Pretoria: 12 April 2022
South Africa and its member group of countries in the COSPAS SARSAT Programme, among them Australia; will have their gaze up in the skies above Africa for three full days this week, beginning on Tuesday, focussed on latest developments in satellite technology for the enhancement of maritime safety globally and in the southern hemisphere.
The virtual meeting of the South West Pacific Data Distribution Region (SWPDDR) through which the group of countries subscribe to the COSPAS SARSAT Programme, is being hosted by South Africa through the Department of Transport (DoT), ably assisted by the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA)
The international COSPAS-SARSAT Programme is a satellite-based search and rescue (SAR) distress-alert detection system made up of satellites in space and infrastructure to receive signals on the ground. Its main function is to facilitate distress transmissions from vessels, aircraft and persons via satellites to activate life-saving emergency support from government authorities.
Since its launch in the early 80s, the system described as providing “accurate, timely and reliable alert and location data to search and rescue authorities who assist persons in distress, even in the world’s most remote areas….” has been credited with saving the lives of tens of thousands of people particularly at seas worldwide.
Speaking ahead of the start of the meeting in Pretoria on Tuesday, Mr Jared Blows, Chief of SAMSA Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) located at the Centre for Sea Watch and Response in Cape Town, described the gathering in Hillcrest this week as a highly significant event for South Africa both as host country as well as for critical role players in oceans and air safety in the southern tip of the African continent.
According to Mr Blows, the SWPDDR meeting in South Africa is only taking place in Pretoria this year after it was postponed for over two years due to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic worldwide during latter half of 2019.
He said: “South Africa via the SASAR Organisation of the Department of Transport is a member of the COSPAS SARSAT Programme. The programme assists world search and rescue organisations by supplying both space and ground segment satellite systems for the detection of emergency location beacons used in the maritime and aeronautical domain along with beacons used by persons on land who find themselves in need of the services of a search and rescue organisation.
“The system detects beacons approved for use and operating on the 406Mhz frequency band. The world is divided into various data distribution regions and South Africa falls within the SWPDDR. The DDR is a sub section of the larger COSPAS SARSAT Joint Committee and the COSPAS SARSAT Council.
“The various DDRs meet regularly to discuss matters specifically associated with their regions and to look at improving the system. These proposals and recommendations are submitted to the Joint Committee for further deliberations and then to the Council should approvals be required.
“The SWPDDR has for many years held the meeting in the various members Countries. South Africa was to host the meeting in 2020. However, with COVID creating havoc worldwide the meeting was postponed to April 12th to 14th 2022. South Africa, specifically the Department of Transport, is the host for the meeting this year.
“A working group set up from within the SASAR Executive was tasked to arrange such meeting. With travel restrictions and COVID related matters still a challenge the decision was taken not to postpone any longer but to host the meeting virtually,” said Mr Blows
For his full remarks on these and related matters, click on the video clip below. (+-5 minutes).