The Pacific has moved one step closer to achieving a harmonised regional approach to search and rescue capability as promoted in the Search and Rescue Technical Arrangement for Cooperation among Pacific Island countries and territories.

At the Sixth Pacific Regional Search and Rescue Workshop held in Noumea, New Caledonia (13–17 April 2015), Pacific Island delegates have committed to accelerate acceptance of a regional non-binding arrangement to promote cooperation in search and rescue matters among 26 Secretariat of the Pacific Community members.

Also in support of enhanced efforts to save lives at sea, the delegates have undertaken to develop national search and rescue plans and to develop and update national search and rescue legislation.

The workshop was jointly organised by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and International Maritime Organization (IMO) and hosted by the Government of New Caledonia to support Pacific search and rescue administrators to strengthen and enhance regional cooperation to improve search and rescue capacity in the Pacific region.

This fundamentally humanitarian obligation is backed up by the International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue, 1979, which requires that contracting Governments to “ensure that assistance be provided to any person in distress at sea”, and “follow relevant minimum standards and guidelines developed by the IMO”, said IMO Technical Officer, Osamu Marumoto.

Mr Marumoto delivered an appeal for ratification of the maritime search and rescue Convention.

Recognising limited financial and human resources, the workshop encouraged Pacific Island countries and territories to improve communication and planning between the bodies responsible for aviation, maritime and land search and rescue.

A highlight of the workshop was the live search and rescue demonstration that took place on Wednesday at New-Caledonia Naval Base with static display of Gendarmerie Ecureuil, Air Force Puma and search and rescue equipment and dynamic demonstration of United States Coast Guard C130 air craft, France Guardian liferaft deployment with France Ecureuil winching in water and France Puma deploying stretcher winching with rescue boat.

The Search and Rescue Technical Arrangement was approved by the Pacific Regional Transport Ministers meeting in 2014 and signed by three countries so far, the workshop witnessed the signature of New Caledonia authorities and United States of America.

The Pacific Island delegates are determined to sign the Technical Arrangement for Cooperation and develop national search and rescue legislation and plan in the next two years to ever improve regional cooperation and national coordination in search and rescue for the benefit of each Pacific Islanders in distress at sea.

Media contacts: Omirete Tabureka, Ship Safety Audit Adviser, EDD [email protected] or +679 3379 341;

Caroline Tupoulahi-Fusimalohi, Research and Information Adviser, EDD, SPC, Suva, Fiji (Tel: +679 3379 281; email: [email protected])

Photo caption: Search and rescue demonstration at New Caledonia Navy Base, 15 April 2015

Photo: Courtesy of Aurélie Pugnet