IMO/ICAO joint working group on SAR successfully concludes inaugural SA meeting in Cape Town: SAMSA

Cape Town: 15 November 2023.

Scores of international delegates to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Joint Working Group on Search and Rescue (IMO/ICAO JWG) held in Cape Town wrapped up their meeting on Friday with several recommendations made for the consideration of the said parent organizations, to strengthen global collaboration on various initiatives to bolster search and rescue in especially maritime countries.

The ICAO/IMO Joint Working Group on Harmonization of Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue is described as a technical experts’ working group that meets every year, since its inception in 1963, to discuss technical SAR related matters and make proposals to the said IMO/ICAO through their relevant sub- committees.

This expert working group is made up of 16 members comprising eight (8) maritime SAR experts and an equal number of aeronautical SAR experts. Also attending, however, were several observers. Hosted by the Department of Transport’s SASAR Directorate, the gathering of the IMO/ICAO JWG in Cape Town, South Africa over five days – the 30th session for the group, and more significantly, the first of its kind on African soil – began on Monday and ended on Friday last week.

Attendees comprised representatives from about 24 countries, including Australia, Sweden, Angola, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, United States America, Russian Federation, Greece, Chile, Turkey, China, Canada, France, Ireland, Singapore, Sweden, Saudi Arabia, Liberia, Argentina, Estonia, Finland, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, and Norway.

Also in the mix were some technical observers representing global institutions including the International Maritime Rescue Federation (IMRF), the COSPAS SARSAT, IRIDIUM, International Maritime Satellites Organization (IMSO) as well as Inmarsat.

Supporting the host – Department of Transport’s SASAR Directorate  – were various domestic institutions involved in SAR, among them being the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) Centre for Sea Watch & Response located Maritime Rescue Coordinating Centre (MRCC), the Aeronautical Rescue Coordinating Centre (ARCC), and Telkom Maritime Radio Services.

South Africa’s Cape Town based MRCC formally established as a Regional MRCC for the Southern Africa region in 2007, is one of five African regional MRCC’s rendering essential support to SAR operations and training, and described it as important that the 30th session of the IMO/ICAO JWG was being held locally for the first time.

It said the initiatives was timely in terms of its aims to support these RMRCC’s in executing their responsibilities in their respective SAR areas of responsibility.

According to the International Maritime Rescue Federation (IMRF) of which South Africa is a member, among key issues for discussion at the Cape Town weeklong session included results of a survey conducted by the IMRF on behalf of the IMO, on African States’ Maritime Search and Rescue Status completed in March. The objectives of the survey were reportedly to:

  • help provide a clear picture of the status of the Global SAR Plan in Africa, State by State; clarify priorities and identify focus regions for future IMO Technical Cooperation work on developing SAR capability.
  • provide a database on which future SAR development work can be based; improve ratification of the International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue (SAR Convention); and
  • improve input to IMO’s Global Integrated Shipping Information System (GISIS) Global SAR Plan module.

Also coming under focus would be various decisions recently undertaken on a variety of issues including conventions, plans, manuals and other documents affecting SAR, SAR operational principles, procedures and techniques, as well as SAR system administration, organization and implementation methods.