Pretoria: 13 April 2022
South Africa’s continued and sustained role as a direct global contributor to development and deployment of advanced ground and space-based technologies and related services for search and rescue particularly across the southern hemisphere remains one of the country’s most serious responsibilities, according to Department of Transport Deputy Director-General, Mr Zakhele Twala.
Mr Twala shared the view while formally delivering a welcome address to delegates from several countries in Africa and abroad to this year’s COSPAS SARSAT Programme South West Pacific Data Distribution Region (SWPDDR) South Africa-hosted virtual conference currently underway since Monday this week.
The conference, the 8th in the series for the SWPDDR – one of six regions globally under the COSPAS SARSAT Programme – is two years behind its schedule in Australia in 2018 for South Africa in 2020 due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic worldwide towards the end of 2019.
In his address to country representatives during an opening address on Monday, Mr Twala said South Africa regarded it as highly significant its role and a huge responsibility the fact that it was the only country in southern Africa subscribing to and extending ground level search and rescue services of the COSPAS SARSAT Programme to more than a dozen countries in the region.
Thus, South Africa is the Search and Rescue Point of Contact (SPOC) to countries including Angola, Botswana, Burundi, Lesotho, Democratic Republic of Congo, St Helena, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia, Rwanda, Swaziland and a few others.
In terms of the COSPAS SARSAT Programme, “the primary purpose of the Cospas-Sarsat System is the provision of distress alert and location data for search and rescue (SAR), using spacecraft and ground facilities to detect and locate the signals of Cospas-Sarsat distress radio beacons operating on 406 MHz.”
In South Africa, according to the Department of Transport, as a Member State of the International Civil Aviation ICS) and the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and a signatory particularly to the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Convention, 1974, the International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue, 1979 and Annex 12 to the Convention on International Civil Aviation, 1944, the country is obligated to provide aeronautical and maritime search and rescue coordination and services within her search and rescue region.
South Africa’s search and rescue regions under the SA Search & Rescue Organisation (SASAR) correspond with what is prescribed by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the International Maritime Organization (IMO). The area is divided into two Search and Rescue Regions (SRR), comprising aeronautical and maritime search and rescue over a total area of approximately 28,5 million square kilometres stretching down to the South Pole.
The aeronautical search and rescue region cover the continental area of the sovereign territory of South Africa, Namibia, Swaziland, Lesotho and associated flight information regions.
On the other hand, the maritime search and rescue region over three oceans comprises; on the western side, the ocean area to approximately halfway between South Africa and South America, on the Eastern side, the ocean area to approximately halfway between South Africa and Australia and on the northern side, the oceans areas bordering Namibia, Angola, South Africa and Mozambique as well as the oceans region to the South Pole.
On Monday, Mr Twala described the COSPAS SARSAT system as the most reliable to date and the country was proud to further contribute to its enhancement through deployment of a 6th antenna system in Gauteng this year.
Globally, further advances anticipated to greatly improve search and rescue services across both aeronautical and maritime sectors, include the anticipated introduction of Return Link Service (RLS) providing notification to a 406 MHz beacon that an alert transmitted by the beacon has been detected and distributed via the Cospas-Sarsat MCC network to the MCC whose service area covers the beacon confirmed position. The service is described as “intended to provide acknowledgement of the reception of the alert message to persons in distress”.
For his full remarks, click on the video below (+-7 minutes).
The virtual SWPDDR conference over three days, conducted from the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) Head Office in Hillcrest, Pretoria, will end on Thursday.