mob 1 cr smMilford: Northeast Fisheries Science Center's Milford Laboratory has developed a “Man Overboard” rescue Device. The device is the invention of Robert Alix, captain of the Lab’s 49-foot research vessel Victor Loosanoff, and Werner Schreiner, a former deck hand on the boat, developed the Man Overboard Recovery device, or MOB, and a U.S. patent is pending. The rights belong to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the parent organization of NOAA Fisheries.

“We thought it would be useful and could save lives, especially on small boats that usually have a small crew,” said Alix, who came up with the idea with Werner about five years ago during safety training in local waters.  “It is hard enough to get a person who is conscious and cooperative into a boat with high freeboard, but much harder if the person is unconscious and cannot help in their own rescue.”

The device allows a single rescuer to attach a lifting sling to a person in the water without the need for a second rescuer to enter the water and without help from the victim, who may be unresponsive. A lifting sling, constructed of nylon webbing similar to automotive seat belt material, and a section of rope are attached to a wishbone-shaped ‘Y” at the end of a long handle.

According to a release from the Milford lab, Alix and Werner approached NOAA’s Technology Partnership Office for help after doing some research on their own. “The patent process is a lengthy one, even with legal help,” Alix said. “We’ve spent between $5,000 and $6,000 on the prototypes and legal fees so far, but we have a patent pending so we are making progress. We are looking for a manufacturer who may be able to further test and refine the design, and hope to hear something about the patent application in the next six months or so.”  

"Bob Alix approached me when I was conducting training at the Millford Lab.  He showed me the MOB device and how useful it could be in a limited crew situation,” said Derek Parks, technology transfer program manager for NOAA.  “I thought the idea sounded very interesting, so I did some research and found there could be an opportunity for a U.S. patent on the device. Regardless of the outcome of the patent application, we would love to see this device manufactured and used as broadly as possible in the future. It would be a great legacy for Bob and another contribution from NOAA towards saving lives."

Alix believes the market for this device would be vessels from about 25 feet to 75 feet long with relatively high freeboard (the distance from the waterline to the upper edge of the side of the boat) and no dedicated rescue craft such as a rigid hull inflatable boat. These vessels typically have freeboard that is too high to grab and pull a victim up and out of the water by hand. The device might also appeal to search and rescue teams, to vessels that carry passengers for hire, commercial fishing vessels, and to some larger recreational vessels.

The Northeast Fisheries Science Center conducts ecosystem-based science supporting stewardship of living marine resources under changing climatic conditions.