Today, VISAR is the official search and rescue service in the British Virgin Islands, providing 24 hour cover every day of the year, in close co-operation with the Royal British Virgin Islands police, fire, and ambulance services. VISAR works closely with the United States Coastguard and is internationally recognized by the International Maritime Rescue Federation (IMRF) as a full member.
Since its formation, VISAR has carried out over 1,600 search and rescue missions. Since 2014, we have launched our rescue vessels over 400 times and spent over 500 hours responding to marine emergencies. Our fully trained volunteer crew, trainees and coordinators have given over 22,000 hours of their personal time to train, attend meetings and dedicate themselves to VISAR’s mission of “Saving Lives at Sea.” With the significant growth in charter yachting and boating in the BVI, the demand for VISAR’s service is growing annually and the organisation is keeping pace by working to upgrade its boats and equipment, as well as raising levels of crew training.
Search and Rescue can be a difficult and dangerous job, and it requires regular training and sincere dedication. Many of our volunteers do not come from a marine background, so we have to provide first-class training to make sure our crews have the skills they need to save lives.
• Two AEDs [Automatic Emergency Defibrillator]
• Back-board and straps
• Two oxygen cylinders
• Blood pressure cuff
• CPR masks
• Eye wash
• Ventolin Inhaler
• SAM Splints
• Vacuum Splints
• Traction splint kit
• KED [Kendrick Extrication Device]
• Cervical Collars
• Search lights
• Two spare fuel caddies
• Life jackets for use by casualties
• Spare parts and tools in case of breakdown
• Capsize lights
• CO2 self-righting bad on the radar arch of the stern
• Raymarine C120 I w GPS and Chart plotter
• Water proof cellular phone
• Satellite phone
• Tablet with internet connection to send updates on casualties
• Two Commandmic VHF’s
• Two Handheld VHF’sxtrication Device
VISAR has two base stations; one in Road Reef Marina, Tortola and the second in Virgin Gorda Yacht Harbour. Tortola has a 32-foot Parker 1000 Baltic RIB, powered by twin 300 hp outboard engines. On station in Virgin Gorda is a 28-foot TP Marine RIB, powered by twin 225 hp outboard engines.
When out on an active emergency call (known as a shout) the vessel is manned by a Helm, a #2, a Medic and up to an additional three Crew members. Each boat can take a maximum of two casualties on backboards and either one family member or the doctor/nurse treating the casualty on scene.
Tortola Action Representative
Tortola Crew Representative
Virgin Gorda Crew Representative
Executive Creative Director
On February 1, 2017, while on a cruise, I went on a dive excursion. It started out fine, but soon into the dive, I began to experience difficulty in breathing due to a chest cold. I told the dive master I needed to ascend and proceeded to the surface. The next thing I remember was regaining consciousness in the Peebles Hospital ER. I wasn’t aware of anything going on at the time, of course, but I have since learned that from the time the distress call came into VISAR’s base at 10:45 am, 38 minutes later, I was at Peebles Hospital. WOW!! Especially in my case, why is this such a big deal? During my four days in ICU, I was told that when I arrived at the ER, my organs had begun to shut down. The doctor’s comment was actually “it was critical that you got here so fast”. I started to ask what she meant, but then stopped because I realized the answer. I truly owe my life to VISAR and will financially support it for the rest of my life.Jack Erb Texas, USA
Very helpful and caring. Last night, they rescued my nephew, Alex, a fisherman and his family at sea. God bless all of them for putting their lives at risk to rescue others.Darlene Penn British Virgin Islands
To the guys who volunteered their services, thank you so much for coming to the rescue of Dave, after he dislocated his artificial hip. We so appreciated your thorough assessment of David’s situation and want to thank you wholeheartedly. You’re the best! Thank you!Anonymous British Virgin Islands
I truly owe your team my life. I don’t even know how to begin to thank you for giving me a second chance at life. What an amazingly special group of men and women you all are, I wish I could explain how thankful and grateful I am that you came to my rescue, but I will find a way to thank you properly. You are all such special people and you will always have a big place in our hearts. Thank you, thank you, thank youAmy British Virgin Islands
I lost balance and fell into the shower cracking several ribs on the lip of the shower. Then I tried standing next to the bar in the salon. As I was standing, I started to get lightheaded. I immediately sat down again.
Our boat was anchored near Bitter End Yacht Club. Your boat showed up in approximately 30-45 minutes. They carefully loaded my wife and I on the rescue boat and we started toward Tortola. They put me on oxygen which proved to be a wise idea. As it turned out I had punctured the sac around my left lung and had severe internal bleeding that was impeding my breathing. As a result of the wonderful assistance that I got from your volunteers, I expect to make a full recovery. For that, I am extremely grateful and write to tell you my gratitude. Please convey my deep gratitude to your volunteers. They saved my life.David USA
During a dive at the RMS Rhone, one of my Sergeant’s experienced a medical emergency at a depth of about 50 feet…A crew of three VISAR volunteers responded to the scene within about 20 minutes of the phone call. The crew was extremely professional, knowledgeable, and reassuring. Thankfully, Sergeant Henderson made a quick recovery and further treatment was not necessary.
From one group of first responders to another, I would like to thank the volunteers who responded that day for their time, effort and dedication to public service