3.2 General Guidance on the Use of Regional Resources

Written by David Jardine-Smith. Posted in Resources

Date Written
Wednesday, 18 February 2015
International Maritime Rescue Federation
Type of Paper
  • Guidance Paper
  • English




This paper discusses:

o   the cooperative use of regional resources to extend SAR capability
o   extending operational and tactical mutual support arrangements between neighbouring States into the strategic sphere for MRO planning purposes
o   the recommendations of the United Nations and its specialised agencies regarding regional cooperation
o   the types of resource that may be shared by States regionally
o   planning, training and exercising regionally
o   other regional, non-governmental resources that may be available

1 Overview

1 Overview

1.1 For a general introduction to the IMRF's mass rescue operations (MRO) guidance, please see MRO guidance paper 1.1 'Complex incident planning – the challenge: acknowledging the problem, and mass rescue incident types'.

1.2 Guidance paper 1.4 discusses the 'capability gap' inherent in the IMO's definition of a mass rescue operation as 'characterised by the need for immediate response to large numbers of persons in distress such that the capabilities normally available to the SAR authorities are inadequate'. Guidance paper 1.4 suggests three ways of filling this gap: regional cooperation; identifying additional rescue resources; and extending the time available for rescue by supporting those in distress on scene.

1.3 The guidance papers in this section focus on these three ways of filling the capability gap, and also consider some of the funding issues inevitable to MRO planning and response. The identification of additional rescue resources is considered in guidance paper 3.1. We look at 'extending survival times' by using specialist resources, including on-board support, in guidance paper 3.3. Funding issues are discussed in guidance paper 3.4. This paper considers the cooperative use of regional resources to extend search and rescue capability.

2 Regional Cooperation Between States

2 Regional Cooperation Between States

2.1 It should always be the case that, in the event of any SAR operation at or near the borders of different SAR Regions, the relevant States will cooperate in the response, sharing SAR facilities etc. Usually one State will take the coordination lead and the other(s) will act in support, to avoid confusion on scene. In some cases the places of safety to which survivors are taken will be in more than one State. This international response needs to be carefully coordinated by and between the States concerned.

2.2 It makes good operational and tactical sense, therefore, for neighbouring States to plan cooperatively for 'normal' SAR incidents near the boundaries of their SAR Regions and to exercise their plans together, so that they are ready to respond efficiently in such cases.

2.3 This mutual support arrangement can be extended into the strategic sphere for MROs, assessing all potential resources in the wider region. Distances, and therefore transit and on-scene endurance times, may limit the extent to which States can share on-scene search and rescue resources, but, where it is feasible to do so, every effort should be made to help close the 'capability gap' by this means. Borders should not hold back SAR resources.

2.4 We recognise that there are sometimes tensions between neighbouring States, concerning disputes over territorial waters, for example. But it is generally agreed internationally that lifesaving at sea takes precedence over such concerns. This guidance is written in that spirit, and in the spirit of the relevant international Conventions – the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, the International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue (the 'SAR Convention'), the Convention on International Civil Aviation, and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

4 Regional Cooperation Between States on MRO Planning

4 Regional Cooperation Between States on MRO Planning

4.1 As well as concerns about territorial rights etc, it may be felt that there is a political difficulty in the cooperative approach, along the lines of 'We should be able to do this by ourselves'. But an MRO, by definition, cannot be handled with the resources normally available. Anyone in favour of self-sufficiency in this regard must either significantly increase their spending on permanent resources or show that they can manage with the additional facilities likely to be available at the time of any incident (see guidance paper 3.1). The first option is unlikely to make economic sense, granted the rarity of such incidents (see guidance paper 3.4).

4.2 The second option, the identification of additional SAR resources, should be part of the MRO planning in any event. In some cases neighbouring States may be too far apart geographically to make on-scene resource-sharing a practical option (although mutual support can still be a possibility – see below). Where resource-sharing does make practical sense, however, it should be included in the planning in addition to the other ways of filling the MRO capability gap discussed in guidance papers 3.1 & 3.3.

4.3 This requires a strategic approach, at the SAR Coordinator level (see guidance paper 4.2). SAR Coordinators should link their MRO planning regionally, to make best use of all available resources. These may include:

o   COORDINATION FACILITIES: with modern telecommunications equipment, rescue coordination centres can be remote from the MRO. It may be best use of the available resource to agree a regional centre, suitably staffed and equipped, to lead on an MRO wherever the incident occurs across the region. IAMSAR Volume I notes that "Each SRR [SAR Region] needs an RCC [Rescue Coordination Centre], but each State does not necessarily need an SRR if one RCC can be supported by and serve more than one State" (Chapter 1.7.1).
o   COMMUNICATIONS FACILITIES: an MRO inevitably involves very many communication requirements, but the load can be shared, by prior agreement.
o   SAR FACILITIES: units to actually do the search and rescue work on scene. A pre-planned regional pooling of surface and air SAR assets will obviously increase capability, always provided that they can reach the scene within survival times. IAMSAR Volume I makes these points at Chapter 1.7.2.
o   LANDING SITES, and the shoreside facilities to service them. As discussed in guidance paper 4.8, the nearest landing site to the incident is not necessarily the best. An MRO will involve major demands on shoreside transport, medical and survivor reception facilities. It may be that the best landing site – in terms of accessibility as well as infrastructure – is in a neighbouring State. It will also spread the load if, granted the necessary access and shoreside support, several landing sites are used, and again it is possible that these will be in more than one State across the region. This approach gives rise to additional challenges of international information exchange, but that is preferable to overloading landing sites locally.

4.4 SAR Coordinators should liaise with their counterparts in neighbouring States to agree the mutual assistance that can be provided in the event of an MRO. In doing so, it should be noted that mutual support goes beyond the provision of SAR units on scene. Regional rescue coordination arrangements have already been mentioned, for example. Search planning can also be done remotely, relieving the lead rescue coordination centre of that particular task. And States too remote to send rescue units to help with the at-sea operation may still be able to provide help later in the rescue process, sharing medical, transport, welfare support and/or communications resources.

4.5 If it is agreed that there would be benefits in cooperating regionally in one or more of these areas – rescue support, on scene or later; search and search planning support; coordination and communications support, etc – SAR Coordinators should arrange either to link their individual MRO plans or to draw up a regional MRO plan. See guidance paper 2.1.

4.6 Regional planning should then lead to regional training. There are considerable benefits to be achieved in training people from across the region together, especially those who may be interacting directly when an MRO occurs. This training should at least include the international, regional element of the planning. See guidance paper 5.1.

4.7 Finally, to test both planning and training, regional exercises should be arranged: see guidance paper 5.3.

5 Other Regional Resources

5 Other Regional Resources

5.1 So far we have discussed regional cooperation between governments. It should also be remembered that there may be other resources in the region which can help fill the capability gap.

5.2 We discuss the involvement of air and surface craft operating in the area in guidance paper 3.1, including the units associated with the various offshore industries (oil, gas, wind etc). These industries usually have sophisticated shore-based emergency response systems in place in support of their own personnel. This resource too may be of significant help in MROs generally. Where there is such an industry presence, the operators should be included in the planning.

6 Summary

6 Summary

o   Neighbouring States should cooperate as necessary in any SAR operation. 
o   Regional mutual support arrangements should extend to the strategic level for MRO planning purposes, to help close the 'capability gap'.
o   This approach is recommended in international conventions, regulations and guidance. Local tensions or national pride should not be allowed to impede this humanitarian work.
o    Activities and resources that may be shared include search planning, rescue coordination, communications facilities, surface and air SAR assets, landing sites, and shoreside resources and infrastructure.
o    If benefits through regional cooperation are identified, MRO plans should be linked regionally or a regional MRO plan should be agreed; responders should be trained in the plan; and both plan and training should be tested.
o    All regional resources should be considered in this respect, including non-governmental resources such as those of the offshore industries.

7 Further Reading

7 Further Reading

7.1 For further reading on resourcing mass rescue operations, follow this link.

7.2 As noted above, the UN and their specialised agencies, the IMO and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) recommend regional cooperation in various Conventions and other texts. In the IAMSAR Manual the subject is covered in Volume I chapter 1, especially sections 1.6 & 1.7, and in Volume II chapter 1.1.

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