Sea rescue The theme for this year’s Nordic joint issue is life at sea and Norway has chosen sea rescue as the subject for its stamp.
The coastline of Norway – not counting the fjords and bays – is 2,650 km long. With them, it is approximately 21,000 km long, about half the length of the equator. Off this coast, we have some of the most inhospitable sea areas in the world, often stormy and freezing cold, with fog and rain or snow. These challenging waters are the home of extensive maritime activities, fisheries and oil and gas installations. Accidents cannot always be avoided and people can find themselves in distress. This calls for an efficient sea rescue service.
The first organized rescue service in Norway was the result of a private initiative that led to the founding of the Norwegian Society for Sea Rescue in 1891. This service was gradually extended to cover the whole coast. As time went on, public involvement grew and other private and non-profit organizations began to take an increasing part in various rescue operations. In the 1950s it became obvious that the lines of responsibility were not clear and that the sea rescue service was struggling under a lack of coordination. In 1959 a government commission tabled a proposal to coordinate the search and rescue services, thus laying the foundation for greater public coordination of the service. A number of serious accidents in the second half of the 1960s also led to the establishment of joint rescue coordination centres in Bodo and Stavanger and rescue sub-centres in every police district in the country. At the same time a modern, professional rescue helicopter service was established along the coast.
The Norwegian Search and Rescue Service can be described as a nationwide communal effort in which public agencies collaborate with non-profit and voluntary organisations such as the Norwegian Society for Sea Rescue, the Norwegian Red Cross, the Norwegian People’s Aid and the Norwegian Radio Relay League. The individual operations are led and coordinated by the two joint rescue coordination centres.