6. Government and rescue coordination centres: Responsibilities and preparedness

6.1 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.


6.2 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.


6.3 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 practicable.


6.4 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.


6.5 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:


.1            a recovery operation;

.2            disembarkation of survivors from a ship;

.3            delivery of survivors to a place of safety; and

.4            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.


6.6 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 disembarkation efforts.


6.7 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 responsibility.


6.8 Governments and the responsible RCC should make every effort to minimize the time survivors remain aboard the assisting ship.


6.9 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.


6.10 The RCC should seek to obtain the following information from the master of the assisting ship:


.1            information about the survivors, including name, age, gender, apparent health and medical condition and any special medical needs;

.2            the master’s judgment about the continuing safety of the assisting ship;

.3            actions completed or intended to be taken by the master;

.4            assisting ship’s current endurance with the additional persons on board;

.5            assisting ship’s next intended port of call;

.6            the master’s preferred arrangements for disembarking the survivors;

.7            any help that the assisting ship may need during or after the recovery operation; and

.8            any special factors (e.g., prevailing weather, time sensitive cargo).


6.11 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.

Source: MSC.167(78)