RNLI wins the first IMRF Search and Rescue Heroes Awards

In the first ever International Maritime Rescue Federation Awards, the RNLI came away winners for an international project to design a bottle buoy.
SeaSafe Lifeguard Jowel Juboraj in Bangladesh holding a plastic bottle buoy

Photo: RNLI/Darren Williams

SeaSafe Lifeguard Jowel Juboraj from Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, learns how to make a bottle buoy

Entries for the HERO awards (Honouring Excellence in Rescue Operations) came from across the world, including organisations and individuals as far afield as China and the United States to Bangladesh and New Zealand.

The Bottle Buoy is an innovative yet simple and affordable idea with the potential to reduce the global drowning problem.

It is aimed at low resource communities and can be used as public rescue equipment and for swimming instruction. The device is simple and allows 3 plastic soft drink/water bottles to be attached to a central hub. Instructions and a simple template have been developed to allow the bottle buoy to be produced in local communities using items that can be found easily - discarded plastic drinks bottles are now in abundance in many low resource environments.

Production development and user testing has been undertaken in Bangladesh in partnership with Bournemouth University's Faculty of Science and Technology  and the Seasafe lifeguard service in Cox's Bazar, a joint partnership between the RNLI and the CIPRB (Centre for Injury Prevention, Bangladesh). The Bottle Buoy is now in use in Bangladesh and will undergo further testing before a final resource manual is made available by the RNLI in 2017.

“Like all the best ideas, this one from James Benson and Bournemouth Uni is fantastically simple and we are really excited about its potential to save lives in developing countries” says James Vaughan, the RNLI’s International Director.

Bruce Reid, Chief Executive Officer, IMRF said: "We have all been impressed and humbled by the quality of the nominations for these awards. We congratulate the winners and thank all the nominees for their selfless commitment to saving lives across the world. Tens of thousands of people are rescued every year, the awards are our way of saying thanks to everyone involved in the SAR."

Find more information about the three other 2016 HERO award winners.

Entries are open for next year’s award and will close 30 June 2017. For information and to register, go to the HERO registration.