This is a challenge that member States of both ICAO and the IMO should embrace and implement if we are serious about making search and rescue a global concept. We must remind ourselves that the goal of both ICAO and the IMO with the global SAR concept is to provide an effective world-wide system, so that wherever people sail or fly, SAR services will be available if required. We are all an integral part of a world-wide SAR system with our own national or regional SAR efforts.
Chapter 3.1 of Annex 12 to the Convention on International Civil Aviation deals with co-operation between States. Recommendation 3.1.2 provides that Contracting States should, whenever necessary, co-ordinate their search and rescue operations with those of neighbouring States especially when these operations are proximate to adjacent search and rescue regions. The International Maritime Search and Rescue Convention, 1979 also have similar provisions as Annex 12 pertaining to co-operation in search and rescue services.
GAPS IN GLOBAL SAR EFFECTIVENESS
Programme Director, I believe that we are all aware of ICAO's Universal Safety Oversight Audit Programme (USOAP) which in 1999, replaced the then Safety Oversight Programme (SOP) with State's audits that were mandatory, systematic, harmonized and transparent. By 2004, ICAO had audited 181 States for safety compliance and performed 120 audit follow-up missions. There were many cases of aviation safety deficiencies resulting from States non-compliance with standards and recommended practices (SARPs). In as far as bilateral agreements are concerned; the audit programme found that 65% of the audited States have not concluded SAR agreements with neighbouring States.
The SAR evaluation mission funded by France and conducted by ICAO/AFCAC from 2002-2007 revealed a few common weaknesses among African States, namely, document setting, SAR exercises and quality control, formal SAR agreements, funding and human resources. African States were still wanting in the area of international SAR agreements as these were found to still be at initial stages of implementation. ICAO/AFCAC undertook some actions in an endeavour to address the deficiencies articulated to above. The actions included the development of a training programme for States that performed very badly during the evaluation mission, a conference on SAR funding strategies for African SAR services was held in Saly-Portudal which resulted in the adoption of a declaration by these States and individual technical assistance was rendered to States that required it. The key element in addressing these deficiencies may be the political will to establish, authorise, equip, support, maintain the SAR services at a required level of proficiency. About 28 African States were evaluated during or participated in this mission.
STEPS TAKEN BY SA TO ESTABLISH INTERNATIONAL AGREEMENTS
South Africaidentified about 14 countries bordering on her search and rescue region for the purpose of entering into agreements to strengthen search and rescue co-operation and co-ordination in compliance with recommendation 3.1.5 of Annex 12 and the International convention on Maritime SAR, 1979. The states present here today are some of the 13 identified for this purpose.
In terms of progress made, we are delighted to report that out of the 14 countries identified for this purpose, 7 agreements were signed, 4 agreements have been concluded and are ready for signature, 1 has been negotiated and 2 are still to be negotiated. 3 out of the 4 outstanding for signature will be signed.
COMMON PROVISIONS AND STATUS OF IMPLEMENTATION OF BILATERAL SAR AGREEMENTS
The main purpose of these Agreements is to foster co-operation and coordination in the provision search and rescue services between South Africa and countries bordering on its search and rescue area of responsibility. This will make it easy for all these countries to execute their rescue missions and rely on each other for assistance and support.
Provisions that are common and are mostly covered by these Agreements are the following:
- Development of common SAR procedures;
- Pooling of SAR resources and facilities during SAR missions;
- Mutual visits by SAR personnel;
- Facilitation of easy entry of SAR units in each other's territories;
- Establishment of one or more SAR committees to provide for on-going co-operation in improving SAR effectiveness;
-Joint SAR exercises; etc.
From an implementation perspective, bilateral SAR Committees with clear Terms of Reference have been established with Namibia, Lesotho, Mozambique, Botswana and France - La Re Union. These Committees have been mandated with the responsibility to oversee the implementation of, satisfactory compliance with and amendments of the provisions of the Agreement should the need arise. Progress has been made with some countries in the area of developing common or compatible SAR procedures.
We must mention that there is a high level of inter regional co-operation when it comes to passing on information regarding incidents within each other's regions. When we are aware of an incident within another/ neighbouring region we will try and assist where possible by gathering information, put out broadcasts and on occasion even contacting vessels in order to assist. This practise is reciprocated by all concerned.
A very recent event to mention was that of the SV Blue Note in early October 2010. MRCC Reunion passed an e-mail message relating to the vessel. The mail was from the skipper of the yacht. He was reporting a Man Overboard +-375 nautical miles north east of Richards Bay. Reunion asked us to co-ordinate the operation as it was within our area.
Because the e-mail had arrived at our side +-14 hours after the incident was thought to have occurred, it was very difficult for us to launch a full scale operation. Initially the yacht searched the area for what is believed to have been some 12 plus hours without success. After due consideration and having not received any response from any of our broadcasts and based on the survivability factors and that the skipper, being the father of the man overboard casualty calling off his search, it was deemed best to suspend the incident and then after possibly another 12 to 24 hours to close off the case.
The case mentioned here is just an example of the different types of inter- RCC co-operation in place. As far as our neighbours across the Atlantic and Indian Oceans are concerned, it is very much the same. If we are not exchanging information then we could be conducting paper exercises and this takes place at least once per year normally during November /December. A typical example is the paper exercise conducted between us and Argentina every year as well as a full scale exercise between us and La-ReUnion every two years.
REGIONAL SAR INITIATIVES
Regional co-operation is critical to the efficient and effective provision of SAR services. Through it, duplication of efforts and facilities can be eradicated, services provision can be more uniform across large areas and most importantly, services can be provided even near and within States with limited resources. A regional approach therefore ensures greater cost-effectiveness and relieves the unnecessary sense of obligation otherwise imposing on some States unable to provide a State-wide service.
The 2000 IMO Florence Conference on Search and Rescue and GMDSS, sought to establish regional maritime SAR arrangements in Africa and invited all African coastal States to agree to the establishment of sub-regional RCCs. South Africa was identified as one of the five countries to host a regional MRCC. In pursuance of these resolutions, a multilateral agreement on the co-ordination of maritime search and rescue services was concluded and signed by 5 countries out of the 6 identified for this purpose in February 2007. The countries that signed the multilateral agreement are the Comoros, Madagascar, Mozambique, Namibia and South Africa.
Encouraged by the developing events in the maritime SAR fraternity, in particular, the signing of the above multilateral agreement and guided by the provisions of the SADC Protocol, the delegates that attended the 2007 Port Elizabeth Consultative Conference on the integration of SAR services resolved to pursue a similar arrangement for the aeronautical component. To this end, South Africa was requested to co-ordinate the process and a draft multilateral agreement was therefore compiled or developed for this purpose.
South Africa was also directed to approach ICAO and IMO to consider supporting the initiatives taken by the above conference. ICAO has so far mounted a project to support these initiatives with funding made available by the United Arab Emirates. The project would soon be tabled before SADC structures for consideration. I would urge SADC Member States to support this project.
In conclusion I would like to recall the words of encouragement uttered by the Secretary-General of the IMO, Admiral E. Mitropoulos during the commissioning of the Cape Town Sub-regional MRCC on 16 January 2007, I quote: "The waters off South Africa and the other countries in this region have more than often shown their inhospitable face, causing many disasters to the detriment of shipping, the loss of precious human lives and the destruction of the marine environment. Yours is a very heavy duty and burden and, while, I am sure, you will shoulder your responsibilities with commitment, dedication, zeal and enthusiasm, I have some words of advice to say to you: never be complacent, never allow routine and boredom to impair your actions and decisions, never underestimate the seriousness of any distress incident you handle and never consider any incident to be the same as others you dealt with in the past - because each has its own peculiarities and special characteristics that demand special attention. Remain focused and, every time you co-ordinate a SAR operation, give your undivided attention to the task in hand.
And never forget that you represent the last hope of those seafarers for whom fate has in store the bitter experience of a shipwreck. You will be the first they will thank once rescued and safe on solid ground; and you will have their eternal gratitude and that of their families.
I wish you every success and good luck in the discharge of your most important responsibilities. We are proud of you. On that note, I would like urge all of us present here today, to continue in our resolve to establish and maintain efficient and effective search and rescue regimes in our respective countries.
I THANK YOU.