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South Africa’s National Sea Rescue Institute (NSRI) is a charity organisation that saves lives on South African waters – both coastal and inland. The organisation’s goal is to prevent drowning through rescue operations, education, and prevention initiatives.

Operating from 75 locations along the SA coastline, and on inland dams, NSRI rescue volunteers and lifeguards are on call, at all hours, every day of the year – for rescues, and during the season, for lifeguarding. These volunteer rescue crew receive no payment and the NSRI does not charge the people they rescue. The NSRI has a total of 50 rescue stations in South Africa – five on inland waterways and 45 on the coast.

The NSRI is currently the only maritime rescue service operating in South African territorial waters and, although most rescues are coastal and inshore, an increasing number of these operations require search and rescue vessels with advanced capability in technology, and the ability to safely increase the endurance of the crew further out to sea.

The NSRI’s current fleet of 10m and 12m rescue vessels (known as Class 1 rescue vessels) are being retired. The NSRI is committed to their volunteer crew to provide top class rescue boats that are suited to the severe conditions in which they operate – the safety of rescue crew and the people who are rescued being the priority.

The NSRI therefore needed to replace the current Class 1 rescue boats with craft that are well suited to search and rescue missions – including deep sea operations, medical evacuations, and mass rescue incidents. The vessel that was chosen to fulfil this role is the 14m SAR (search and rescue) ORC (offshore rescue craft).

Mark Hughes, NSRI Executive Director of Capital Projects, has driven the project for the past seven years.  Mark and his team spent three years researching a tried and tested rescue vessel that fitted the NSRI’s requirements, visiting sea rescue organisations and marine manufacturers abroad in search of the perfect vessel.  Mark found this vessel in the form of a 14m SAR ORC in France, designed by naval architects Pantocarene and manufactured by Bernard Shipyard in France.

The seas off the coast of South Africa are notorious for often being austere and treacherous. The new self-righting and purpose-built rescue vessel is designed for rescue operations in extreme conditions. At 14.8 m long and 4.8 m wide, she can be deployed on rescue operations as far as 50 nautical miles (over 92km) from land and has an expected lifespan of at least 40 years. She can easily handle force 6- 8 seas.

The decision was taken to build the first ORC to completion in France and the second vessel was built as a hull, deck, and bulkheads in France, to be completed locally in South Africa.

For the NSRI, it was critical that the ORCs, with the exception of Hull#1, were manufactured in South Africa, and an extensive selection of a suitable marine manufacturers followed, with Two Oceans Marine Manufacturing being selected as the boatyard to carry out the builds.

Founded in 1989, Two Oceans Marine manufacturing specialises in custom and semi-custom power and sailing catamarans from 27 to 150 foot. Two Oceans has 13 000 square meters of covered factory floor space at the Cape Town Harbour/Port and around 430 staff.

The company manufactures luxury power, custom cruising, performance sailing, day charter, sport fishing and commercial catamarans, as well as offshore rescue craft and is one of only a few large custom power and sailing catamaran manufacturers in the world.

Two Oceans Marine Manufacturing has 33 years of experience building power catamarans. The smaller power catamarans Two Oceans Marine manufactures (27-46 foot) are known as Magnum Power Catamarans. This range is very popular for sport fishing far offshore and capable of handling very rough seas. The Magnum Power Catamaran is also highly customisable, and Two Oceans Marine has manufactured many commercial variations of these vessels, including for use as patrol boats and research vessels for various organisations and oil and gas corporations on the African continent. It was therefore an easy step for the team at Two Oceans to transfer this experience and knowledge to the building of the ORC.

Several changes/customisations were made to the original ORC design by Pantocarene, most notably:

  • The addition of a flybridge
  • The original design has a tender on the aft deck that launched on the transom – the NSRI replaced this with a big aft deck to load and offload and work on patients/survivors and for helicopters to be able to pick up and drop off survivors
  • A suspended wheelhouse on a polymer mounting

After a two-year long build project in France of Hull#1 and Hull#2, they were successfully delivered in Cape Town at no charge by NSRI local partner, Safmarine, on 28 March 2019.

Hull#1 was commissioned and launched, and Two Oceans Marine Manufacturing immediately began construction of the moulds for Hull#3 onwards from the hull, deck and bulkheads of Hull#2, and the completion of the build of Hull#2.

The first 100% locally manufactured ORC (Hull#3) was launched in November 2021, and Hull#4 was launched on 1 June 2022. Two Oceans Marine Manufacturing is scheduled to build nine vessels, completing the build programme by 2030.

The old fleet of Class 1 rescue vessels were built in the 1980s. Therefore, there are significant technology advancements on the new ORCs, and they have the latest instrumentation and navigation equipment. The other main differences between the NSRI’s old Class 1 rescue vessels and the new builds are:

  • The new ORCS are plaining hull vessels, and self-righting. They can handle much rougher sea states than the old fleet.
  • The new ORCs can carry around 6 crew and 29 survivors. The old Class 1 rescue vessels can only carry 6 crew and 10 survivors.
  • The new ORCs have a suspended wheelhouse, significantly reducing noise and vibration in the cabin.
  • The new ORCS are significantly more fuel efficient, and have a range of 250 nautical Miles at 20 knots, versus the range of the old Class 1 rescue vessels’ range of 140 nautical Miles at 14 knots.
  • Crew comfort is significantly increased by the higher functionality, handling ability and shock mitigating seats.
  • The new vessels are fully air conditioned.
  • The new vessels all have an outside helm position, which makes handling in close quarter conditions easier.
  • Maintenance and checks on the engine room are easier by the ability of the crew to walk around in the engine room.

Medical equipment onboard includes all standard first responder equipment, a stretcher, oxygen, full basic life support kit, and an AED.

Says Mark Delany, MD of Two Oceans Marine Manufacturing, “We are proud to partner with the NSRI in the manufacture of their new Class 1 Offshore Rescue Crafts. Our team are doing a wonderful job in building truly beautiful and quality robust vessels, and we are excited about the future builds and our long-term relationship and commitment to NSRI. Working with the NSRI on this project is a true pleasure, and of course the NSRI’s input into the SA boat building industry and economy is invaluable – providing and supporting numerous families both directly and indirectly. Most of all, we are honoured and proud to be building vessels that will save many lives over the many years ahead. The work the NSRI do is important beyond measure for any water user in South Africa.

“The NSRI are extremely proud to partner with Two Oceans Marine Manufacturing in our Class 1 Rescue vessel replacement program”, says Dr Cleeve Robertson, NSRI CEO. “ They are truly a fantastic company to work with, with them going the extra mile to help us in achieving our Class 1 fleet replacement programme. To date, four ORCs have been built and launched with a further five or more still to be built in the coming years. Two Oceans Marine Manufacturing attention to detail in the build process has been outstanding in producing a world class Search and Rescue Vessel that will serve NSRI for 40 years.”


Exterior images courtesy of Simon McDonnell –

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