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Discussing SAR at the IMO

Posted in News

The International Maritime Organization (IMO)’s Sub-Committee on Safety of Navigation, Communications and SAR (NCSR) is the principal forum for the discussion of maritime SAR at the international, United Nations, level. It reports to IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee.

Much of NCSR’s work relates to navigational and communications issues not directly relevant to SAR.

On the other hand, much of the detailed work on SAR and emergency communications is done for both IMO and the International Civil Aviation Organization by a Joint Working Group.

This Group also acts as the editorial body for the International Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue (IAMSAR) Manual. The Joint Working Group reports to IMO via NCSR.

IMRF’s policy on advocacy, as a “non-governmental organisation in consultative status” at the IMO, requires us to be represented at NCSR and Joint Working Group meetings.

In recent years the IMRF has contributed significantly to the Joint Working Group’s work, and hence to that of NCSR – and so to the improvement of maritime SAR at the highest level.

Some of the issues to be discussed at NCSR’s February 2018 session are as follows.


IAMSAR Amendments

We are now at the end of the three-year IAMSAR Manual editorial cycle. Amendments agreed by the Joint Working Group last October (see the November edition of LIFE LINE, in the newsletter archive (new window) will be considered at NCSR this month and passed to the Maritime Safety Committee for formal approval prior to publication of the next edition of the Manual in 2019.

There is a particularly heavy load of IAMSAR amendments on this occasion, and the IMRF has been deeply involved in their preparation.


Unsafe Mixed Migration

The Maritime Safety Committee noted the continuing problem of “unsafe mixed migration at sea” at its June 2017 meeting. Member States and international organizations reaffirmed their concerns and agreed that the way forward was to promote appropriate and effective action at the United Nations; which the IMO Secretary-General, Kitack Lim, is seeking to do.

Maritime SAR is not a long-term solution to a humanitarian problem originating on land. The meeting also noted the paucity of formal reporting of such rescue cases at sea, which does not help in maintaining focus on this problem at the UN level.

The IMRF supports IMO’s efforts to take further action on this appalling situation, and encourages proper reporting for the sake of all concerned – including the rescuers.


Revision of SOLAS Chapters III & IV

The IMRF has been monitoring the modernisation of the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS), intervening at earlier stages to make two main points:

1. Every effort should be made to minimise the cost of modernisation to RCCs and other SAR responders; and
The needs of small craft (artisanal fishermen, for example) should be borne in mind, as the GMDSS applies, and should continue to apply, to anyone in distress at sea.

We are co-sponsoring a paper prepared by France which aims to ensure that SAR communications are protected as Chapters III & IV of the SOLAS Convention are revised as part of the GMDSS modernisation process.


Definitions of the Phases of Emergency

The three emergency phases – distress, urgency & uncertainty – are each defined in IMO’s Maritime SAR Convention, the Convention on International Civil Aviation, and the IAMSAR Manual; and in each document they are defined differently.

This mis-match should be resolved In the interests of clarity, with common definitions agreed, but efforts to do so have failed so far. The IMRF supports further work on this: see ‘Defining Distress(new window).


Sharing Information to Improve Global SAR

The Joint Working Group has proposed that a reference to the IMRF as a SAR information source should be added to Volumes I & II of the IAMSAR Manual, in its forthcoming 2019 edition.

The IMRF secretariat will be reviewing our procedures to ensure that our information-sharing resources are as user-friendly as possible.

We will include a report on this month’s meeting of NCSR in our next newsletter.



For more news, check out the IMRF News Archive - News Articles today!

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