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Marine Rescue Port Macquarie marks half a century serving the community

From humble beginnings to a multifaceted rescue service, Marine Rescue Port Macquarie last week celebrated 50 years of saving lives on the region’s waterways during a dinner at the Westport Club last night.

130 dignitaries and guests attended the event, which was rescheduled following COVID interruptions over the past two years.

Formally founded as Sea Rescue Port Macquarie in 1971, the unit became Marine Rescue Port Macquarie in 2010 and now has 234 highly skilled volunteer members.

Marine Rescue NSW Commissioner Alex Barrell acknowledged the work of the initial group that formed Sea Rescue over half a century ago with original member Bruce Robson addressing guests and reminiscing about the beginnings of the rescue service.

“They were the pioneers of maritime safety in the region, starting out in 1971 with a Smiths jet boat and laying the foundation for a vitally important community service,” Commissioner Barrell said.

“The fleet at Marine Rescue Port Macquarie has now grown to five rescue vessels.

“There’s been huge advancements in technology and rescue equipment over the years. We’re very fortunate in Port Macquarie Marine Rescue to have two ocean going rescue vessels, two rescue watercraft and a new multi-purpose vessel that can be used in flood operations,” Commissioner Barrell said.

The Port Macquarie unit is consistently one of the busiest Marine Rescue NSW units on the Mid North Coast.

From 2015 to the end of last month, volunteers at Marine Rescue Port Macquarie completed 733 search and rescue missions of which 343 were emergencies, returning 1,529 people safely to shore.

In almost nine years, just under 28,500 boaters have Logged On with Marine Rescue Port Macquarie with volunteers keeping watch over more than 89,000 people on the region’s waterways and managing more than 122,000 radio calls.

“Marine Rescue Port Macquarie is an integral part of our rescue network on the Mid North Coast of New South Wales. The work that our dedicated volunteers do day in day out is outstanding and it’s been this long contribution for over 50 years now that’s really added value and safety to this community,” Commissioner Barrell said.

The 50th anniversary celebration featured key speakers covering the three eras of the Service and highlighted a six-hour rescue operation where three seriously injured people were saved from a sinking vessel off Port Macquarie in April 2019.

Volunteer members involved in the challenging but successful rescue mission were honoured with an International Maritime Rescue Federation Award in London and a Professional Commendation at the 2019 Australian Search and Rescue Awards.

Marine Rescue Port Macquarie Unit Commander Greg Davies assumed the leadership role in 2017 and during that time volunteer recruitment has increased by 60% with the boaters of Port Macquarie now supported by 234 dedicated volunteers.

“The unit’s extraordinary. We work so well because we’ve got a great team of volunteers, very committed, dedicated and they spend a lot of time in the organisation. I think the thing is that they all train hard and they work very hard to be the best they can be and they’ve got a great sense of pride within the organisation,” he said.

Unit Commander Davies said last night’s event was not just a celebration of the unit’s existence but the numerous volunteers over the years who have dedicated their time to saving lives on the waters of Port Macquarie.

“Our unit has a great history, it’s over 50 years of service to the community and over the time we’ve done more than 4,000 rescues.

“We’re very embedded in the community, we’re well respected and we work very hard for the community. We’re here to serve the community in every way we can,” he said.

Marine Rescue NSW is a volunteer based not-for-profit professional organisation dedicated to keeping boaters safe on the water and supporting local communities.