The Indian Coast Guard (ICG) organised the 18th National Maritime Search and Rescue Board (NMSARB) meeting here today to discuss policy issues, formulate guidelines & procedures and assess the efficacy of National Search and Rescue Plan.

The apex-level meeting was chaired by Director General Indian Coast Guard and Chairman NMSARB Shri K Natarajan and attended by 48 Board members from various ministries, agencies, all Coastal States & Union Territories.

For the first time, three strong components of the M-SAR – Secretary (Ministry of Shipping), Secretary (Ministry of Civil Aviation) and Secretary (Department of Fisheries) participated in the annual meeting. 

In his inaugural address, the NMSARB Chairman welcomed three new members, the Ministry of Shipping, Department of Animal husbandry, Dairy and Fisheries and Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services as permanent members.

The meeting was also attended by Fisheries Department officials from West Bengal, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka. 

Shri K Natarajan highlighted various initiatives of ICG in coordination with other stakeholders to improve the search and rescue effectiveness within the 4.6 million sq km vast Indian Search & Rescue Region.

He brought out the importance of three Maritime Rescue Coordination centers at Mumbai, Chennai and Andaman & Nicobar Islands established by ICG and voluntary ship reporting system INDSAR developed by the Coast Guard to divert the ship nearest to the site of incident for immediate Search & Rescue (SAR) assistance.

The Prevention and Measured SAR mechanism adopted by ICG resulted in no loss of life at sea during passage of many cyclones in the recent past. 

The Chairman advocated the need for collaborative approach with capacity building of stakeholders towards strengthening the maritime SAR architecture.

He reiterated the need to focus on sustainable maritime safety in Area of Responsibility (AOR) and address regulations governing mandatory carriage of life saving safety equipment, seaworthiness of fishing vessels by fisher-folk as preventive mechanism, proper training and accounting of the crew onboard. 

Delivering the keynote address, Secretary (Shipping) Shri Gopal Krishna complimented ICG and NMSARB members for their exemplary coordination which resulted in incorporation of various ingenious measures to improve the SAR mechanism.

He stressed upon the need to harmonise the Maritime-Air SAR system. 

In his address, Secretary (Civil Aviation) Shri Pradeep Singh Kharola emphasised the importance of reducing the divide between Aeronautical & Maritime SAR as about 60 per cent of Indian airspace comprises of ocean areas.

He assured the forum that his ministry would provide all assistance for enhancing the coordination further. 

Secretary (Fisheries) Smt Rajini Sekhri Sibal said, 2.5 lakh fishing boats with about 38 lakh fishermen are engaged in fishing which requires frequent SAR assistance.

She complemented ICG for having a robust SAR mechanism in place. 

Apart from deliberations on various maritime safety issues and identifying areas of improvement of Search and Rescue services, the NMSAR Board recognises the SAR efforts of merchant mariners, Govt.

Owned Vessels and Fishermen every year. For the year 2018-19, MV Asia Emerald III was awarded the SAR Award for Merchant Vessel for saving 06 lives from a distressed fishing boat.

SAR Award for Fisherman was awarded to Shri Anand A Ambhire from Maharashtra for saving 11 lives from a sinking fishing boat.

SAR Award for Government Owned SAR Unit was awarded jointly to Indian Coast Guard Ships Sujoy and Vikram for saving 46 lives from ROSV Sagar Sampada off New Mangalore. 

Indian Coast Guard being the nodal agency for Maritime Search and Rescue has rescued 9,672 lives by coordinating 3,180 search and rescue missions, which inter alia includes 2,479 air sorties and 3,540 ship deployments, since inception.

ICG thus saves one precious life every second day. Further, ICG also escorted more than 6,000 fishing boats to safe locations during the passage of three severe cyclonic storms this year.

In this year alone, ICG took 300 SAR missions involving rescue of close to 1,000 lives at sea which includes 27 MEDEVAC operations and some of the rescue operations were conducted at the fringes of Indian Search and Rescue Region.