When boats capsize or catch fire in B.C. waters, it’s usually the men and women of the Canadian Coast Guard or Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue who are first to respond – and on Saturday, they put their full repertoire of skills on display for an international audience in the Burrard Inlet.
Teaming up with the boat from Vancouver Fire Rescue Service and a chopper from the U.S. Coast Guard, the agencies executed four rescue scenarios as part of the World Maritime Rescue Conference taking place this weekend.
The exercises included dousing a boat fire and using a long-line winch on the U.S. Coast Guard chopper to pluck a patient from the deck of a moving Canadian Coast Guard Hovercraft.
"That was actually the first time I had ever done that. It was quite an interesting experience hovering over a hovercraft," said Lt. Cmdr. Brett Nichols, the man at the controls of the helicopter. “I don’t think it could have gone any better. The coordination that they’ve done for this demo has been pretty stellar.”
Overlooking Burrad Inlet, and all the commercial, industrial and recreational activity that happens there, the Vancouver Convention Centre provides an ideal venue for the conference.
"We recognize that it's Canada's busiest port. From a Coast Guard perspective, there's a lot going on here,” said Supt. Clay Evans of the Canadian Coast Guard. “Port of Vancouver is an excellent example of where you have a land, sea and air interface of first responders and so we exercise that in the field. We’re also demonstrating that today.”
Every four years, the conference brings together marine search and rescue professionals from around the world. This is the first time it’s been held in North America, providing a real benefit to local organizations.
"It's an opportunity for everyone to learn from each other, share common ideas and best practices,” said Ralp Morhmann of RCM-SAR. “It's a significantly important and beneficial opportunity for our volunteers, and those that have come from all over the world."
The conference now moves from the water into the convention centre, with seminars and events happening until Monday.