The IMRF attends meetings of the International Maritime Organization’s Sub-Committee on Safety of Navigation, Communications and Search and Rescue (NCSR), the Technical Cooperation Committee and other Committees and Sub-Committees as appropriate, and contributes to the work of NCSR’s SAR Working Group.

The IMRF is also represented as an observer at the meetings of the ICAO / IMO Joint Working Group on SAR, where it has played an active role in developing SAR guidance and in the revision of the IAMSAR Manual in particular. Here we look at some of the work.

The next meeting of the NCSR will take place in London on 16-25 January. This is the lead technical meeting on SAR internationally – but its agenda ranges much more widely and is very full, as is indicated by the meeting being scheduled for eight days instead of the usual five.

The IMRF will attend the Sub-Committee meeting, and will present a paper detailing some of our work in recent years. It’s only when we sit down to summarise our activities that we realise how much we manage to get done!

The paper will mention our global SAR development projects, particularly in Africa, where we have been working in close cooperation with the IMO’s Technical Cooperation Division.

Since 2012 we have assisted with 14 regional SAR development meetings and 29 training courses in various aspects of SAR, with a total of 425 trainees attending. Two further development meetings and three training events (for a total of 43 people) are currently planned.

The paper will also mention our recent work at the IMO itself, where we have played an active role in developing SAR guidance, particularly in the revision of the International Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue (IAMSAR) Manual.

For example, we have helped with: 

•   improved distribution of IMO guidance, including a library of relevant IMO Circulars – see IMO Documents.
revision of IMO’s guidelines for preparing plans for cooperation between SAR services and passenger ships
work on the modernisation of the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) with a view to ensuring that it is as inclusive as practicable
sharing SAR lessons identified and other information of value to the SAR community: the IMRF’s website is currently being revised with this service in mind
assisting the review of IMO’s Model Course on SAR Mission Coordination
supporting efforts to address the ‘non-responsive SPOC’ problem: SAR Points of Contact are used to alert SAR services to emergency beacon alerts, but some are unreliable
encouraging States to enter and maintain SAR service information on IMO’s Global Integrated Shipping Information System (GISIS)
review of the IMO’s guidance on recovery techniques
amendment of the IAMSAR Volume II material on cold water search time considerations
amendments to IAMSAR’s 2016 & 2019 editions stemming from IMRF’s mass rescue operations (MRO) project
reorganisation of IAMSAR Volume III to improve its user-friendliness
consideration of the definitions of the phases of emergency in the IAMSAR Manual
in support of the International Committee of the Red Cross, revision of the IAMSAR text on the Second Geneva Convention.

The paper notes the IMRF’s work with the IMO in helping to meet key Sustainable Development Goals by providing learning opportunities (SDG 4); contributing to the building of resilient infrastructure and fostering innovation (SDG 9); and strengthening the means of implementation (SDG17). For the future, the IMRF will particularly encourage the participation of women in its SAR training and events. This is in line with SDG 5 (empowering women and girls), which will also be a focus for IMO in 2019.

Our other projects are also mentioned: rescue boat guidance and training; the Crew Exchange project; our panels on fundraising and public communication, and on future technology; and the mass rescue operations project. To date we have held four international MRO conferences, ten national or regional MRO workshops designed to assist local planning, and two subject-matter expert courses, intended primarily for MRO planners. We have also published MRO guidance (see and amendments we proposed have been accepted for the IAMSAR Manual.

Finally, the paper reminds IMO Member States and NGOs of the IMRF’s information-sharing function, and the necessity of information being submitted so that we can share it. Our website is currently being revised to better facilitate this service.