Maritime rescue and piracy issues top agenda in successful Africa mission
The commissioning of a regional maritime rescue co-ordination centre as well
as meetings with the Presidents of both Kenya and Tanzania were among highlights
of a recent mission to Africa by IMO Secretary-General Efthimios E. Mitropoulos.
Mr. Mitropoulos began a busy three days of meetings (3 to 6 May) with a visit
to the President of Kenya, His Excellency Mr. Mwai Kibaki in the capital, Nairobi.
The two discussed matters of mutual interest, in particular arrangements for
the diplomatic conference to adopt a new international convention on wreck removal
which Kenya is to host on IMO's behalf next year.
Mr. Mitropoulos then travelled to Mombasa, where he first visited the Mission
to Seafarers. In praising seafarers for their services to the community, he
described them as "the soul, heart and brains of a ship". After addressing
the seafarers present, he answered questions on a variety of topics.
Also in Mombasa, Mr Mitropoulos commissioned a new regional Maritime Search
and Rescue Co-ordination Centre (MRCC). This is the first such facility to be
inaugurated following 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 regional
MRCC under this initiative is expected to be opened in Cape Town, South Africa,
before the end of this year, while three more, on the Western coast of Africa,
are currently at the planning stage.
Along with its associated Maritime Rescue Sub-Centres (MRSCs) in Victoria (Seychelles)
and Dar es Salaam (United Republic of 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.
Speaking to the staff of the MRCC during the commissioning ceremony, Mr. Mitropoulos
took the opportunity to point out the immense importance of the work that lay
He said, "I congratulate you on your employment and on the humanitarian
task you will be asked to perform, 24 hours-a-day, seven days-a-week, 365 days-a-year
- the same hard tasks shipping performs in the service of the community.
"The Indian Ocean has many times, most recently with the 2004 tsunami,
shown its inhospitable face and has caused many disasters to the detriment of
shipping, with the loss of precious human lives and the destruction of the marine
He went on to speak of the zeal and enthusiasm with which he felt sure the staff
would undertake their heavy duties and offered them these words of advice: "Never
be complacent, never underestimate the seriousness of any distress incident
you handle and never consider any incident to be the same as another - because
each has its peculiarities and special characteristics that demand special attention."
He reminded staff that they would be the last hope of seafarers for whom fate
had in store the bitter experience of a shipwreck, but would be the first they
would thank once rescued and safe on solid ground, earning their eternal gratitude
and that of their families.
Mr. Mitropoulos also stressed the importance of continual personnel training
to ensure that the knowledge and professional skills of the staff of the Centre
could be kept up to date with developments in the sophisticated satellite and
terrestrial communication systems with which the new facility is equipped.
Moving on to the United Republic of Tanzania, Mr. Mitropoulos travelled to the
capital, Dar es Salaam, to meet the country's president, His Excellency Mr.
Jakaya Kikwete. He also visited the Mission to Seafarers there, and inspected
the site of the Maritime Rescue Sub-Centre that is due to come into operation
later this year.
As part of
a wide-ranging agenda, Mr. Kikwete and Mr. Mitropoulos discussed matters of
mutual concern including the increasing threat of piracy in east African waters.
When in service, the Dar es Salaam facility will act not only as a rescue sub-centre
but will also undertake personnel training, vessel traffic surveillance and
the Mombasa MRCC and its associated 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, designed to assist countries 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 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.
new facilities have been described by Secretary-General Mitropoulos as excellent,
tangible examples of what can be achieved when the need is sufficiently compelling
and the will to succeed is sufficiently strong, and that the experience gained
from them should serve as examples for other regions to follow.
In his discussions
with the two Presidents, he took the opportunity to draw attention to how IMO's
technical co-operation activities could yield demonstrable, effective results
that serve the greater good of all. He also highlighted how the establishment
of the search and rescue facilities reflected very well the theme for this year's
World Maritime Day, which is "Technical Co-operation: IMO's response to
the 2005 World Summit", through which special emphasis will be placed on
the maritime needs of Africa and on IMO's contribution to the attainment of
the Millennium Development Goals.
15, 9 May 2006
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