Lifeboat exchange programme ‘eye opener’ for Larne volunteer

Dave Somerville, Larne RNLI volunteer.
Dave Somerville, Larne RNLI volunteer.

A Larne RNLI volunteer was selected to join crew members from all over Europe in a week-long International Maritime Rescue Federation (IMRF) lifeboat crew exchange programme.

Dave Somerville, who has been a crew member at Larne RNLI for 14 years and a member of the RNLI flood rescue team for 12 years, travelled to Gothenburg, Sweden, to take part in the programme.

He was joined there by lifeboat crew from other European nations, including Germany, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Estonia, the Netherlands and Sweden.

The purpose of the exchange programme is to enable a crew member to visit a host country for a week and learn about their search and rescue methods, allowing for ideas to be exchanged and to meet the lifeboat crew from other European countries.

Dave said: “I applied for the exchange through the RNLI at the start of June and found that I was successful in July. This was my second international training opportunity with the RNLI, having previously been to North Carolina to train with their Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team.”

During the week, hosted at the Swedish Sea Rescue Service, Dave learnt about the different rescue vessels used in Sweden and made a trip to a remote island rescue station where the volunteers worked with the boat, helicopter crews and the rescue dog team for three days.

The week was rounded off by sailing a traditional rescue vessel back to Gothenburg with a debriefing session at the Swedish Search and Rescue Service headquarters.

“I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience,” Dave said of his time on the exchange.

“Meeting colleagues from other European Rescue Services, learning about the, their organisations, how they operate and looking at the kit they use has been a real eye opener.”

RNLI volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around Ireland and the UK. The charity depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,200 lives.