see improvements in the service they can offer.

During the process of making the report the UK Coastguard said stakeholders were “consistently professional and open about the challenges and solutions to improve” search and rescue.

“The Joint Marine Unit and Air Operations Unit leaders and teams were found to be extremely professional, knowledgeable and dedicated,” the report stated.” There was a strong sense of team camaraderie within each of the operational teams. They are accustomed to going above and beyond their contracted hours of work to ensure the safety of the Cayman Islands inhabitants.”

The Cayman Islands Fire Service was also commended and the report emphasises involving fire crews as a ”top priority” in future inshore response, as they could ease the workload for the Joint Marine Unit with the addition of jet skis or rigid inflatable rescue boats at the fire stations.

See report in the CNS Library

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Category: Local News

Comments (28)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Aren’t the DOE meant to have a patrol boat presence in the North Sound and around the island? Perhaps if they were also given new boats instead of the aged and unsuitable garbage we see out-run on a daily basis, they too can react with all good speed.




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  2. Twyla Vargas says:

    Referring to the report, “Major gaps in search and rescue by UK MCA,” reading between the lines it is clear that the Marine Base is being neglected of funding by the government in order to maintain their fleet and buy new boats, putting their crew at risk. This was one of the “Town Talk” stories circulating around this rescue. Boat not equipped and up to standard to handle the rough seas, neither was the helicopter in a position to fly into this rough weather. I am wondering what would Cayman people and its government say if there was also a loss of the marine boat, its crew and the lost of the helicopter and its crew daring this rescue. However, I do have concerns of the use of the word strong sense of “Camaraderie” within each operational group; being used by the “UK maritime Agency” while refereeing to the Cayman maritime crew; which clearly means NO Close friendship in a group or team mates. My suggestion is that the Boss should think about that word and speak to his crew.




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    • Anonymous says:

      With respect, you do not understand the word cameraderie. It means strong team ethos, exactly what they have.




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    • Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. says:

      Twyla, pls check the word “Camaraderie” in a dictionary. It sure sounds similar to Comrade!




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  3. Anonymous says:

    We can’t improve any of these services because David Legge and a ton load of posters on CNS keep dumping on the civil service and saying it has to be massively cut. But every report we get says there are not enough staff and not enough funds assigned to the service to do what it has to do. You all are sickening.




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  4. SSM345 says:

    All of these safety measures should have been put in place when Josh Gilman and 4 others went missing 5yrs+ before the last tragedy. Same exact circumstances and the Marine Unit are still scratching their heads almost a decade later.

    Here’s an easy solution, deputize the people who risk life and limb every time there is a major rescue situation because they seem to get more done then all our persons / units/ govt. depts. combined. Create a voluntary coast guard ffs.

    Its not F**king rocket science.

    Implement a watercraft licensing system along the same lines as that with motor vehicles. Yearly safety inspections when re-licensing etc. Simple and Govt. gets more money to piss down the drain from the fees!




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  5. Anonymous says:

    Just get Lad Watler back on the case and show them all how it is done with limited resources but the will and knowledge to get things done




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  6. Lagoon Snapper says:

    Of course the UK is going to say nice things about JMU and airunit they are funding them but we see the performance and the results illegal landing of criminals failed rescues and drugs and guns awashed on our streets..




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  7. Anonymous says:

    Would love to volunteer for this…great idea.




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  8. Delta Bravo 5 OP says:

    This unit had all the good officers it needed most were well trained and experienced SAR operators to Coast Guard standards or by BMATT but alas along came a nasty little pretender and his minions who with the then “Caymanian” leadership conspired to seek outside help because they thought they would be loyal to them and they could control things. So they went about installing their little lackeys in the air unit , drug unit and marine unit causing catastrophic failures and increased corruption that we see today and when it got so bad even the pretender and his disciples quit and move to other law enforcement venues.However instead of the new leadership seeking out those people for advice they listen to the tales of the self preservation lackeys and it also fit their divide and rule policy. So they expanded and supported these idiotic decisions even promoting minions to senior leadership. Thus the terrible situation we find ourselves in today. They did however give it a new name JMU . This is to all the boys & girls of the Old DTF and to Mr Derek Haines they will never replicate the success as for you Caymanian Donkey please feel free to replace the donkey with Jackass as it best describes both the suggestion and all those concerned.




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  9. Caymanian donkey says:

    Let’s chat about training. We have a qualified Caymanian who can train these officers King Bush.
    He has retired from the service and now been retired as a constable. Why not pay him more and have him set up propper training. At the same time assist him to set up training for new boat owners and have a kids program.

    Just a thought as once again we believe we must send people overseas and not use one of our own.




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    • Anonymous says:

      He’s still on the marine unit.




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      • Anonymous says:

        and still incompetent.




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        • Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. says:

          By saying that you just demonstrated how little you really know. See this clip from the report :- “The Joint Marine Unit and Air Operations Unit leaders and teams were found to be extremely professional, knowledgeable and dedicated,” the report stated.” There was a strong sense of team camaraderie within each of the operational teams. They are accustomed to going above and beyond their contracted hours of work to ensure the safety of the Cayman Islands inhabitants.”

          Why in heavens name do some people take such pleasure in bashing people who are talented, hard working, and dedicated, but abandoned by the authorities who expect them to constantly perform miracles while they cut, cut and decimate the budget these people have to work with. Open you puss filled eyes and look at the real problem and stop stoning the wrong people.




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    • Anonymous says:

      Caymanian donkey, I read your concerns, but there is a right way of doing things. The government is only doing the person rehired a favor of re hiring them, because if you can work for donkey years up to retiring, you should be sitting pretty good with a big pay out and a fat pension every month. It is very unlikely that the government can and would hire a person back under the same agreement as fifty years ago. It wont happen.,




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    • Anonymous says:

      You must be out of your mind, who do you think is responsible for the cluster F### known as the Marine Unit?
      The glaring incompetence of those you claim are ‘proper’ trainers is there for all to see, your blind bigotry cannot see that you need outside help lifting out of this blind stupidity. Why do you think so many boats are out of service, who do you think keeps grounding them?
      You simply do not have the boating, let alone SAR skills and experience to deal with professional training and implementaion, until you get off this rock and see how the real world operates you will never appreciate that point.
      Being a ‘fisherman’ or angler, as the rest of the world calls them, will never qualify anyone to be a world class SAR operative, no matter how many times they have been to sea or who their daddy is.




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      • Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. says:

        To “Anonymous at 12.52 pm – Lets see if you have any facts. How many of the present Marine Unit vessels are out of service on account of being “Grounded” as you call it? Maybe you can tell us how many are O/S because of lack of funding or replacement parts / budget problems? Or are you just another of these stone throwing hot air balloons who do not care about being accurate or truthful on the issues?




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  10. Anonymous says:

    Try a working bouyage system so mariners can enter and leave the CROWNS waters safely




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  11. Anonymous says:

    At last, someone recognising the issue is at the top. Thank you for pointing out the guys on the front line, the Joint Marine Unit and the Air Operations Unit work hard. MLA’s hang your head in shame at the way you all rounded on these guys twelve months ago form your comfy armchairs in the LA. It is coming home to roost now.




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  12. Anonymous says:

    While it is good to have multiple people conducting search and rescue, let’s make sure these persons are all trained for their various tasks and maybe some medically trained people should be involved.




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  13. Anonymous says:

    So when you bash the police and marine officers and everyone else when something goes wrong, look at the funding. This report says the officers are good and knowledgeable and dedicated, but the funding is zilch. Surprise, surprise, the same can be said about teachers. Cayman needs to wake up and understand what it costs to have a modern search-and-rescue, border security and/or policing service, or schools for that matter, and put its money where its mouth is, or shut up and stop whining about why things are the way they are. And don’t go boating too far out unless you’re ok with the fact that no one ain’t no one comin’ to get ya! And that goes for you smugglers too.




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  14. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for releasing this report. A refreshing change to open government. Thank you CIG.




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  15. Anonymous says:

    Why not teach basic boating skills so people will have required safety gear on board the vessel as well as the skills to operate safely. Taking children out in small craft advisory weather conditions is wrong.




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