Lack of lifeguards worries Algarve beach concessionaires

Dealers are beginning to face the problem that «every year they feel»

Photo: Bárbara Caetano | Sul Informação

Algarve beach concessionaires are concerned about the lack of lifeguards for the bathing season, arguing that the number of rescuers outside the high season should be able to be reduced, a sector official told Lusa.

Artur Simão, president of the Association of Industrial and Similar Concessionaires of the Beaches of the Orla Marítima do Algarve (AISCOMA), said that the requirement of two lifeguards «is already difficult to fulfill in the bathing season», suggesting the reduction of the number to guarantee help in concessions in periods of lower influx.

«Out of the bathing season, for anything to open, it has to work with two lifeguards. I think that, in these times, when things are not profitable, it would be good form to have only one lifeguard. Several concessions perhaps opened and the beaches already had, at certain times, a lifeguard. It's better to have one than not have one," he said.

With the bathing season in the Algarve usually starting on the 15th of May, in Albufeira, and on the 1st of June, in the rest of the region, concessionaires are starting to face the problem that «every year they feel» and which is linked to with a lack of sufficient lifeguards to meet the needs.

In the last week, the National Maritime Authority (AMN) reported six rescue operations, a total of 11 people, three of whom died, two in Sesimbra and one in Matosinhos, accidents that are increasingly frequent in the months when beaches are not supervised.

In the Algarve, a 27-year-old US citizen who dived into the sea from a cliff in Vila do Bispo remains missing since Friday after several days of unsuccessful searches.

“Not enough lifeguards have been trained for the market. And if it weren't for some immigrants, Brazilians and others, I don't know what this would be», said the AISCOMA leader, who said he still did not have data on the exact number of professionals needed and missing for the next bathing season.

Artur Simão regretted that "no investment was made" in preparing people to help on the beaches and warned that "it is necessary to train" lifeguards, but also to move towards the professionalization of these workers.

«In most cases, it is the concessionaires of the bathing units who guarantee the safety of the beaches and, of course, as long as there is no professionalism for people to work all year round and there is this guarantee, the problem will always arise», he warned.

The president of AISCOMA noted that the people who help on the beach «often are young men who study and do the bathing season» as lifeguards, or else «work for a while» of the bathing season and then «become unemployed, go to the unemployment fund".

Added to these difficulties is the fact that the licenses are valid for three years, Artur Simão also argued, stressing that “before the pandemic there were already these shortages” and, of course, “they got worse”.

According to current legislation, the Instituto de Socorros a Náufragos (ISN) is the regulatory authority for matters related to assistance to bathers and the legal regime of lifeguards.

Exercising these competences, and in order to have the largest possible number of lifeguards, the ISN maintained the validity of the licenses «until the end of the calendar year in which the three years of certification are reached», so they are considered «valid, up to 31 December, all cards issued by the ISN within the scope of professional lifeguard activity, which expire between 1 January and 30 December».