The International Maritime Organization (IMO)’s Sub-Committee on Safety of Navigation, Communications and Search and Rescue (NCSR) is the lead technical SAR forum at the international level.

The IMRF – as a Non-Governmental Organisation with consultative status at the IMO – attends its annual meetings as part of our advocacy role on behalf of the global SAR community.

NCSR deals with many matters not directly relevant to SAR, and much of its detailed SAR work is itself delegated to a Joint Working Group of the IMO and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), which also meets annually. Over the years the IMRF has helped with several significant items of the Joint Working Group’s work.

This year’s NCSR meeting ran from 16-25 January, and our CEO, Theresa Crossley, attended the relevant parts of it, together with David Jardine-Smith of the Secretariat and Andreas Arvidsson, coordinator of the African SAR capability survey we are conducting on IMO’s behalf.

An IMRF report of the latest NCSR meeting can be found on our website on the IMO Documents - IMO Meeting Reports page, and the full IMO report will be posted there in due course. But here are some of the highlights in the meantime.

IMRF Information Paper

At the suggestion of a member of the IMO Secretariat, the IMRF submitted an information paper to NCSR which summarised our recent and current SAR development activities.

The paper was noted by the meeting and we were thanked for it.

The Report of the ICAO/IMO Joint Working Group on SAR Significant points in the report to NCSR of the September 2018 meeting of the JWG included:

Concerns raised about international SAR cooperation in the face of the migrant crisis.
Further discussion of what counts as a distress situation, including in the context of increasing numbers of unmanned air- and water craft. The IMRF’s position is that only if people are in grave or imminent danger can an incident count as a distress case; but the relevant international Conventions, written when unmanned craft were not an issue, are not clear on this.
The Joint Working Group recommends the IMRF’s website as a means of sharing SAR information. We are currently conducting a thorough review of our site, to make it more user-friendly.
Work on simplified international SAR agreements is ongoing, to improve liaison arrangements across borders.
The percentage of Cospas-Sarsat SAR points of contact (SPOCs) that are insufficiently responsive, or do not respond at all, to communication tests remains a concern. Distress beacon alerts detected by satellite are delivered to a local SPOC to instigate a SAR response – which will not happen if the SPOC does not react.
It was agreed that efforts to improve this situation should be continued.

List of Documents Recommended to Be Held by a Maritime or Joint Rescue Coordination Centre

This list was reviewed and amendments, including some proposed by the IMRF, were agreed.

The list and – where they are freely available – the documents themselves can be obtained from the IMRF, and IMO publications available for purchase may be bought via our online bookshop, at a 20% discount to IMRF member organisations.

Model Courses on SAR

The IMRF has recently participated in the overdue review of IMO’s model course on the role of the SAR Mission Coordinator, the results of which were agreed by NCSR.

There are two more model courses relating to SAR, on SAR administration and the On Scene Coordinator role. The three together relate to the three volumes of the International Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue (IAMSAR) Manual.

An IMRF suggestion was also agreed that the Joint Working Group will in future review these model courses in a six-year cycle matched to the three-year review cycle for the Manual.

Problems with LED lighting

The IMRF has previously raised concerns that some Light Emitting Diode (LED) aeronautical obstruction and hazard lights, and some distress alerting devices equipped with LED lights or strobes, are not detectable on Night Vision Devices (NVD).

Now the International Association of Lighthouse Authorities has noted that some LED-fitted marine aids to navigation are similarly difficult to detect when using NVD.

IMRF Members are reminded to note this issue and to take it up with the relevant national authorities as necessary.

Future meetings at which the IMRF will be represented include the 26th session of the ICAO/IMO Joint Working Group on SAR, which will be held in Chile, 9-13 September 2019 and the seventh session of NCSR, expected to take place 15-24 January 2020.