2020 was KNRM’s busiest sea rescue year to date

The Royal Netherlands Sea Rescue Institution (KNRM) looks back on a year in which the effect of corona was visible in everything that happened on and around the water. The greatest effect was seen in the summer months, when the Dutch were unable to travel abroad and flocked to the water for recreation.

All 45 rescue stations manned by 1400 volunteers remained virtually free of Covid-19 and could be deployed 24 hours a day. However, strict measures were necessary, such as temporarily stopping training and sailing with a minimum crew.

The KNRM was called into action more often, but the number of people involved fell. According to the KNRM this is likely due to the corona measure of being with fewer people, which includes fewer people on one vessel. The complete standstill of charter shipping, which normally has large numbers of passengers on board, also resulted in fewer people on board.

Medical advice for seafarers

The KNRM-Radio Medical Service (RMD) doctors, who are available day and night for medical questions from seafarers worldwide, had the busiest year ever. Where normally fourteen requests a week were received, the average was now twenty.

The peaks in medical consultations coincided with the waves of corona infections. Many seafarers have been stuck on their ships for months, unable to go home and therefore also suffered illnesses other than Covid-19.

Also read: KNRM to replace 75 lifeboats before 2035

Information campaign for new watersports enthusiasts

Due to the corona measures from March to June, water sports started much later than normal. The closure of marinas was reflected in the decline in assistance provided, particularly in the Wadden Sea. Because of the warm spring and summer, people mainly went to the beaches. This led to many more rescues of swimmers and surfers.

Striking is the rise in assistance to water sports enthusiasts in relatively sheltered waters such as the Randmeren, IJsselmeer and Delta waters. In particular, more motor sloops and small sailing boats travelled there than in the past.

The KNRM responded to the new water sports wave with an information campaign aimed at the novice pleasure boaters. The tips were mainly intended to counter the most common causes of emergencies, such as engine failure, navigation errors, lack of knowledge and experience, and man-overboard. Nevertheless, these issues still required many rescues.

Financial effects for the KNRM

Although the number of rescues increased, the number of sailing hours dropped due to the cancellation of practice hours. As a result, fuel and maintenance costs were lower. Courses are at a standstill and there are fewer meetings and travel expenses for volunteers.

The number of donors, on which the KNRM is fully dependent, continued to rise in 2020 by about 2000 to 103,000.

Hopes for 2021

For 2021, the KNRM expects a similar situation as in 2020, with hopefully more relaxations of corona measures. The prevention programme aimed at water sports enthusiasts will therefore continue in order to prevent accidents on the water. The organisation hopes this will lead to less necessary deployment of the KNRM. In addition, the KNRM hopes its volunteers will be able to catch up on training in 2021.

Author: Mariska Buitendijk

Mariska Buitendijk is one of SWZ|Maritime's journalists as well as the magazine's copy editor.