Like all great ideas, Safe Passage fused real-world need with a chance encounter, sudden inspiration and the right team.

The problem facing the world’s lifeboat and rescue services

Many estuary channels around the world are unsafe to navigate due to shifting mud and sand pushed by water currents.

Vessels operating in areas around the world with large tidal ranges and shifting sands rely on local knowledge and hope that channels have not moved since the last known safe passage. As a result, there are areas of potential leisure and commercial development that are under used. 

Rescue services need to navigate at speed. In the absence of meaningful charts or any visible marine markers at night, knowing the course of the channel is vital to reach casualties – not having this intelligence would quickly make the rescue services become casualties themselves. 

At the moment, estuaries with shifting channels must be regularly mapped by manually taking depth soundings. Nith Inshore Rescue take fortnightly trips around the Solway Firth, mapping channels that will be safe for them to use in case of an emergency call out. This is time-consuming and labour intensive. A map could also become quickly out-of-date without their painstaking effort. 

The spark for a solution: Safe Passage

It was the problem faced by rescue services that gave Creative Help founder and co-director, Gwilym Gibbons, an idea. A lifeboat volunteer himself, in 2019 Gwilym attended an Innovate UK event that gave him an idea to help lifeboat teams like his.

At the Innovate UK event, Gwilym attended a talk by Pam Anderson, the European Space Agency (ESA) Business Ambassador for Scotland and Northern Ireland. Pam spoke about the potential for satellite data to support new business applications. 

After the talk, Gwilym contacted Pam with an idea for an application to use satellite data to map shifting sands and support rescue services. At the time, the work was deemed not to be advanced enough for an ESA Business Applications proposal. So, through the Scottish Centre for Excellence in Satellite Applications (SoXSA), a team at the University of Strathclyde was identified that could help to progress the work through its initial stages.

And so, work began on the Safe Passage proposal.

Our development

Find out how the Safe Passage idea became a proposal.

Opportunity to partner or invest

The possibilities that Safe Passage offers and how you can support us.