While all Governments may grant their maritime rescue co-ordination centre(s)
, in addition to those of search and rescue (SAR), powers in the application of national
regulations and instructions, the response to acts of violence against ships is the only one of these
extensions that forms part of the IMO regulations2. In this way, MRCCs are incorporated in the
organization that Governments have to set up to deal with acts of violence against ships, which
may occur suddenly and anywhere.
For these reasons, this circular has been drawn up especially for the MRCCs2
, taking into
consideration their own situations and normal activities. It should be considered in connection
with guidance on maritime security given in chapter XI-2 of the SOLAS Convention, and the
International Ship and Port Facility (ISPS) Code, and guidance on piracy and armed robbery
against ships given in MSC/Circ.622/Rev.1 for Governments, and MSC Circ.623/Rev.1 aimed at
shipping companies, masters and crews.
MRCCs can expect to receive a ship security alert of an act of violence against a ship in a
number of ways. This ship security alert can come directly from the ship or via an alternative
source. These alternative sources include, but are not limited to, other ships, an adjacent MRCC,
the national SFA, ship operators and flag State administrations.
The immediate MRCC response to an alert should be determined by whether the alert
received by the MRCC is determined to be an overt alert or a covert alert. Determining whether
the alert is overt or covert is a critical factor as the response for each is extremely different as
- Overt Security Alert: For an overt alert communication with the ship or other
ships in the vicinity of the ship under threat or attack need not be delayed or
disguised, for example a Master of a ship may use an overt alarm to discourage an
- Covert Security Alert: For a covert alert no attempt is to be made to contact the
ship originating the alert and no communications are to be made with other ships
in the vicinity of the ship under threat. A Master of a ship may use a covert alarm
to deny those posing the threat or making an attack the knowledge that an alert has
been made; and
- Unspecified Security Alert: A security alert is deemed to be unspecified when:
.1 it is unclear whether the alert is overt or covert; or
.2 the initial alert is overt and this is subsequently superseded by a
declaration that it is a covert alert.
Detailed guidance for these three situations is provided in the operating instructions below.
Bilateral agreements between States may be reached for the application of co-operation
procedures that might differ from those set out above.
1 Certain missions, which MRCCs have to carry out, in addition to search and rescue, are however set out in
chapter 7 of the IAMSAR Manual, volume II
2 All the aspects laid down for the MRCC in this circular should be taken as valid for the joint rescue co-ordination
centres (JRCC) and, if the national authority so decides, for the maritime rescue sub-centres (MRSC) and joint