Marine Search and Rescue

About Marine Search and Rescue

Marine Search and Rescue (MSAR) units across the state play an extremely important role in the safety of boaters around Victoria's coastline, out at sea, and in many of our inland waterways.

Rescues can range from assisting sinking vessels, vessels with flat batteries and other mechanical problems, vessels that have run aground and towing these disabled vessels back to safe harbour.

As well, when emergencies arise, some MSAR units may be called upon to perform medical evacuation responses to hard to reach islands and beaches and to provide crucial search and rescue functions for persons who may be lost or missing on our waterways.

MSAR is made up of over 800 volunteers comprising:

  • 19 Australia Volunteer Coast Guard flotillas
  • 7 Independent MSAR units
  • 4 Life Saving Victoria clubs
  • 1 State Emergency Service unit

In addition, there is a raft of State Emergency Service units across the state that also respond to a significant amount of inland marine incidents and responses, particularly on waterways where there is no dedicated service.


The 2014 Parliamentary Inquiry into Marine Rescue Services in Victoria found that the governance and regulation of the volunteer MSAR sector was not sufficient enough to support an effective service.

The government's response to the Inquiry Report in February 2016, committed to a high-level plan to implement the necessary reforms.

Part of the response involved the establishment of an MSAR Office within EMV to engage the sector, establish more appropriate governance arrangements, operational command and control systems, accreditation processes for units to identify future training, equipment and funding needs. 

A Marine Search and Rescue Working Group was established in 2016 to develop the overarching strategy for the sector, as well as have an operational focus on the strategy's delivery.

A strategic decision-making body called the MSAR Reform Implementation Board was also established to oversee initial implementation of proposed reforms. The Reform Implementation Board is guided by the advice of the MSAR Working Group and incudes:

  • The Emergency Management Commissioner (Chair)
  • Victoria Police
  • Transport Safety Victoria
  • Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources
  • Head of the MSAR Office within EMV
  • Two volunteer advisors comprising one from the Australian Volunteer Coast Guard and one representing the independent MSAR units

Three other committees have also been established to support the reform program including: 

  • the MSAR Finance and Insurance Project Group 
  • the MSAR Vessel, Risk and Capability Project Group 
  • the MSAR Training and Assessment Project Group 

Marine Search and Rescue News

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

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



MSAR Profiles: Meet some of the people behind the scenes

Harry Ferrier

Coast Guard Marlo Commander has been involved in marine search and rescue for over 30 years.

He speaks about his passion for the sea. To read his story click here (External link).


Australian Volunteer Coast Guard St Kilda

St Kilda Coast Guard is a busy outfit with 65 volunteers responding to incidents and rescues. 

Hit the play button to hear more about what they do.