Maritime Search and Rescue

Overview

Search and Rescue is the activity of locating and recovering persons either in distress, potential distress or missing and delivering them to a place of safety. The UK Government (led by the Department for Transport) has a statutory responsibility for civilian Search and Rescue (SAR) within the UK and its aviation and maritime Search and Rescue Regions, but it delegates the authority for responding to maritime incidents to HM Coastguard. HM Coastguard is the on-call emergency organisation that has overall responsibility for all civilian maritime SAR within the UK Maritime SAR Region.

The civilian maritime Search and Rescue incl udes the mobilisation, organisation and tasking of assets (including lifeboats, SAR helicopters and independent declared facilities) to respond to persons either in distress at sea, or to persons at risk of injury or death on the cliffs or shoreline of the United Kingdom. There are 19 Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centres (MRCCs) around the UK Coast, which form a network of command and control centres for responding to reports of maritime and coastal distress. These receive incoming distress calls, alerting the appropriate rescue assets, and co-ordinating the rescue effort. Among these rescue assets are 233 lifeboat stations run by the RNLI (with 4,800 lifeboat crew members) which act as a base for storing, launching and recovering vessels and communicating with the emergency services.

Lifeboat - Crew

  • Coxswain (Coxswain trainee)
  • Helmsman
  • Mechanic (ILB) (Engineer)
  • Mechanic (ALB)
  • Navigator
  • Crew member
  • 1st aider (Crew member)
  • Hovercraft commander


Role, Career Pathways & Qualifications

Click the links below to find out more about specific roles, career pathways and required qualifications

Roles

The coxswain is in charge of the all weather lifeboat and is in command when at sea. He/she is responsible for all the operations connected with launching the lifeboat, ensuring the safety of all the lifeboat crew on board, and it is the coxswain's duty to use every effort to safeguard and rescue the lives of those in danger. At the end of a rescue the coxswain ensures that the lifeboat is ready for service and that the equipment is all in order.

Most coxswains are volunteers although there are a few full-time coxswains. The all weather lifeboat has a second coxswain who acts as deputy if the coxswain is not available. Potential Coxswains are usually identified 3 or 4 years in advance before they succeed a position, and tend to 'act up' or understudy to gain time in command and service experience.

Career Pathways

Opportunities within the Maritime Sector
Qualifications gained in this post can be used in other maritime industries such as Marine Leisure, where the RYA Coastal Certificate of Competence could be valid for entry to a Delivery Skipper post.

Established routes from other sectors
All crew are volunteers and can come from any occupation

Qualifications Required

All crew qualifications

Approved Engine Course AEC (MCA)

Marine Engine Operator Licence (MEOL) for Lifeboats under 750kW (MCA)

Engineering (Level 2) RNLI course in Routine Planned Maintenance

Engineering (Level 3) RNLI course for training specific to type of lifeboat

Separate assessment by qualified marine engineer

Roles

The Helmsman is a volunteer who is in charge of the inshore lifeboat during launching, at sea and when it is being recovered to make sure it is ready for the next rescue. The helmsman is responsible for the safety of the crew on board and for everything that happens during a rescue. They are in command on in-shore vessels.

Career Pathways

Established routes from other sectors
All crew are volunteers and can come from any occupation

Qualifications Required

Key: Mandatory requirements Common training available


All crew qualifications

In-house RNLI Helmsman course (including Search and Rescue)

Training to standard of RYA Advanced Powerboat

Roles

All vessels with over 7460kw output must have on board an engineer. The engineer undertakes routine maintenance, and is responsible for maintaining the lifeboat's engines and all the machinery at an all weather lifeboat station. The mechanic has a detailed planned maintenance programme to carry out because over a period of time every piece of machinery is checked and maintained.

At sea the mechanic checks that the engines and other machinery are all working properly. All weather lifeboat stations also have assistant mechanics to take over when the mechanic is not available.

Career Pathways

Opportunities within the Maritime Sector
Qualifications gained in this role (MEOL and AEC) could be used in other marine engineering positions across the maritime industries.

Establised routes from other sectors
All crew are volunteers and can come from any occupation.

Qualifications Required

Key: Mandatory requirements Common training available


All crew qualifications

Approved Engine Course AEC (MCA)

Marine Engine Operator Licence (MEOL) for Lifeboats under 750kW (MCA)

Engineering (Level 2) RNLI course in Routine Planned Maintenance

Engineering (Level 3) RNLI course for training specific to type of lifeboat

Separate assessment by qualified marine engineer

Roles

The inshore mechanic undertakes planned maintenance and may or may not also be sea-going.

Career Pathways

Established routes from other sectors
All crew are volunteers and can come from any occupation

Qualifications Required

Key: Mandatory requirements Common training available


RNLI ILB mechanics’ course

Roles

The navigator plans and carries out search and rescue techniques. They must also be able to carry out the duties of the crew (see crew member).

Career Pathways

Opportunities within the Maritime Sector
Qualifications gained in this post can be used in other maritime industries such as Marine Leisure, where the RYA Coastal Certificate of Competence could be valid for entry to a Delivery Skipper post.

Established routes from other sectors
All crew are volunteers and can come from any occupation

Qualifications Required

All crew qualifications

NAVSAR course

Training to standard of RYA Coastal Certificate of Competence

Training to standard of MCA STCW II/2 Yachtmaster Theory

RNLI Search and Rescue training, added to the RYA qualifications

Separate assessment by RNLI inspector

Roles

Crew members are volunteers who launch and recover vessels, assist casualties, operate daughter boats, drop and pick up the anchor, undertake look out responsibilities, and generally assist the coxswain or helmsman.

Career Pathways

Opportunities within the Maritime Sector
Coxswain
Helmsman
Hovercraft Commander

Qualifications gained as crew members can be used in other maritime industries, such as Marine Leisure, where the RYA Level 2 Powerboat qualification could be used a Marina Manager role.

Established routes from other sectors
All crew are volunteers and can come from any occupation

Qualifications Required

Crew member (all)
Crew must be trained for all functions (see occupational map). Some units are mandatory before crew can work on a lifeboat. Other units are mandatory but can be completed within 2 years of joining. Units are subject to ‘skill fade’ and must be refreshed according to a schedule set up by the RNLI.

Crew member (ILB)

Introductory residential course
Powerboat qualification (Level 2) (RYA)

Roles

One crew member is a qualified first aider.

Career Pathways

Established routes from other sectors
All crew are volunteers and can come from any occupation

Qualifications Required

Roles

This is a volunteer who is in charge of the hovercraft during launching, when at sea and also at the end of a rescue when the hovercraft is being recovered to make sure it is ready for the next rescue. The Hovercraft commander is responsible for the safety of the crew on board and for everything that happens during a rescue. They are in command on hovercraft vessels.

Career Pathways

Opportunities within the Maritime Sector
Coxswain
Helmsman
Hovercraft Commander

Established routes from other sectors
All crew are volunteers and can come from any occupation

Qualifications Required

All crew qualifications
Hovercraft introduction course
Type-approved certificate, standard to type of boat, for completion of necessary number of hours in command
Separate assessment by RNLI inspector