Marine Search and Rescue

Marine search and rescue in Victoria is moving forward with significant change taking place within the sector to make it more collaborative, effective and sustainable.

This MSAR-dedicated web page has been created to inform you about changes happening within the sector and to keep you updated about the latest news, project information and meeting agendas and minutes.

Implementing a new direction for the marine search and rescue sector provides a significant opportunity to build on past achievement and set a long-term vision aligned with our “We Work As One Approach”.

Marine Search and Rescue Newsletter

The MSAR eNews will be published monthly. If you have any stories or photos to add to the newsletter you can email them to (External link).

Anyone is welcome to subscribe to the newsletter. (External link)

Marine Search and Rescue in Victoria

In response to a Parliamentary Inquiry into Marine Rescue Services, the State Government outlined a plan to improve the effectiveness of the marine search and rescue sector, build capability and better support volunteers.

Emergency Management Commissioner Craig Lapsley was appointed by the government in February 2016 to implement a new direction for marine search and rescue in Victoria.

The reform process aims to:

  • Establish new accountable governance arrangement that enables volunteer marine search and rescue providers to contribute to the decision-making process;
  • Develop a MSAR Office by June 2016 to provide a coordinated and collaborative approach to develop strategies, policies and programs; and
  • Introduce common standards and training across the industry to ensure safe and consistent delivery and enable marine search and rescue units to work together during operations.

These changes will support the 1,000 volunteers that currently provide marine rescue services across Victoria.

Victoria Police will remain the control agency responsible for the coordination of marine search and rescue.

2014 Inquiry into Marine Rescue Services in Victoria (External link)

2015 State Government Response (External link)

Progress So Far:

Emergency Management Victoria has been working with volunteer marine search and rescue units, Victoria Police and Transport Safety Victoria to develop an interim strategy outlining operating arrangements to lead the sector into the future.

The Marine Search and Rescue Office has been established to provide a coordinated and collaborative approach to the development of strategy, policies and programs. Russell Rees has been appointed as the initial Program Director to develop governance structures and an implementation plan to start to address current challenges within the sector.

Three regional consultative forums have been held with the marine search and rescue community to gain a sector-wide understanding of what change is required and how it can be achieved. More than 150 people attended the forums held in Port Melbourne, Colac and Traralgon.

Key topics discussed at the forum included new organisational arrangements, development and implementation of the initial work plan, operating costs, training and communications.

For more information about the issues discussed at the forum download the following presentations Introduction (External link) (PDF) and Regional Forums (External link) (PDF).

Reform Implementation Board

The Reform Implementation Board is responsible for developing and implementing a Reform Implementation Plan. It will focus on identifying necessary changes to statutory and policy frameworks, explore ways to more adequately and reliably fund the MSAR sector and look for opportunities to secure sustainable capability for MSAR providers.

The membership of the Reform Implementation Board includes:

  • Emergency Management Commissioner (Chair)
  • Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources
  • Emergency Management Victoria (EMV)
  • Transport Safety Victoria
  • Victoria Police
  • Head of the MSAR Office
  • Volunteer Advisors

The two Volunteer Advisors on the Reform Implementation Board and the Working Group were appointed by the Victorian State Council of Australian Volunteer Coast Guard and elected the independent providers respectively.

The Reform Implementation Board reports to the Emergency Management Commissioner and is guided by the outcomes from the MSAR Working Group. It meets quarterly. Further information on the role and responsibilities of the Reform Implementation Board can be found in the Terms of Reference 


MSAR Working Group 

The MSAR Working Group is made up of representatives from all of the MSAR providers, supporting agencies, relevant government departments and the volunteer advisors.

It is responsible for developing and executing a MSAR Reform Implementation Plan which sets out the big picture vision for the sector and the long-term goals needed to get there.

Development of the plan will include:

  • Producing a state MSAR strategy based on a risk assessment informed by local knowledge
  • Understanding the current and required capability
  • Creating common standards and training and exercise programs
  • Establishing a common accreditation process
  • Identifying any necessary changes to statutory and policy frameworks

The Working Group will also advise on funding, develop processes for coordinated procurement and resource allocation and identify opportunities for increased capability including the recruitment and retention of volunteers. The group meets quarterly and reports to the Reform Implementation Board.

More information on the role and responsibilities of the Working Group can be found in the Terms of Reference 

Initial Work Plan

The Initial Work Plan sets out the operational arrangements of the sector that need to be reviewed to create a more efficient and coordinated approach to marine search and rescue across the board.

The initial work plan looks at:

  • Risk and capability
  • Operating costs
  • Capital investment
  • Training
  • Communications and Information
  • Interim arrangements

Key components of the Initial Work Plan include state-wide assessments and information gathering to map arrangements across the sector, identify any gaps or duplication and evaluate what is needed to improve capability.

For more information on the Initial Work Plan download this presentation (PDF).

MSAR Stakeholders

MSAR Office

MSAR service providers

  • Victoria Police (control agency)
  • Apollo Bay Marine Rescue
  • Australian Volunteer Coast Guard Association
  • Ocean Grove Coast Watch
  • Port Fairy Marine Rescue Service
  • Southern Peninsula Rescue Squad
  • Torquay Marine Rescue
  • Volunteer Marine Rescue Mornington and Hastings

MSAR organisations

  • Ambulance Victoria
  • CFA
  • Life Saving Victoria
  • MFB
  • SES

Supporting agencies

  • Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority
  • Parks Victoria

Relevant government departments/agencies

  • Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources
  • Emergency Management Victoria
  • Transport Safety Victoria


Maritime Safety Victoria (MSV) has a long tradition of working closely with the Volunteer Marine Rescue (VMR) community to:

  • provide a safe environment for search and rescue activities
  • advance safety in boating
  • educate the public about how to stay safe on the water.

To keep up to date with the latest information please subscribe to the MSAR eNews. (External link)