In 2008, nine African countries came together to work on maritime SAR cooperation and development, so as to improve coordination and response. Last month in Lagos, Nigeria, a follow-up meeting was convened, hosted by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA). The meeting was attended by 32 people from 10 countries.
The meeting opened with a speech presented on behalf of the IMO Secretary General, Mr. Kitack Lim, by IMO Regional Coordinator Capt Dallas E Laryea. Capt Laryea highlighted the facts that water covers more than two-thirds of the earth’s surface and that it affects life everywhere. International trade is critical to the world’s economy and it is estimated that 90% of world trade and two-thirds of its energy supplies are carried by sea. He said that “Seafaring is hazardous by nature, therefore there is the need to guarantee safety and assurance of rescue when emergencies happen at sea.”
The Acting Director of the IMO’s Maritime Safety and Seafarers Standard Department, Engr Femowei A Gbendor, stressed the need for the establishment, operation and maintenance of maritime safety facilities as fully as practicable, taking into consideration the density of maritime traffic and the dangers navigation poses to people and business in the maritime environment.
Engr Gbendor reiterated that Nigeria, as a major maritime nation in the region, is a signatory to the SOLAS 1974 Convention and the International Convention on Maritime SAR, 1979, and that Nigeria is designated as one of the five Regional Maritime Rescue Coordination Centres (RMRCC) in Africa. In addition, he said, Nigeria has a long coastline with a fast-growing offshore oil and gas industry. Also, the fishing activities within its waters are relatively high and there is a considerable amount of coastal shipping between its eight national ports. These and other reasons facilitated the establishment of RMRCC Lagos.
Representatives from Nigeria, Benin, Cameroun, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Sao Tome & Principe and Togo provided updates on their coordination capability since the last meeting. Most organisations have been advancing their capability but needed support for the development and training of their people. In some cases SAR equipment was available but not able to be used. To get a clear picture of the priorities for support across the region all countries committed to complete a ‘self-assessment’, the summary of which will be used to create a regional development plan.
The delegates also agreed to undertake the development of a Regional SAR Plan to harmonise activity and provide a common level of agreement for cooperative SAR development across the region. Good progress was made at the meeting with an action plan developed and a commitment to have regular meetings to advance the Regional SAR Plan.
Following the regional meeting delegates undertook three days of training in SAR Management and Administration, guided by Capt Paapa W Asuako Owiredu of Ghana. The training and regional meeting was initiated and supported by the IMO Technical Cooperation Committee in partnership with the IMRF.
The IMRF has been working in close partnership with the IMO for the past four years to facilitate regular training and meetings in North and West Africa as part of the IMRF’s global SAR development work. In Africa this focusses on the development of maritime SAR coordination to help reduce the response time for those in distress and increase cross-border cooperation and collaboration.
Photo: IMRF CEO Bruce Reid with attendees at the Lagos meeting