29 June-1 July 2017, Casablanca, Morocco was the venue for the annual meetings of the North and West Africa and West Africa Regional SAR Committees.

The three days of meetings provided an opportunity for the countries to update developments since the 2016 meeting. Mr Mohammed Drissi of Morocco, Chairman of the North and West Committee and coordinating the IMRF Global SAR Development project in Africa, provided an overview of the regional achievements over 2015-2016 with 10 Regional SAR Development Meetings, 19 SAR Training courses and 210 people trained.

"We have managed to continue the momentum of SAR training and Regional meetings provided through the support of the IMRF and the IMO Technical Cooperation Committee (IMO TCC). We have developed African SAR trainers, run regional SAR exercises (SAREX), and most importantly have extended the development activity to all 5 African Regions," said Mr Drissi, "We have also heard today of the work being done by the 14 countries attending this meeting to improve their SAR coordination structures and capabilities. We are seeing more countries establishing SAR committees and adopting national SAR Plans, which augurs well for the future of Africa SAR services."

As well as the meetings of the two regional committees, two workshop sessions were held by the IMRF. Jonas Olsen, the Chief Strategy Officer with Orolia/McMurdo led discussions on the regional challenge of keeping the small scale and artisanal fishermen safe.

Africa fishing fleet is an estimated 679,000* with more than 95% of these boats under 23 metres.

One of the ways to find solutions is to move away from a pure safety solution by aligning it with the national security and economic interests, and linking with economic and development opportunities, such as providing fishers with better information at sea and access to auctioning for their catch. 

"The IMRF GSD Project here in Africa has real momentum," says IMRF CEO Bruce Reid "The past 3 days have demonstrated the value of having a plan that is a combination of regular meetings to review progress, regional trainings developing the core skills and workshops to discuss common challenges. The support of the project we now have from the TK Foundation, local sponsors the IMO TCC and German Federal Ministry of Transport, Building and Urban Development, means we can continue the development work until the end of 2019."

*2016 FAO-The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture