Responsibilities and preparedness6.1
Governments should ensure that their respective rescue co-ordination centres (RCCs) and
other national authorities concerned have sufficient guidance and authority to fulfil their duties
consistent with their treaty obligations and the current guidelines contained in this resolution.
Governments should ensure that their RCCs and rescue units are operating in accordance
with the standards and procedures in the IAMSAR Manual and that all ships operating under
their flag have on board Volume III of the IAMSAR Manual.
A ship should not be subject to undue delay, financial burden or other related difficulties
after assisting persons at sea; therefore coastal States should relieve the ship as soon as
Normally, any SAR co-ordination that takes place between an assisting ship and any
coastal State(s) should be handled via the responsible RCC. States may delegate to their
respective RCCs the authority to handle such co-ordination on a 24-hour basis, or may task other
national authorities to promptly assist the RCC with these duties. RCCs should be prepared to
act quickly on their own, or have processes in place, as necessary, to involve other authorities, so
that timely decisions can be reached with regard to handling survivors.
Each RCC should have effective plans of operation and arrangements (interagency or
international plans and agreements if appropriate) in place for responding to all types of SAR situations. Such plans and arrangements should cover incidents that occur within its associated SAR region, and should also cover incidents outside its own SAR region if necessary until the RCC responsible for the region in which assistance is being rendered (see paragraph 6.7)
or another RCC better situated to handle the case accept responsibility. These plans and arrangements should cover how the RCC could co-ordinate:
- a recovery operation;
- disembarkation of survivors from a ship;
- delivery of survivors to a place of safety; and
- its efforts with other entities (such as customs and immigration authorities, or the ship owner or flag State), should non-SAR issues arise while survivors are still aboard the assisting ship with regard to nationalities, status or circumstances of the survivors; and quickly address initial border control or immigration issues to minimize delays that might negatively impact the assisting ship, including temporary provisions for hosting survivors while such issues are being resolved.
Plans of operation, liaison activities and communications arrangements should provide
for proper co-ordination in advance of and during a rescue operation with shipping companies
and with national or international authorities that may need to be involved in response or
When appropriate, the first RCC contacted should immediately begin efforts to transfer
the case to the RCC responsible for the region in which the assistance is being rendered. When
the RCC responsible for the SAR region in which assistance is needed is informed about the
situation, that RCC should immediately accept responsibility for co-ordinating the rescue efforts,
since related responsibilities, including arrangements for a place of safety for survivors, fall
primarily on the Government responsible for that region. The first RCC, however, is responsible
for co-ordinating the case until the responsible RCC or other competent authority assumes
Governments and the responsible RCC should make every effort to minimize the time
survivors remain aboard the assisting ship.
Responsible State authorities should make every effort to expedite arrangements to
disembark survivors from the ship; however, the master should understand that in some cases
necessary co-ordination may result in unavoidable delays.
The RCC should seek to obtain the following information from the master of the assisting
- information about the survivors, including name, age, gender, apparent health and
medical condition and any special medical needs;
- the master.s judgment about the continuing safety of the assisting ship;
- actions completed or intended to be taken by the master;
- assisting ship.s current endurance with the additional persons on board;
- assisting ship.s next intended port of call;
- the master.s preferred arrangements for disembarking the survivors;
- any help that the assisting ship may need during or after the recovery operation;
- any special factors (e.g., prevailing weather, time sensitive cargo).
Potential health and safety concerns aboard a ship that has recovered persons in distress include insufficient lifesaving equipment, water, provisions, medical care, and accommodations for the number of persons on board, and the safety of the crew and passengers if persons on
board might become aggressive or violent. In some cases it may be advisable for the RCC to arrange for SAR or other personnel to visit the assisting ship to better assess the situation onboard, to help meet needs on board, or to facilitate safe and secure disembarkation of the survivors.
Place of safety6.12
A place of safety (as referred to in the Annex to the 1979 SAR Convention,
paragraph 1.3.2) is a location where rescue operations are considered to terminate. It is also a
place where the survivors. safety of life is no longer threatened and where their basic human
needs (such as food, shelter and medical needs) can be met. Further, it is a place from which
transportation arrangements can be made for the survivors. next or final destination.
An assisting ship should not be considered a place of safety based solely on the fact that
the survivors are no longer in immediate danger once aboard the ship. An assisting ship may not
have appropriate facilities and equipment to sustain additional persons on board without
endangering its own safety or to properly care for the survivors. Even if the ship is capable of
safely accommodating the survivors and may serve as a temporary place of safety, it should be
relieved of this responsibility as soon as alternative arrangements can be made.
A place of safety may be on land, or it may be aboard a rescue unit or other suitable
vessel or facility at sea that can serve as a place of safety until the survivors are disembarked to
their next destination.
The Conventions, as amended, indicate that delivery to a place of safety should take into
account the particular circumstances of the case. These circumstances may include factors such
as the situation on board the assisting ship, on scene conditions, medical needs, and availability
of transportation or other rescue units. Each case is unique, and selection of a place of safety
may need to account for a variety of important factors.
Governments should co-operate with each other with regard to providing suitable places
of safety for survivors after considering relevant factors and risks.
The need to avoid disembarkation in territories where the lives and freedoms of those
alleging a well-founded fear of persecution would be threatened is a consideration in the case of
asylum-seekers and refugees recovered at sea.
Often the assisting ship or another ship may be able to transport the survivors to a place
of safety. However, if performing this function would be a hardship for the ship, RCCs should
attempt to arrange use of other reasonable alternatives for this purpose.
If survivor status or other non-SAR matters need to be resolved, the appropriate
authorities can often handle these matters once the survivors have been delivered to a place of
safety. Until then, RCCs are responsible for co-operation with any national or international
authorities or others involved in the situation. Examples of non-SAR considerations that may
require attention include oil spills, onscene investigations, salvage, survivors who are migrants or
asylum seekers, needs of survivors once they have been delivered to a place of safety, or security
or law enforcement concerns. National authorities other than the RCC typically have primary
responsibility for such efforts.
Any operations and procedures such as screening and status assessment of rescued
persons that go beyond rendering assistance to persons in distress should not be allowed to hinder
the provision of such assistance or unduly delay disembarkation of survivors from the assisting
Although issues other than rescue relating to asylum seekers, refugees and migratory
status are beyond the remit of IMO, and beyond the scope of the SOLAS and SAR Conventions,
Governments should be aware of assistance that international organizations or authorities of other
countries might be able to provide in such cases, be able to contact them rapidly, and provide any
instructions that their RCCs may need in this regard, including how to alert and involve
appropriate national authorities. States should ensure that their response mechanisms are
sufficiently broad to account for the full range of State responsibilities.
Authorities responsible for such matters may request that RCCs obtain from the assisting
ship certain information about a ship or other vessel in distress, or certain information about the
persons assisted. Relevant national authorities should also be made aware of what they need to
do to co-operate with the RCC (especially with regard to contacting ships), and to respond as a
matter of urgency to situations involving assisted persons aboard ships.