Further key links in the plan to provide effective search and rescue (SAR) coverage off the coast of Africa have been established, with the commissioning of two search and rescue sub-centres that will operate in conjunction with the existing regional Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (MRCC) in Mombasa, Kenya.
The two sub-centres, in Dar es Salaam, United Republic of Tanzania and Victoria, Seychelles, were commissioned on 25 and 27 March, respectively, by the Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), Mr. Efthimios E. Mitropoulos, and the Transport Ministers of the respective countries.
The inauguration of the two new facilities marks an important step in a process that began at the October 2000 IMO Conference on Search and Rescue and the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System, held in Florence, Italy. African Governments represented at that Conference agreed that a regional approach to the provision of SAR services in western, southern and eastern parts of the continent should be pursued and, to that effect, they adopted a resolution inviting the African countries bordering the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, anti-clockwise from Morocco to Somalia, as well as the nearby Atlantic and Indian Ocean Island States, to establish five regional centres and 26 sub-centres to cover their entire coastline areas for SAR coordination purposes.
The Conference envisaged that all the proposed centres could work co-operatively to provide SAR coverage in what had been identified as one of the areas of the world suffering most from a lack of adequate SAR and communications infrastructure. The establishment of appropriate SAR facilities off the coast of Africa was seen as a key component in the implementation of the Global SAR Plan, the final part of which had been agreed in 1998 at an IMO Conference in Fremantle, Australia.
The commissioning of the first African regional MRCC, in Mombasa, took place in May 2006, and was followed by Cape Town, South Africa in January 2007 and Lagos, Nigeria, in May 2008. The fourth MRCC, in Monrovia, Liberia, is scheduled for commissioning next month.
IMO Secretary-General Mitropoulos said that this network of regional MRCCs and sub-centres would make an important contribution towards the overall objective of safeguarding life at sea, as well as strengthening the capacity of the region to provide effective maritime security and environmental protection.
"I have been impressed by the determination of the two host Governments to play their part, responsibly and effectively, in the smooth and successful operation of the Global SAR plan; by the thorough and up-to-date equipment, both terrestrial and satellite, installed in the centres, for which I thank the donors; and, above all, by the commitment and dedication of the well-trained personnel that man the centres on a 24-hour basis, 365 days a year," he said.