The Indian Coast Guard (ICG) conducted a one-week Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) operations & Search and Rescue (SAR) course in Mumbai between January 16-21, 2023 as per a press release by Ministry of Defence.
The course was conducted under the aegis of Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation Programme (ITEC) which is operated by the Ministry of External Affairs for officers and sailors of Maritime Security Agencies from six friendly countries - Bangladesh, Seychelles, Sri Lanka, Mauritius, Myanmar and Maldives.
22 trainees (10 officers & 12 sailors) participated in the specialised training as per the press release.
While the aim was to establish a common understanding and framework, this could be subsequently expanded to establish a SAR network by Maritime Security Agencies of these and other countries willing to join the same.
This comes as Search and Rescue at sea has been recognised as an important role for maritime agencies by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO)
The IMO states that the 1979 Convention is aimed at developing an international SAR plan, “so that, no matter where an accident occurs, the rescue of persons in distress at sea will be co-ordinated by a SAR organization and, when necessary, by co-operation between neighbouring SAR organizations”.
Creating capacities for the same is essential and the course by the Indian Coast Guard appears to have achieved the same to some extent.
The course has provided the participants Legal background domain of Maritime Search and Rescue, Planning and Coordination, Global Maritime Distress and Safety System, Lectures on Harmonisation of Aeronautical and Maritime SAR, satellite-aided SAR operations and case studies on maritime SAR incidents amongst others.
The training also included lectures by visiting faculties from Indian National Mission Control Centre, Indian Space Research Organisation, Airports Authority of India, Indian Centre for Ocean Information Services and subject matter experts from the ICG.
Training visits and On Job Training at MRCC Mumbai, Director General Shipping Communication Centre and Air Traffic Control, Mumbai Airport were also held. The course was inaugurated by Commander Coast Guard Region (West) Inspector General MV Badkar reports the Ministry of Defence Press Release.
Taking the capacities developed and conceptual understanding as well as interactions by the participants in the MRCC and SAR course, integration to create a regional SAR network can by undertaken.
This could be based on the Indian Coast Guard which has an established national network for this purpose.
Coast Guard SAR Network
As the Coast Guard website states, Director General Indian Coast Guard is the National Maritime SAR Coordinating Authority (NMSARCA).
Under NMSARCA, the ISRR of India is divided into three areas with Maritime Rescue Coordination Centres (MRCCs) located at Mumbai, Chennai and Port Blair.
There are 10 Maritime Rescue Sub Centres (MRSCs) and 03 Maritime Rescue Sub Sub Centres (MRSSCs) operate under these MRCCs.
The multi mission Indian Coast Guard Stations located along the coast, deploys state of the art ships and aircraft to provide SAR coverage in ISRR .
Regional SAR Network
The Coast Guard has now attempted to knit in the regional countries in the MRCCs by holding a course under the aegis of the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation Programme (ITEC) with a view to network the capabilities in the case of an occasion of requirement of a humanitarian rescue mission in the area.
This is an informal network of sorts which can be formalised with the ICG MRCC centres coordinating SAR with the nearest counter parts.
The Regional SAR Network will enhance maritime safety and security and provide a higher degree of assurance for rescue with integration of resources from time to time.