The International Maritime Rescue Federation (IMRF) – the international charity representing the world’s maritime search and rescue organizations – has held its first Asia Pacific Regional meeting and agreed on an action plan with the 17 Search and Rescue (SAR) organizations attending.
Organized by the IMRF’s Asia-Pacific Regional Center (APRC), which was officially launched last September, the event was supported by China Rescue and Salvage (CRS) and, included more than 40 delegates from Korea, Thailand, Singapore, DPR Korea, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar.
The meeting was formally opened by Mr. Zhenliang Wang, Director General of China Rescue and Salvage, who said the past 10 years had seen great advances in CRS’s SAR response capability which had coincided with the strengthening relationship with the IMRF.
In response, IMRF Chairman Michael Vlasto spoke of the IMRF being delighted by the numbers of States and organizations represented at the meeting.
“The IMRF Regional Development meetings are organized to facilitate the transfer of knowledge across borders without politics to reduce the loss of life in the world’s waters.” He explained. “As much as the workshops stimulate discussion much of the real value comes with the face to face communication between people which will help build a more collaborative and effective Asia Pacific maritime SAR sector.”
The combination of large sea areas and extreme weather conditions makes for a challenging SAR environment in the region. The importance of focusing on those at greatest risk was fully recognized by the attendees.
There was open discussion on the challenges faced with an obvious desire to improve communication and collaboration between the SAR organizations. There are many bilateral arrangements in place but all felt a more multilateral approach would improve response and coordination further.
However, presentations from the Hong Kong SAR agencies did provide an excellent model of interagency cooperation of incredibly high standard.
The major risk groups, it was agreed, sit outside the International Maritime Organization (IMO) regulated vessels, and include local fishing fleets, small passenger ferries and a growing number of recreational craft.
The meeting included a workshop to start a regional development plan for the IMRF with the aim of assisting SAR organizations throughout the region to improve maritime SAR and reduce the numbers of people losing their lives.
IMRF annual regional meetings are also now held in Europe, Latin America, North West Africa and the Mediterranean and the next Asia Pacific meeting is being planned.