Mass Rescue Operations, the safety of fisherman and learning from other SAR organisations were all topics discussed and debated when the 5 SAR regional groups in Africa came together in Casablanca last week. The meeting was the 1st Africa Regional SAR Coordinator Meeting and was convened with the support of the IMO technical cooperation committee, hosted by Department of Fisheries, Morocco.
Key Maritime SAR Representatives from Nigeria, Liberia, South Africa, Kenya, Morocco, Senegal and Ghana met for two days to identify how the regions can work together to improve maritime SAR across the continent.
The meeting was coordinated by Mr Mohammed Drissi of Morocco, head of Rabat MRCC and North West Africa regional coordinator and IMRF Trustee. Mr Drissi has been instrumental in driving development in the North and West Africa and West African SAR regions with the support of the IMO and IMRF.
Mr Drissi was very pleased to get the support for this meeting from the other regions. "There is a great opportunity as maritime SAR organisations to work together in Africa. We already have regional structure in place that allows the more developed organisations to support the developing organisations. I felt we could be doing more and believe there is much to be learned by bringing the regions together.”
The presentations provided by each of the regions highlighted the SAR initiatives and developments happening and the key challenges they face.
Bruce Reid, CEO of the IMRF, was concerned that development of maritime SAR in many of the countries in Africa struggles, because of a lack of support at a governmental level. “I picked up from the discussions, that the key to developing the systems and structures needed, is a greater support of the SAR services from governments. It was apparent, that even with the developed organisations there is a struggle to have the work they are doing budgeted and prioritised.”
Reid said that this is a challenge all maritime SAR organisations face across the world, because much of the work done by the SAR services is intangible and the “value” only becomes apparent when a major maritime accident occurs. Unfortunately, when this happens, all too often in developing countries the response is found wanting.
Good work is being done in the SAR regions of Africa and there is an opportunity to build on this meeting to help the resources available go further and deliver more. Initiating regular contact between the regions is a start and the possibility of expanding the SAR training initiatives instigated by Mr Drissi in two of the regions already, were two immediate areas of action identified. The Regions also agreed to participate in a survey being compiled by IMRF of artisanal fishermen, which will provide a base for future initiatives targeting the safety of fisherman. There was also an agreement to look at providing an African event focussing on Mass Rescue Operations in the next 12 months.
Mr Drissi emphasised that it is important to keep the momentum for SAR development going and congratulated all those attending for the commitment they have to preventing loss of life on the waters of Africa.