Search and Rescue

The 1979 Convention, adopted at a Conference in Hamburg, was aimed at developing an international maritime SAR plan, so that, no matter where an accident occurs, the rescue of persons in distress at sea will be co-ordinated by a SAR organization and, when necessary, by co-operation between neighbouring SAR organizations.

Although the obligation of ships to go to the assistance of vessels in distress was enshrined both in tradition and in international treaties (such as the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), 1974), there was, until the adoption of the SAR Convention, no international system covering search and rescue operations. In some areas there was a well-established organization able to provide assistance promptly and efficiently, in others there was nothing at all. 

In the 1979 SAR Convention, the technical requirements are contained in the Annex, which was divided into five Chapters. Parties to the Convention are required to ensure that arrangements are made for the provision of adequate SAR services in their coastal waters. However, since the Convention imposed considerable obligations such as setting up  shore installations on Parties, the Convention was not ratified by as many countries as other treaties. 

Taking note of this, a revised Annex to the SAR Convention was adopted in 1998 and entered into force in 2000. The revision clarifies the responsibilities of Governments and puts greater emphasis on the regional approach and co-ordination between maritime and aeronautical SAR operations. The current Convention contains the revision made by resolution MSC155(78), which was adopted in 2004 and entered into force in 2006 

Following the revision, the Sub-Committee on Navigation, Communications and Search and Rescue (NCSR) at its third session agreed to the development of a new module of the Global Integrated Shipping Information System (GISIS) in 2016. The purpose of this module is to facilitate the communication of information to the Organization on shore-based facilities for the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS). For the details, please visit