Editor’s Note: The following is from our friends at St. Maarten Sea Rescue Foundation. SSRF volunteers conduct maritime search and rescue operations in the Caribbean and suffered losses to important equipment and facilities when Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 hurricane, struck the region.

In September 2017, the St. Maarten Sea Rescue Foundation, which has been helping seafarers in need since 1980, lost all its assets in Hurricane Irma. Two vessels were destroyed, and the building was a total loss.

SSRF’s rescue building, after Hurricane Irma’s devastation.

In 2019, a donation was granted by the Dutch Disaster Fund to purchase two replacement vessels. Both these vessels were used before but suited perfectly to rebuild the services that the St. Maarten population relied upon for many years before.

SSRF’s Chief Rescue, formerly a fishing vessel.

The Chief Rescue, call sign R2, is a former fishing vessel. Although she sustained some damage during Hurricane Irma, she was quickly rebuilt into a rescue boat and operational in months after the initial purchase.

SSRF’s Dolphin Rescue, formerly a law enforcement/military vessel.

Dolphin Rescue, call sign R1, was purchased from the Royal Anguillan Police Force and is a former law enforcement/military ship. Although also damaged during the hurricane, she had the potential to be rebuilt. With quite new engines and good sea-going capabilities, she was a perfect fit for the St. Maarten Sea Rescue Foundation. A lot of work has gone into making her sea rescue capable, also through donations and dedication from our volunteers.

Through the dedication of the volunteers, and donations from many partners like the R4CR, World Bank, AFRAS and others, the vessels are now ready to be deployed for missions. Our foundation is once more ready to go!

However, running these rebuilding projects, which included major overhauls on both vessels – making them ready to become actual rescue vessels by adding communication, navigation, safety, and other equipment – depleted the funding completely.

To keep our foundation operational there is a constant need for supplies, starting with diesel fuel. This is where the recent donation received from AFRAS will come in perfectly. Our vessels are both propelled by dual diesel engines and to be able to respond quickly to emergencies these engines will be used to their fullest potential, and as such become quite expensive to operate.

In the past, the SSRF received diesel donations from the local fuel company, however that resource was depleted after Hurricane Irma as well. Next to the much-needed fuel, the generous donation received from AFRAS will be invested in safety equipment like life jackets and others, since all these assets have been lost as well.

We would like to thank AFRAS and the donors for their generous donations towards our, and other, Sea Rescue organizations. Other projects that the St. Maarten Sea Rescue Foundation is working on are: establishing a working relationship with the local fire department, since fire extinguishing capabilities are added to the Dolphin Rescue; a joint training program with the local government to establish certified volunteer rescue crews; and, much more.

With the two rescue vessels operational, our volunteers are once again on standby 24/7 to assist mariners and other sea-goers that may find themselves in trouble.

SSRF volunteers aboard Dolphin Rescue.

The volunteers and board of the St. Maarten Sea Rescue Foundation thank the members and donors of AFRAS. We appreciate your continued support.