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IMO Resolutions 

MSC.167(78) - Guidelines on the Treatment of Persons Rescued at Sea
MSC.346(91): Application of SOLAS Regulation III/17-1 to Ships to Which SOLAS Chapter III Does not Apply
See Circular MSC.1/Circ.1447
A.949(23) - Guidelines on Places of Refuge for Ships in Need of Assistance
A.950(23) – Maritime Assistance Services (MAS)

IMO Circulars

‘SAR.1’ Circulars report IMO Member Government accessions and successions to/from the SAR Convention. ‘SAR.6’ Circulars report agreements on SAR Regions. These Circulars are not on the IMRF website but may be obtained on request from [email protected]. The latest SAR.7 & SAR.8 Circulars are listed here. Other numbers in the ‘SAR’ series are not currently in use.

SAR.7-Circ.14 - List Of Documents And Publications Which Should Be Held By A Maritime Or Joint Rescue Coordination Centre
Note that this Circular is updated every two years: the next update will be published in 2021. The latest editions of the IMO documents and publications listed in the Circular are also included in this list.
SAR.7/Circ.15 Nov 2022. list of documents and publications which should be held by a maritime or joint rescue coordination centre 
Documents of relevance to SAR ( contains pdf links to relevant IMO documents 
SAR.8/Circ.4 - Availability of SAR Services
This is the last update on the status of the Global SAR Plan issued as a Circular. Users should now refer to the Global SAR Plan module of IMO’s Global Integrated Shipping Information System (GISIS), available at IMO Member Governments should keep this module up to date: see COMSAR.1./Circ.55
COMSAR.1/Circ.52 - Questionnaire on the Availability of SAR Services
COMSAR.1/Circ.55 - Guidance for Entering and Updating Information on SAR Services into GISIS and on How to Get Access to the Information for Operational Use Availability of SAR Services – Now done through IMO GISIS web portal 
GISIS - Global SAR Plan ( 
This is the last update on the status of the Global SAR Plan issued as a Circular. Users should now refer to the Global SAR Plan module of IMO’s Global Integrated Shipping Information System (GISIS), available at IMO Member Governments should keep this module up to date: see COMSAR.1./Circ.55 
People wishing to access GISIS have to create a public user web account with the IMO.
MSC.1/Circ.1594: Amendments to the International Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue (IAMSAR) Manual – 25 May 2018

MSC.1/Circ.1645Guidance For The Reception Of Maritime Safety Information And Search And Rescue Related Information As Required In The Global Maritime Distress And Safety System (GMDSS)

This circular provides guidance on the recognized MSI and SAR related information broadcast services and the equipment which should be installed on board ships to meet the requirements of SOLAS chapter IV while enabling the flexibility to incorporate new technologies as they become recognized by the Organization. 

MSC.1/Circ.1656 -GMDSS Operating Guidance For Ships In Distress Situations 
MSC. 1-Circ. 1657Procedure for responding to DSC distress alerts by ships
MSC.1/Circ.1658- Guidance on distress alerts 
MSC.1/Circ.1659- Guidance for The Dissemination Of Search and Rescue Related Information Through the International Enhanced Group Call Service
MSC.1/Circ.1660- Guidance On The Training On And Operation Of Emergency Personal Radio Devices in Multiple Casualty Situations 

MSC.1/Circ.1661- Guidance Framework for the Application Of Casualty Cases and Lessons Learned to Seafarers' Education and Training

This circular has useful application to the investigation of accidents and incidents (near misses) for IMRF rescue boat and rescue craft operators. The basic principles of investigating a near miss or system failure can also be applied to RCC environments. 

Link to GISIS MCI web portal This will require a public user account for IMO Docs website. 

COMSAR.1/Circ.2- Procedure For Responding To An Mf (2187.5 Khz) DSC Distress Alert In Sea Areas A2 

The Sub-Committee on Radiocommunications and Search and Rescue (COMSAR), at its first session (19 to 23 February 1996), decided that digital selective calling (DSC) acknowledgements and relays of distress alerts on all shipborne DSC equipment should only be actuated manually (see also COMSAR/Circ.1) and prepared a Procedure for Responding to an MF (2187.5 kHz) DSC Distress Alert in Sea Areas A2, given at annex, recommending that it be displayed on the ship's bridge as an A4 size poster 

COMSAR.1/Circ.13Shore-to-Ship Communications During A Distress 

The Sub-Committee on Radiocommunications and Search and Rescue (COMSAR), at its third session (23 to 27 February 1998), taking into account the need for providing priority for shore originated distress communications to ships whose SESs are busy with ongoing traffic, prepared the following guidance for RCCs to facilitate shore-to-ship communications during a distress. 

This guidance is still extant and was reiterated on 17th Nov. 2021. 

COMSAR.1/Circ.32/Rev.2- Harmonization Of GMDSS Requirements For Radio Installations On Board Solas Ships 

COMSAR.1/Circ.33/Rev.1- GMDSS Coast Station Operator's Certificate (CSOC) Syllabus 
COMSAR.1/Circ.37/Rev.1- Guidance On Minimum Communication Needs Of Maritime Rescue Coordination Centres (MRCCs) 

COMSAR.1/Circ.50/Rev.4- Distress Priority Communications For RCCs From Shore-to-Ship Via Global Maritime Distress And Safety System (GMDSS) Satellite Service Providers 

The Sub-Committee on Navigation, Communications, and Search and Rescue (NCSR), at its eighth session (19 to 23 April 2021), in consultation with the recognized mobile satellite service providers, has updated the information on rescue coordination centres (RCCs) associated with GMDSS satellite service provider land earth stations (LESs). 

COMSAR.1/Circ.56Guidance On Smartphone and other Computer Device Sar Applications 

The Sub-Committee on Radiocommunications and Search and Rescue (COMSAR), at its sixteenth session (12 to 16 March 2012), was advised that applications for "Smartphones" and other computer devices have been developed and are available for download that relate to Search and Rescue (SAR). Such applications offer users a facility to raise a SAR alert. The Maritime Safety Committee (MSC), at its ninety-first session (26 to 30 November 2012), approved the Guidance on Smartphone and Other Computer Device SAR Applications contained in this circular. 

IMRF Members should consider this guidance if they have any interactions with smartphone App developers to ensure that any Apps are compliant with international standards for maritime emergency alerting and the relevant processes are followed as far as possible given the App/systems technical processes. In particular there must be methods for alerts to be passed to a relevant RCC as quickly as possible. 

COMSAR.1/Circ.59/Rev.1- Guidance For Search and Rescue Services Regarding Implementation of Autonomous Distress Tracking (Adt) Of Aircraft in Flight 

This Guidance is intended to provide basic information on Autonomous Distress Tracking (ADT) of aircraft in flight as part of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Global Aeronautical Distress and Safety System (GADSS). Further guidance is available in the IAMSAR Manual Volumes I and II. 

The key stakeholders involved in ADT implementation are: .1 Air Traffic Service Units (ATSUs); .2 Aircraft Operators (airline companies, not the crew); .3 ADT service providers; and .4 Search and rescue (SAR) services. 

GADSS will affect both RCCs (SAR coordinators) and rescue boats, lifeboats and vessels at sea. SAR services providers are encouraged to familiarise themselves with the guidance. 

COMSAR.1/CIRC.60Procedure For Routeing Distress Alerts

The Sub-Committee on Navigation, Communications and Search and Rescue (NCSR), at its ninth session (21 to 30 June 2022), clarified the routeing of distress alerts in order to merge the requirement of the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) with the established international operational search and rescue (SAR) procedures. 

To exploit the full advantages of globally integrated satellite and terrestrial communications, the GMDSS necessitates the establishment of an efficient communication network between rescue coordination centres (RCCs) with their delimited SAR regions (SRRs). This will consist of interconnecting links between RCCs in accordance with arrangements made by the Organization in support of the International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue, 1979. In addition, each RCC will need rapid and effective communication links with its associated coastal stations, recognized mobile satellite service shore-based facilities and Cospas-Sarsat mission control centres.