The Pacific’s wild weather and vast distances make it a challenging location for search and rescue, said Keith Manch, Director Maritime New Zealand, in his opening address at the Pacific Regional Search and Rescue workshop in Auckland, New Zealand (22-26 May).
The objective of the workshop is to provide Pacific Search and Rescue (SAR) coordinators and responders with the tools to improve coordination between national SAR agencies. The event also aims to improve regional collaboration through formal protocols and communication ensuring a uniform SAR response throughout the Pacific.
International Maritime Organization (IMO)'s Carlos Salgado echoed the importance of shared experiences: “This regional workshop is vital as it provides an opportunity for those who have responsibilities in search and rescue, to discuss their common issues and share some best practices on how to resolve them”.
He also highlighted key aspects of international standards: “The work done at this workshop will improve Pacific SAR responders’ ability to comply with international rules and standards around search and rescue activities.”
The workshop, attended by more than 100 participants, saw a mock search and rescue operation, featuring a sinking boat firing flares, a US Coastguard C-130 Hercules dropping a life raft and an Auckland Rescue Helicopter winching a person from the water.
The workshop is jointly organised by the Pacific Community (SPC) and IMO, and co-hosted by the Government of New Zealand.
Pacific Island governments continue to be challenged by search and rescue cases, despite ongoing efforts to prevent them. Between 2015 and early 2017, there were some 680 search and rescue cases reported in Guam, 213 in Papua New Guinea, 86 in Kiribati, 72 in Solomon Islands and 25 in Cook Islands and 25 in Tuvalu.