New MRCC helps close gap in Indian Ocean SAR coverage

President Mwai Kibaki with the Secretary-General of IMO, Mr. Efthimios Mitropoulos,  at the State House, NairobiA massive gap in the effective search and rescue coverage along the east coast of Africa and out into the Indian Ocean is to be filled with the inauguration (on 5 May 2006) of a new Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre (MRCC) in Mombasa, Kenya. The MRCC is to be commissioned by IMO Secretary-General Efthimios E. Mitropoulos during an official visit to Kenya and Tanzania.

The regional search and rescue system that has been put in place is the result of a resolution adopted by the IMO Conference on search and rescue (SAR) and the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS), held in October 2000 in Florence, Italy, proposing the establishment of five sub regional MRCCs in western, southern and eastern parts of Africa. A second MRCC under this initiative is expected to be inaugurated in Cape Town, South Africa, before the end of this year, while three more, in West Africa, are currently at the planning stage.

Along with its associated Maritime Rescue Sub-Centres (MRSCs) in Victoria (Seychelles) and Dar es Salaam (Tanzania), the site of which Secretary-General Mitropoulos will also visit during his stay in Tanzania, the Mombasa MRCC will provide search and rescue coverage in what had previously been identified as one of the areas suffering unduly from a lack of adequate SAR and GMDSS facilities.

The successful fruition of this project has been based on a broad co-operation between the three host Governments, IMO and stakeholders from the international and non-governmental sectors. The contribution of the host countries, which have provided the housing facilities and personnel for the operation of the centres, has underpinned its success. Private donors (through Inmarsat plc and IMSO) have contributed equipment, while IMO, as project leader within the framework of its Integrated Technical Co-operation Programme, has collaborated with all parties concerned, co ordinated the various responsibilities in the provision of expert advice, training and infrastructure and provided the overall supervision.

The Mombasa MRCC and the two MRSCs have been funded through the International SAR Fund (ISAR Fund), the establishment of which was approved by the IMO Council in June 2004 to cover, initially, the establishment of the five regional MRCCs and 26 MRSCs in Africa. The ISAR Fund is a multi-donor trust fund, under the auspices of the Secretary-General. It is designed to assist countries which do not have the resources to put into place an adequate SAR infrastructure and, by doing so, boost IMO's efforts to implement the Global Search and Rescue Plan, agreed at the related IMO Conference held in 1998 in Fremantle, Australia. To establish the Mombasa MRCC, funds were also used from the Tsunami Maritime Relief Fund established by IMO soon after the catastrophe suffered by the Indian Ocean countries in the wake of the tsunami of 26 December 2004.

Secretary-General Mitropoulos described the new facility as an excellent example of what could be achieved when the need is sufficiently compelling and the will to succeed is sufficiently strong. He said that the experience gained should serve as an example for other regions to follow.

He added, "It also provides an excellent example of how IMO's technical co-operation activities can yield demonstrable, effective results that serve the greater good of all - and, incidentally, it reflects very well the theme for this year's World Maritime Day, which is "Technical Co-operation: IMO's response to the 2005 World Summit", in which we intend to place special emphasis on the maritime needs of Africa."

The Secretary-General took the opportunity during his visit to thank personally the President of Kenya, His Excellency, Mr. Mwai Kibaki, for his Government's construction and hosting of the MRCC facility, as well as to meet Ministers and senior maritime officials from both Kenya and Tanzania.

Briefing 14, 5 May 2006

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