West Africa Maritime Search and Rescue Region (WAMSRR) representatives – from Ghana, Guinea, Côte d'Ivoire, Liberia and Sierra Leone – held their fourth meeting late in May, in the Moroccan city of Tangier.
The meeting was sponsored and organised by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the Moroccan Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.
The group reviewed progress made by the MRCCs in the region and continued to develop the regional maritime SAR plan.
And progress is being made. This meeting completed the drafting of the Regional SAR Plan for Monrovia MRCC, progressed commitments to complete national SAR self-assessments, held a combined regional meeting with the North West Africa SAR committee, and identified and discussed successful funding initiatives.
The group also participated in a seminar and a mass rescue exercise.
There is strong external support for the work being undertaken, with this meeting attended by a delegation from the IMO headed by the Head of the Technical Cooperation and Implementation Coordination Section. The IMRF was also in attendance for the first time, represented by CEO Bruce Reid and two Trustees of the charity.
"It's been good to hear first-hand the work that is being done, and the commitment from the individuals and their organisations to improve maritime SAR coordination and response for the region," says Mr Reid.
"The political will or financial support to improve the safety, security and well-being of those heading on the water can be lacking. This needs to change. The participating organisations are addressing this challenge by successfully lobbying for regulatory changes to direct funds received from maritime levies to support maritime SAR. The IMRF will be looking at how we can work with the IMO and the WAMSRR group to support SAR development in the region."
At the conclusion of the meeting the two regional groups combined, with the chairman of each providing a brief background about their work, the progress made so far and the set-backs encountered.
Mohammed Drissi, North West Africa regional coordinator and head of Rabat MRCC, thanked all the participants for their contributions. He stated his commitment to ensuring the two regional groups forge a closer working relationship to improve SAR services across both regions.
Meanwhile, representatives from the North & West Africa region – Cape Verde, The Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Mauritania, Morocco and Senegal – had been holding their own meeting, supported by the IMRF, the IMO and IMRF Members the German Maritime SAR Service (DGzRS). This included a one-day seminar on key areas of maritime SAR interest, and a combined training exercise, 'Strait 2014'.