In our February 2013 edition we explained the changes proposed for the Sub-Committee structure of the International Maritime Organization – the IMO; the UN agency responsible for the safety and security of shipping and the prevention of marine pollution by ships.
Like most of us these days, the IMO needs to save money. One of the ways in which it will be doing so is to reduce the number of its technical Sub-Committees from nine to seven.
The Sub-Committees typically meet for a week each year, and report to the Maritime Safety Committee and the Marine Environment Protection Committee, which are together responsible for the international maritime agreements intended to ensure the protection of the sea and those who use it.
But if you're a lifeboat or rescue helicopter crew member, say, why should this re-structuring bother you? Isn't it all just UN bureaucracy, affecting only big ships and government administrators? What's it got to do with you?
Well, the various IMO regulations and agreements, including the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Convention and, of course, the SAR Convention, have a great deal to say about maritime emergency response. States signing up to SOLAS commit their ships' masters to responding to distress calls, for example; and States ratifying the SAR Convention agree, among other things that they "shall, as they are able to do so individually or in cooperation with other States [...] participate in the development of search and rescue services..."
And the IMO is also responsible, together with another UN body, the International Civil Aviation Organi-zation (ICAO), for the International Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue (IAMSAR) Manual, the three volumes of which help States to set up and run SAR services, and
explain to the commanders of ships and aircraft which may become involved in a SAR case how the system works.
In short, if you work in maritime SAR, the IMO has a big effect on what you do and how you do it, even if you've never even seen a copy of the IAMSAR Manual.
The IMRF's concern about the proposed new technical Sub-Committee structure was explained in the February LIFE LINE. We feared that the IMO's initial proposal to remove the consideration of SAR from the Sub-Committee structure altogether would send the wrong signal, suggesting that improving global SAR was of a lower priority than the IMO's other work.
After discussions in which the IMRF played a full part, that concern has now been allayed. From next year, SAR will be considered with communications and safety of navigation issues by the new Sub-Committee on Navigation, Communi-cations, Search and Rescue (NCSR). A bit of a mouthful, but an important connection of inter-related subjects!
The other six Sub-Committees will be:
o Implementation of IMO Instruments (IMF)
o Human Element, Training and Watchkeeping (HTW)
o Pollution Prevention and Response (PPR)
o Transport of Cargoes (TOC)
o Ship Design and Construction (SDC)
o Ship Systems and Equipment (SSE)
And the important ICAO / IMO Joint Working Group on SAR will also continue its detailed work in NCSR's support. So: good news from the top!