The Mass Rescue Problem


Ships go down



You are not saved until you are rescued to a place of safety




There is no one to help you







Transfer is messy










A world of Ignorance, Complacency and Apathy



It’s a hundred years after the Titanic, and ships, unsinkable or not, still go down.


There are regulations mandating orderly evacuation of ships. There are systems to make evacuation possible and crew training to make it likely. But unless your life raft happens to be launched a hundred meters from a Mediterranean island, life-threatening danger is only delayed.


Any emergency at sea with more than maybe a hundred people is a mass rescue situation. That means by definition that rescue services, if they exist at all in the area, will be overwhelmed. There is no Coast Guard, Navy or other government or non-government organization anywhere that has the recourses to depend on.


Whoever comes to your help, be it helicopters, rescue boats or aircraft carrier groups, can only help one person at a time. In a recent evacuation in good weather it took three helicopters 46 minutes to winch 6 persons of a ship in the Baltic. 60 people would mean 460 minutes, 600 people 4600 minutes, assuming unlimited helicopters. Today’s biggest cruise ships carry 8000 people. Getting people from lifeboats or life rafts to any means of rescue is time consuming and exhausting even in moderate sea states.


The global lack of ability to handle mass rescue at sea is largely unknown to the general public, but throughout the maritime world it’s a known and accepted fact. Parts of the maritime industries may be content that they fulfill requirements put in place by the IMO and flag states. Others, including rescue organizations, seem to be overwhelmed by the scale and complexity of the problem.


Our Mass Rescue Solution


We want any number of people evacuated from a stricken ship to be rescued, whatever the circumstances, wherever they are. And we want to enable all ships to help in a mass rescue situation.

To reach this goal, we want to break the apparent apathy by showing that adequate global mass rescue is not only achievable, but that it wouldn’t even have to be prohibitively dangerous, complex or costly.

We want to encourage the maritime world and the IMO to shift the debate from the current of rescue capabilities of possibly 10 people per hour, not with a factor 10 more, but a factor 50 or 100. How can we rescue 500 or 1000 people per hour in most sea states? It can be done!


Ships of opportunity, the ships that happen to be around, could be the perfect rescue boats. If all ships carried liftable life rafts to be used in case of an evacuation, and any ship of opportunity could connect and lift these rafts filled with people to the safety on board, then mass rescue, rather than just mass evacuation, could actually be achieved. There are ships virtually everywhere on the seas. Ships have an obligation to help anyone in distress, but usually inadequate means to do so.


Liftable life rafts - All ships should carry life rafts that can be lifted fully loaded with people. That also means that there needs to be a practical size limit of maybe 40 people per raft.

Ships of opportunity - Recognize that ships of opportunity must be able to help


The Sea Calming turn - A lot of our research has gone into what we call the “Lorén Turn”. A big ship that makes a powered circle will flatten the sea inside the circle so that rescue boats can be safely launched and operated. And making way in a circle is safer for the helping ship than giving a lee stopped.


A way to connect – All ships should carry rescue boats that can be launched, used and recovered safely in most sea states. The smaller the rescue boat, the safer it is to launch and recover. It also makes it easier and safer to work among rafts and to connect the crane wire. We call this new class a Close Range Rescue Craft, CRRC.


A Crane to lift rafts loaded with people - Ships need to have a general-purpose crane that can lift the largest life rafts loaded with people to the safety on board.


Crew training - There needs to be adequate and repeated training for crews. Captains need to practice the sea calming turn, rescue boat crew and crane operators need to work together.


This system could be implemented locally or on a voluntary basis, e.g. on a ferry route with two or more ships that meet regularly. But to get the full benefit would take international regulations mandating all ships to eventually have liftable life rafts, cranes and Close Range Rescue Crafts.

Now, wouldn’t all this new equipment be very expensive for ship owners. We think not. The new equipment could well replace current equipment rather then complement it. And preventable loss of life at sea on a mass scale would also be a costly affair.


We intend to carry on with our tests, lifting bigger rafts, working in ever higher sea states. We will continue to develop equipment that can one day stand as examples for production equipment. We will research probable costs for implementing the system. And we will continue our mission of convincing the world that adequate global mass rescue is needed and possible.


If you work in sea rescue - Get to know ships and crews in your area. Spread the word about our project. Figure out better ways than ours!


If you are a ship owner - Talk to us about installing the system on your ships and try to influence your trade organization, your government and your flag state


If you are a government - Lobby for better Mass Rescue capabilities at the IMO


If you have money to spare - Please donate to the SSRS with FIRST as the beneficiary so that we can continue our work


Whoever you are - let us know what you think, share your ideas, help us!


Certain rescue














It can be done










What it would take





























What it would cost











What now?








What you can do














Keep in touch!



FIRST is  a project headed by the Swedish Sea Rescue Society, and is strictly non profit.


FIRST  •  Sjöräddningssällskapet

Talattagatan 24, 426 05 Västra Frölunda, Sweden  •  +46-77-579 00 90