Regional level SAR exercise Tomorrow

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Port Blair, Mar 20: India is a major maritime Nation in South Asia, having obligation to provide safety to the shipping and fishing activity in major portion of Indian Ocean Region measuring upto 46 lakh square kilometers. The search & Rescue infrastructure and assets available in India are technically very advanced compared to other similar set-up in the Region.
The entire SAR set-up in Indian search & Rescue Region is controlled and co-ordinated by Indian Coast Guard, through three Maritime Rescue Co-ordinating Centers existing at Mumbai, Chennai & Port Blair.
The obligation to render assistance to vessels in distress is enshrined both in tradition and in International treaties, such as the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), 1974. There was, until the adoption of the SAR Convention, no International system was covering search and rescue operations. In some areas there was a well-established organization, able to provide assistance promptly and efficiently, in others there was nothing at all.
Thus, 1979 Convention, adopted at a Conference in Hamburg, was 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. The Convention establishes preparatory measures which should be taken, including the establishment of rescue co-ordination centres and sub-centres.
The convention describes how SAR services should be arranged and national capabilities be developed. The instrument also requires parties to co-ordinate search and rescue organizations and where necessary, search and rescue operations with those of neighboring States.
Concurrent to the SAR Convention, the IMO and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) have jointly developed and published the International Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue (IAMSAR) Manual, which contain recommended guidelines for the Governments, SAR Agencies and the SAR mobile units.
Being signatory to various International Instruments such as the SOLAS 74, UNCLOS 82 and SAR Convention 79, the Govt of India constituted the National Maritime Search & Rescue (NMSAR) Board with 29 members. NMSAR board includes members from Indian Navy, Indian Air Force, Airports Authority of India, Department of Telecommunication, Department of Space, Central Board of Customs and Excise, Meteorological Department, representative of Major Ports, Chief Hydrographer, Government of India, Shipping Industry, Fishing Community, rrepresentative of 9 Coastal States + 4 UTs, Ministry of Shipping, representative of DG (Shipping), representative of Sailing Vessels Operators, representative of Directorate of Civil Aviation and representative of Immigration. The instrument designates The Director General Indian Coast Guard as the National Maritime SAR Coordinating Authority.
NMSAR board defines functions to be performed by the all participating agencies and Coordinate measures to be adopted by participating agencies for formulation of contingency plan. Together with the stake holders, Indian Coast Guard endeavours to attain the objectives of minimizing the loss of life, injury, property damage and risk to the maritime environment and to have effective M-SAR Program Management for comprehensive M-SAR regime.
Considering same, National Level M-SAR exercise is being conducted every alternate year, to formulate and validate M-SAR standard Operating Procedures. The latest was conducted on 17 Jan 18 off Chennai with considerable international participation. The information and lessons learnt during such SAR exercises is analysed by the SAR secretariat and implemented for the refinement of MSAR system in India, through the NMSAR Board which meets every year to discuss such issues.
Indian Coast Guard has entered into MoU’s with Coast Guard of six Asian countries for cooperation in SAR. Regular exercises and training activities are conducted with these countries. In addition, SAR communication check exercises are being conducted with the MRCC of Japan, Philippines, Thailand, Myanmar and Sri Lanka to establish primary means of communication and loosen the language barrier. Coast Guard also conducts the national Beacon Exercise wherein the efficacy of the Satellite based SAR systems is examined and pre-emptive actions are initiated to ensure optimal efficiency of the Satellite Beacons and the transmission, reception and relay system.
India has a robust M-SAR system which is flourishing on the equitable contributions of all the stake holders. Though, 100% response to SAR incidents has been achieved but there is lot to be done to achieve saving 100% lives in each Maritime distress incident.
As the magnanimity of the ISRR does not permit any singular organisation to provide effective MSAR services, it is imperative that co-operative arrangements continue to flourish between all stake holders in the maritime SAR domain who share equal responsibility for ensuring safety of life and property at sea.
The planned regional level SAR exercise on 21 Mar is part of the regional efforts to validate and improvise the recently formulated MSAR plan for the A&N Region. Therefore participation of all stake holders during such SAR exercise is very important to analyse the operations and plug in any leakages that could cost precious lives during actual operations.

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