By Tom Westcott.
Tripoli, 21 November 2013:
The Libyan Coastguard has received a boost in its ability to safely perform rescue operations at . . .[restrict]sea with an intensive safety at sea training course.
The week-long training, organised and run by the EU Border Mission in Libya (EUBAM), involved class-based learning on critical aspects of safety at sea, including how to correctly make internationally-recognised Mayday alerts. These are picked up across the Mediterranean Sea, apart from in Libya, which does not yet have the equipment to receive such calls.
There were also practical components to the course, where trainees practised man overboard’ rescue operations. Three professional divers from the Libyan Navy launched themselves into the chilly November sea, giving the trainees the opportunity to practice different methods of rescuing people who have fallen overboard in four separate scenarios.
Using one of Libya’s recently-purchased twelve-metre Zodiac Rigid Inflatable Boats (RIBs), the coastguard practiced rescue operations inside the calm harbour and in the rough open sea outside Tripoli Port.
“This is very bad weather for my boats,” manager of the training department of the Coastguard, Ibrahim Bin Amer, told journalists who were taken out to watch the rescue exercises. “However, we wanted you to experience the environment in which we work, so you can see how hard rescue operations can be.”
The chief of port security for the Coastguard, Colonel Masoud Abdul Samed, pointed out that the Coastguard sometimes went as far as 160 kilometres off the Libyan coast in the open boat to rescue migrants stranded at sea. “As you can see, our men do search and rescue operations in this boat – they have courage and they are brave,” he said.
Learning and practising how to conduct rescue operations at sea, including drills for manoeuvring the boat and recovering casualties, were priorities for the Libyan Coastguard, EUBAM said. It pointed out that the Coastguard was on the front line of anti-smuggling operations as well as the almost daily struggle to rescue migrants.
“It has been very helpful to learn about safety at sea,” one trainee told the Libya Herald. “We knew a little bit already, but we’ve learned a lot of new things.” He added that he hoped there would be further training opportunities.
At the end of the course, Maltese trainer, Captain David Aquilina, told the trainees: “You are not only my students but now you are my fellow sailors, and I wish that in the future we will work together out at sea.”
EUBAM Libya began work in May 2013, on the invitation of the Libyan Government. The Mission mentors, trains and advises Libyan officials working in areas of border security on ways to strengthen Libya’s land, sea and air borders.