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Even as the massive search is still on to find out the Malaysian airliner MH370, which disappeared over the Indian Ocean almost two weeks ago, Indian Coast Guard, being the coordinator of the challenging task of Maritime Search and Rescue (M-SAR), conducted a special two day Search and Rescue Workshop and Exercise (SAREX-14) in and around Mumbai to hone their exploring skills.

The exercise was conducted under the sharp gaze of a team of 21 international observers from 10 maritime nations. Members of National Maritime Search and Rescue (NMSAR) Board from various central and state departments, resources agencies and other maritime stake holders also participated in the exercise.  The SAR Workshop and Exercise assumes significance in the wake of past SAR operations like rescue of crew of MV Mol Comfort which broke into two portions about 900 Nautical Miles way from Indian west coast in June 2013 and rescue of MV Asian Express which sank 90 Nautical Miles off Minicoy Islands in July 2013.  During the exercise, the spectacular rescue demonstration by ships and aircrafts of various resource agencies showcased India’s SAR capability and its commitment to safety of life in distress at sea. 

Search and Rescue services need to respond to every situation with utmost alacrity displaying professional acumen and exercising full coordination with other support agencies. Given the multiplicity if stake holders, this calls for best SAR practices, efficient on ground coordination and enhanced integration with global SAR system.  With this aim and to check the efficiency of SAR mechanism, Vice Admiral Anurag G Thapliyal, Director General Indian Coast Guard being the National Maritime SAR coordinating Authority (NMSARCA), reviewed the SAR exercise at sea off Mumbai 20 March 2014. 

During the exercise, a scenario of a cruise liner colliding with a cargo vessel and two fishing trawlers off Mumbai was demonstrated.  Post collusion, Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIIRBs) from merchant vessels and Distress Alert Transmitters (DATs) from fishing trawlers were activated to check the efficiency of distress alert relay mechanisms.  After receipt of distress message, SAR operations simulating ‘Mass Rescue’ through a coordinated SAR operation involving various SAR resource agencies was demonstrated.  Ten ships, two Dornier aircraft, two helicopters from Coast Guard, one Indian Naval Ship, one Indian Air Force helicopter, two offshore support vessels from ONGC besides resource agencies like Airport Authority of India (MB), Indian Mission Control Centre (INMCC) Bangaluru, Maharashtra Administration, Maharashtra Police,  and MbPT participated in the exercise. 

Prior to the exercise, Indian Coast Guard conducted a, one week, SAR training for five Coast Guard Officers each from Sri Lanka and Maldives under trilateral cooperation at Mumbai from 12 to 18 March 2014.

 

The SAR missions undertaken and the lives saved during emergencies at sea stand testimony to the concerted efforts of the Indian Coast Guard (ICG).The ICG have saved 6292 lives at sea in coordination with other resource agencies till date.  Proactive approach adopted on SAR, particularly for ensuring safety of fishermen has yielded positive results and contributed onwards growing confidence amongst the fishing community in the maritime SAR network in India.  

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