An East African Search and Rescue Centre needs to be established

The Tsunami disaster that occurred in December last year caused the death of over 200 people on the East African Coast.

Although this death toll may look relatively small compared to the over 180,000 killed in the Asian Countries, it should still serve as a reminder of how vulnerable our region is.

That Tsunami has come within a decade of two major sea related disasters in this region: the MV Bukoba Ferry disaster in lake Victoria near Mwanza, Tanzania, that claimed over 650 lives and the MV Mtongwe1 Ferry tragedy at Mombasa in April 1994 that claimed 270 lives.

The Bukoba Ferry, Mtongwe Ferry and the Tsunami disaster shows that there’s an urgent need of Search And Rescue Centers in the Western Indian Ocean region.

The nearest Search And Rescue Centers are located in Oman and in South Africa thousands of miles away from the East and the North Horn of Africa.

South Africa Search And Rescue organization (SASAR) is an organization operating under the direction of the Republic of South Africa (RSA) department of transport and the organization is in operation since 1958. The SASAR area of responsibility cover the area seaward between Kunene river mouth and Kosi bay between 10 W to 57 E down to 60 S as well as the land area of the (RSA), Namibia, Swaziland and Lesotho. Their total area of responsibility is approximately 16.8 million square kilometers or roughly 5.2 times the size of the Republic of South Africa (RSA).

The South African Search And Rescue area of responsibility is divided in two Search And Rescue Regions namely: the Inland region, which is Aviation oriented and the maritime region.

There is an urgent need to set up similar Rescue Centers at the Sea Ports of Mombasa, Dar es salaam, Maputo, Djibouti, Victoria in Seychelles, Aden, Port Louis, Port Dauphin in Madagascar and along the great lakes region.

The Rescue Centers will keep a constant watch on Shipping and aircraft movements in their regions through the appropriate air traffic control towers and coastal radio stations.

They will also have access to information on foreign aircraft and Shipping through SAR organizations Worldwide.

Rescue centers must have fully fitted operations rooms with emergency planning, press and Staff facilities.

They also must have comprehensive lists of all resources available to them at short notice within their area of responsibility.

In an emergency the appropriate Rescue Center calls on and co-ordinates the required facilities such as the Air Force, Coast guard, Navy, Police, local and national rescue services and civil protection agencies to effect a speedy rescue and a safe delivery of survivors.

The Rescue Centers shall fall under the responsibility of a Rescue Co-ordination Center at the Mombasa Port (currently under construction).

All Air Traffic Control Centers within this region can be activated as Rescue Sub-Centres (RSCs).

And the Jomo Kenyatta International Air port can be the Aeronautical Rescue Co-ordination center (ARCC).

The SAR centers will co-ordinate the resources of various government agencies and civil organizations to search for, assists and if necessary rescue survivors of aircraft accidents or forced landings and the crew and passengers of vessels in distress and maritime casualties.

Andrew Mwangura
Programs Co-ordinator
Seafarers Assistance Program


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