Sub-Committee on Radiocommunications and Search and Rescue (COMSAR) – 15th session, 7-11 March 2011

(7 to 11 March 2011)

Good morning, distinguished delegates and observers – and welcome to the fifteenth session of the Sub-Committee on Radiocommunications and Search and Rescue.  I extend a particular warm welcome to those of you who are attending this Sub-Committee for the first time.
As it has become customary, before I address the most important items on the agenda of a sitting IMO body, I say a few words about the theme for World Maritime Day, which the Council chooses for each particular year.  This year’s theme is "Piracy: orchestrating the response" and aims at complementing and coming as a sequel to last year’s theme, which was dedicated to seafarers. 
It is in the context of IMO’s overall concern about safeguarding human life at sea that we have set, as the overall aim of the theme chosen for this year, the redoubling of our efforts to meet the challenges of modern-day piracy and, in so doing, generate a broader, global response to eradicate it.  To give substance to the campaign and make a difference, we will, in the course of 2011, seek to:
• one:  increase pressure at the political level to secure the release of all hostages being held by pirates;
• two:  review and improve the IMO guidelines to Administrations and seafarers and promote compliance with industry best management practices and the recommended preventive, evasive and defensive measures ships should follow;
• three:  promote greater levels of support from, and coordination with, navies;
• four:  promote anti-piracy coordination and co-operation procedures between and among States, regions, organizations and industry;
• five:  assist States to build capacity in piracy-infested regions of the world, and elsewhere, to deter, interdict and bring to justice those who commit acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships; and
• six:  provide care, during the post-traumatic period, for those attacked or hijacked by pirates and for their families.
To add emphasis to this year’s anti-piracy campaign, the action plan we have compiled, in co-operation with industry and seafarer representative organizations, was launched by the UN Secretary-General, who, together with the Executive Heads of the World Food Programme and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, came to IMO last month for this particular purpose.  It is my sincere hope, and strong wish, that the action plan will generate the widest possible interest and that it will inspire and galvanize Governments, international organizations and industry stakeholders to act in the most appropriate and effective manner to eradicate the now all too frequent incidence of armed kidnap and ransom that characterize modern day piracy, in particular off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden.  I hope you will also support the campaign and assist in the delivery of its components as best as you can – as much as I would encourage you to support the most commendable campaign under the title “Save our Seafarers”, launched by industry organizations last week.
In the meantime, our thoughts and prayers are with those seafarers, who, at present, are in the hands of pirates.  May they all be released unharmed and returned to their families soon.
Distinguished delegates,
Since your last session, a year ago, the Maritime Safety Committee has met twice and, under agenda item 2, you will be informed of decisions it took relevant to your work.
At its eighty-seventh session in May of last year, the Committee approved a revised version of the International SafetyNET Manual, which your Sub-Committee had recommended for approval.  This marks a significant step in the holistic review of all the instruments supporting the World-Wide Navigational Warning Service.  This week, you are expected, as the final part of your review, to consider the draft revised text for the NAVTEX Manual and develop, at the request of MSC 88, a draft Assembly resolution on the World-Wide Met-Ocean Information and Warning Service to meet the requirements of SOLAS regulation V/5.4 and ensure consistency with other components of maritime safety information.  The draft resolution should be finalized at this session, approved by MSC 89 and eventually adopted by the Assembly at its twenty-seventh session in November of this year.
I note with great satisfaction that, as part of the expansion of the World-Wide Navigational Warning Service into Arctic waters, five new Arctic NAVAREAs/METAREAs (which are currently in an “Initial Operational Capability”) are expected to reach “Full Operational Capability” on 1 June this year.  This would mean finalization of the exercise just one year after the World Meteorological Organization, the International Hydrographic Organization and IMO agreed to their establishment.  This important milestone will be celebrated at a special event, at Noon today, in the presence of the Secretary-General of WMO, Mr. Michel Jarraud, and the President of IHO, Admiral Alexandros Maratos to both of whom I extend a particular warm welcome. You are all cordially invited to attend the event in this room first and, afterwards, at a reception, courtesy of Norway and Inmarsat, in the Delegates Lounge.
An important item on your agenda this week is the finalization of the draft IMO position on matters relating to maritime services on the agenda for the next World Radiocommunication Conference of ITU, scheduled to take place in 2012.  At this session, you are expected to consider the outcome of the meeting of the Joint IMO/ITU Experts Group and other relevant IMO and ITU developments and, in the light of your deliberations, update the draft IMO position accordingly.  As the ITU Conference will take place before your Sub-Committee’s next scheduled session in 2012, it is imperative that you finalize the Sub-Committee’s work on this agenda item this week.  I have every confidence that you will successfully complete the task at hand and submit the final outcome to MSC 89 for approval and subsequent transmission to the ITU Conference.
Distinguished delegates,
Search and rescue matters once again feature prominently on your agenda.  I am pleased to note that excellent progress has been made by the ICAO/IMO Joint Working Group on Harmonization of Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue with regard to the updating and restructuring of the IAMSAR Manual.  With continued good progress, we will be able to meet the aim of issuing a fully restructured edition of the IAMSAR Manual in 2013.
The development of an adequate regulatory regime governing the rescue of persons in distress at sea remains one of the main tasks of this Sub Committee.  In this regard, you will be briefed of work aiming at assisting in the implementation of the Global SAR Plan through the establishment of regional Maritime Rescue Coordination Centres and Sub centres in African countries bordering the Atlantic and Indian Oceans – a task that continues to progress well.  Last week, I  witnessed, in Morocco, the signing ceremony of a multilateral Agreement for the North and West Africa Maritime Search and Rescue Region, comprising sea areas, as defined by the 2000 Florence Conference, for Cape Verde, The Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Mauritania, Morocco and Senegal.  Subsequently, together with the competent Moroccan Minister and Ministers of the participating regional countries, I commissioned the Regional MRCC in Rabat, which, together with the centres established in Mombasa, Cape Town, Lagos and Monrovia, completes the network of Regional MRCCs in Africa, as recommended by the Florence Conference. 
I am pleased that, to date, and in addition to the five regional centres I just mentioned, ten MRCCs, operating as sub-centres in the regional context, have been declared operational.  They are established in Seychelles, the United Republic of Tanzania, Comoros, Mozambique, Madagascar, Namibia, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo and Mauritania.  The remaining fifteen sub-centres (to be established in Angola, Benin, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, the Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Sao Tome & Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Somalia) are expected to come on-line as soon as the circumstances allow. 
All these developments show how successful our efforts to provide effective assistance to seafarers and all persons in distress at sea, through an integrated action plan for search and rescue, can be if we work together persistently, consistently and with a sheer determination to bring them to fruition no matter the difficulties (political, economic and technical) we encounter in the process.  All who have contributed to these achievements, including the dedicated and committed IMO staff, deserve special recognition and thanks.
I would now like to say a few words about the IMO Award for Exceptional Bravery at Sea, which, since it was established in 2005, has become an institution and an important event on the IMO calendar.  Last September, we issued Circular letter No.3101 inviting nominations for the 2011 Award, for actions of bravery performed during the period 1 March 2010 to 28 February 2011.  As stipulated in the Circular letter, nominations must be received by 15 April 2011.  I would, therefore, encourage you all to remind your Governments and organizations of the looming deadline so that nominations are received in good time.
Other items on your agenda that are equally important to those I have already mentioned include:
• the development of liaison statements to ITU-R Working Party 5B;
• the modification of MSC/Circ.1040 on Guidelines on annual testing of 406 MHz satellite EPIRBs;
• the scoping exercise to establish a review of the elements and procedures of the GMDSS;
• the development of the e-navigation strategy implementation plan;
• the revision of the Guide to cold water survival;
• matters related to the rescue of people from survival craft or from the water in the case of incidents involving large passenger ships; and
• the development of a basic safety guidance for yacht races or oceanic voyages by non-regulated craft.
These and all the items on your agenda deserve careful consideration and, in dealing with them, you should keep uppermost in your mind the role of the human element, as emphasized by the Maritime Safety Committee and specifically called for in its Guidelines on the organization and methods of work. 
As you go about your work this week, you will have the opportunity to appreciate the considerable progress made on several items of your agenda by the various correspondence groups you established at your last session.  All the members of these groups, especially their coordinators, deserve our thanks for, and recognition of, their important input.
Before I conclude, I will say, as I always do, a few words about security during meetings – on which your continued co operation at any given instance would be much appreciated.  These are not easy times and we should not, for lack of vigilance and alertness or the demonstration of any complacent attitude, make it easier for those who contemplate acts of violence to succeed.
Distinguished delegates,
Having highlighted some of the most important items on your agenda, I am left in no doubt that this session will, once again, demand a lot of hard work from all of you as you are expected to finalize several of the items on your agenda while achieving progress on others.  I am confident that you will tackle the tasks before you successfully, guided by the constant commitment of all of us to this Organization’s twin causes of enhanced maritime safety and environmental protection and inspired by the customary IMO spirit of co-operation.  This, in turn, will ensure that you make sound, balanced and timely decisions on which to base your advice to the MSC.  I am confident that, under the leadership of your experienced Chairman, Commander Salgado of Chile, you will pursue your objectives vigorously and successfully.  As always, the Secretariat will give you all the support required.  I wish you every success in your deliberations and the best of luck.
However, before I pass the floor back to you, Mr. Chairman, I wish, with great sadness, to inform the Sub-Committee of the passing, ten days ago, of Captain John Thompson, a staff member until his retirement in 1997, Head of the Navigation Section and former Secretary of this Sub-Committee along with several others.
John was the epitome of all that characterized shipmasters of his generation: knowledgeable, hard working, patient and a good teacher to young professionals joining the Secretariat.  Above all, he was a good friend and a good man.  He will be sorely missed.
Thank you.