Surf Life Saving NT's Search and Rescue team (SAR team) began in 2006, originally called the SLSNT Support Service, with the launch of two Rescue Water Craft (RWC) operating on Darwin Estuary beaches. In 2007, the SAR team extended to the Gove area with a third RWC based at the Gove Peninsula SLSC.
In 2011, an Offshore Rescue Boat (ORB) service was added to the responsibility of the SAR Team. The vessel, formerly used by the NT Government for Marine patrol work, was refurbished and named ‘Westpac Rescue 1’ providing a a significant extension of the lifesaving services provided to the community in the NT.
The role of Westpac Rescue 1 was, and still is, to:
- Assist the NT Police in search and rescue activities,
- Support surf lifesavers during beach patrol activities,
- Provide a career path for highly-trained volunteer surf lifesavers,
- Partner with Government, industry, community organisations and media to broaden public awareness of aquatic and marine safety, and
- Provide water safety for long distance swimming and craft events.
In 2016, the SAR team, utilising Westpac Rescue 1, provides a 24/7 marine Search & Rescue service capable of covering a much greater portion of coastline that what our clubs alone can respond to. History shows that coastal drownings in the NT occur away from patrolled beaches and outside the regular patrol season so an ORB ensures SLSNT is rescue ready throughout the year.
Westpac Rescue 1 has an effective operating range westward to Dundee Beach and eastward to Gunn Point, which covers the majority of the NT water users.
All SAR team members are elite lifesavers with marine qualifications and advanced first aid and resuscitation training. Many have also completed advanced rescue training including underwater techniques.
SAR Team Assets
In 2016, the SAR Team has access to three asset types that compliment each other within the rescue spectrum. Providing all of these assets to our SAR Team ensures that they are capable of assisting in nearly all search and rescue situations.
Offshore Rescue Boat (1)
Westpac Rescue 1 has a greater sea-keeping ability, as well as a greater towing capability than all other surf lifesaving rescue assets. It has a greater endurance and is much more capable of handling adverse environmental conditions.
It is suitable for use on exercises from beyond the surf zone to as far as 100NM from base, up to 12NM offshore. It can rescue and transport persons, including those with injuries, and allows room for the treatment of patients on-board. It can also take small to medium craft undertow and return to base.
It is suitable for extended operations both day and night.
Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat (1)
The RHIB has a reduced sea-keeping, towing ability and maximum person capacity. It is suitable for the rescue and recovery of persons, but only allows for performance of minor first aid onboard. It can tow
small vessels for limited duration to remove from immediate danger, but cannot recover vessels back to base. It is trailerable, can be launched from any boat ramp in the operating region, however is tide
The RHIB is able to operate within the surf zone and from the beach, anywhere within the Darwin Port Limits, meaning it can rescue persons from areas that are too shallow for the ORB. It can also act as a coordination place for water safety for medium sized events, having a greater capability than club IRBs.
It is not preferable for extended or night operations, but can under these conditions, if required.
Rescue Water Craft (2)
There are two RWC’s, and they are able to patrol areas where the ORB and RHIB cannot due to their very shallow draught. They are single person operated, but may use a second member as a crew member if required. They have the ability to rescue and recover persons, but no capacity to tow or conduct first aid.
They are trailerable and can be launched from any boat ramp or beach, on almost any tide. They have no navigation equipment fitted, so can only be used within sight of the coast, or in company with a vessel that has necessary equipment.
They have no navigation lights fitted so are not suitable for night operations. Their suitability for extended operations is determined by the endurance of the operator.
Inflatable Rescue Boats
Each NT Surf Clubs also operate Inflatable Rescue Boats (IRBs). These agile 3.8m craft are powered by 25-30 hp outboard motors equipped with propeller guards for operation near people in the water. They carry a two-person crew and provide an excellent search and rescue platform. Each IRB is equipped with a rescue tube, towrope and VHF Marine Radio. Clubs maintain at least one 'rescue-ready' IRB at all times.
In an emergency
For life-threatening marine emergencies always call 000.
SAR Team Duty Officers are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and can be contacted by calling 13 SURF (13 78 73).
For general enquiries call Surf Life Saving NT on (08) 8985 6588 during business hours.