You are on page 1of 13


Brief notes on IAMSAR Manual

Only for Examination Purposes

GMDSS is a global Communications service based on automated systems, both satellite-based and terrestrial, for providing distress alerting and promulgation of MSI (maritime safety information) to mariners. GMDSS was implemented on 01.02.1999 GMDSS is also known as SOLAS communication equipment and comprises following: Inmarsat SESs VHF, MF and HF DSC radios MSI receivers such as NAVTEX and SafetyNET Portable VHF radios EPIRBs SARTs Acknowledgement of DSC distress alert by use of DSC is normally made by RCC or CRS ONLY. Ships receiving a DSC Alert on VHF or MF are not permitted to relay the call by DSC under any circumstances (they may relay by other means). Ship receiving a DSC alert from another ship on any of the HF DSC frequencies shall NOT acknowledge, shall watch appropriate RT and Telex frequencies and if alert not acknowledged by coast station within 5 minutes and no distress communication heard between a coast station and the ship in distress, then the receiving station must relay the distress alert ashore by any means to coast stations ONLY.

The acronym stands for International Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue Manual. It is a joint publication of ICAO and IMO. Its purpose is to assist States in meeting their own SAR need and fulfilling obligations accepted under the International Conventions. It has three volumes. Each volume deals with specific SAR system duties and may be used independently or in conjunction with other volumes to understand the full system of SAR.

For more details please visit:


Brief notes on IAMSAR Manual

VOLUME I: Organization and Management:

It discusses global SAR concept, establishment and improvement of national and regional SAR systems and in this regard cooperation with neighboring states to achieve effective, efficient and economical results.

VOLUME II: Mission Coordination:

It assists personnel who plan and coordinate SAR operations and exercises.

VOLUME III: Mobile Facilities:

It is intended to be carried aboard rescue units, aircrafts and vessels to help performance of SAR duties as support members, OSC (on-scene coordinator) functions and SAR aspects involving their own emergencies. Thus it provides guidance on SAR aspects to all these three categories.


Abbreviations and Acronyms Glossary Section I : Overview Section II: Rendering assistance Section III: On scene coordination Section IV: On board emergencies APPENDIX A: Regulation V / 10- of SOLAS APPENDIX B: Search Action Message APPENDIX C: Factors affecting observer effectiveness APPENDIX D: Standard format for SITREP APPENDIX E: SAR briefing and debriefing form

Important abbreviations and definitions:

ACO: AIRCRAFT COORDINATOR: A person who coordinates the involvement of multiple aircraft in SAR operations. TAS: TRUE AIR SPEED: Speed of air craft through air mass. TAS corrected for wind speed gives ground speed. SC: SEARCH and rescue COORIDINATOR: SCs are top level SAR mangers. Each state may have one or more SCs, who could be person or an agency.

For more details please visit:


Brief notes on IAMSAR Manual

OSC: ON SCENE COORDINATOR: Person who is designated to coordinate search and rescue within a specified area. RCC: RESCUE COORDINATION CENTRE: A unit responsible for promoting efficient organization of SAR services and for coordinating the conduct of SAR operations within a SAR region. ARCC: AERONAUTICAL RCC: An RCC dealing with aeronautical SAR incidents. MRCC: MARITIME RCC: An RCC dealing with maritime SAR incidents. JRCC: JOINT RCC: An RCC responsible for both aeronautical and maritime SAR incidents. RSC: RESCUE SUB CENTRE: A unit subordinate to a RCC established to complement the latter according to particular provisions of the responsible authorities. RESCUE: An operation that comprises of retrieval of persons in distress, providing for their medical and other needs and finally delivery to place of safety. SEARCH ACTION PLAN: Message, normally developed by the SMC for passing instructions to SAR facilities and agencies participating in a SAR mission. RESCUE ACTION PLAN: A plan for rescue operations normally prepared by the SMC for implementation by OSC and facilities on-scene. SITREP: Situation Report. It gives information about on-scene mission progress and conditions.SITREPs are used by SAR facilities to keep OSC informed, and by OSC to keep SMC informed and by SMC to keep superiors, RCCs and RSCs informed The standard format of SITEP is given in Appendix D of Volume III. SMC: SAR MISSION COORDINATOR: The official temporarily assigned to coordinate response to an actual or apparent distress situation. SRR: SAR REGION: An area of defined dimensions, associated with a RCC, within which SAR services are provided. SRU: SEARCH and RESCUE UNIT: A unit composed of trained personnel and provided with equipment suitable for the expeditious conduct of SAR operations. SART: SEARCH AND RESCUE TRANSPONDER: A survival craft transponder that, when activated, sends out a signal automatically when a pulse from a nearby radar reaches it. The signal appears on the interrogating radar screen and gives the bearing and distance of the transponder from the interrogating radar for SAR purposes.

For more details please visit:


Brief notes on IAMSAR Manual

TS: TRACK SPACING: Most search patterns consist of parallel tracks or sweeps covering a rectangular area. The distance between adjacent parallel search tracks is known as track spacing. The track spacing is used in all search patterns except for sector search pattern, It is denoted by S . DATUM: A geographic point, line or area used as a reference in search planning. CES: COAST EARTH STASTION: Maritime name for an INMARSAT shore-based station linking SESs with terrestrial communication networks. CSP: COMMENCE SEARCH POINT: Point, normally specified by the SMC, where a SAR facility is to begin its search pattern. LUT: LOCAL USER TERMINAL: It is an earth receiving station that receives beacon signals relayed by Cospas-Sarsat satellites, processes them to determine the location of the beacons and forward the signals. COSPAS SARSAT SYSTEM: A satellite system designed to detect distress beacons transmitting on frequencies 121.5 MHz and 406 MHz ELT: EMERGENCY LOCATOR TRANSMITTER: Aeronautical radio distress beacon for alerting and transmitting homing signals. SafertyNET: Communications service provided via Inmarsat for promulgation of MSI, including shore to ship relays of distress alerts and communication for SAR. AMVER: AUTOMATED MUTUAL assistance VEssel RESCUE system: A world-wide vessel reporting system for SAR for maintaining estimated position and other data of merchant vessels that participate on voluntary basis. The system fully supports the SAR and is free of charge for participating vessels and RCCs. Many land-based communication service providers too, world-wide, relay ship reports to AMVER free. The confidentiality of the information provided voluntarily by ships is maintained by USCG and is only revealed to SAR authorities or to others authorized by ships involved. Any merchant vessel more than 1000 gross tons and on any voyage of more than 24 hours can participate. The participation in AMVER has obvious benefits and must be encouraged by ship managers and owners: Quicker response to call for assistance Better chances of reaching aid in shorter time to site of distress Lesser number calls for assistance to vessels not in position to assist


For more details please visit:


Brief notes on IAMSAR Manual

It could be national or regional in nature and is looked after by one or more SCs (SAR Coordinators). SCs are top level SAR managers having overall responsibility. (VOLUME I)


They are established by SCs. Each RCC has its own area with well defined dimensions, known as SRR (SAR Region) and RSC has its own SRS (SAR Sub-Region). Maritime SRRs are depicted by IMO and Aeronautical SRRs are depicted by ICAO. RCC could be MRCC or ARCC or JRCC.


During SAR incident RCC chief or his designee takes the role of SMC. This function is temporary and lasts only for the duration of the incident. Because of the close proximity in the nature of work, RCC and SMC are used interchangeably. SMC makes search action plan, rescue action plan, specifies CSP, coordinates the operation with adjacent RCCs when appropriate, and prepares final reports among other SAR related duties.


If SMC is not designated OSC performs additional duties of SMC till the times SMC is deputed. Normally this duty carried out by ship master unless more capable SRU is available. Among its duties are: Receive search & rescue action plans from SMC or make them himself if no SMC is deputed. Make SITREPS. Coordinate on scene communications and operations of all SAR facilities.

Thus, SAR has three levels of coordination:

They are top level SAR managers. Each state will have one or more persons or agencies. They have overall responsibility for: 1. Establishing, staffing, equipping & managing SAR system. 2. Establishing RCCs & RSCs. 3. Providing or arranging for SAR facilities. 4. Coordinating SAR training. 5. Developing SAR policies

For more details please visit:


Brief notes on IAMSAR Manual

Level 2: SAR MISSION COORDINATOR: Each SAR operation is carried out under the guidance of an SMC. This function exists only for the duration of a specific SAR incident and is normally performed by the RCC chief or a designee. The SMC may have assisting staff. SMCs duties include: 1. Obtain and evaluate all data on emergency. 2. Ascertain type of emergency equipment carried by distressed craft. 3. Remain informed of prevailing environmental conditions. 4. Plot the areas to search and decide on methods and facilities to be used. 5. Develop the search action plan and rescue action plan. 6. Coordinate the operation with adjacent RCCs when appropriate. 7. Arrange for delivery of supplies for survivors. 8. Maintain accurate and chronological record. 9. Issue progress reports. 10. Recommend to RCC chief the abandoning/suspending of the search. 11. Release SAR facilities when assistance no longer required. 12. Prepare a final report Level 3: ON SCENE COORDINATOR: When two or more SAR facilities are working together on the same mission, one person on-scene may be needed to coordinate the activities of all participating facilities. The SMC designates an OSC, who may be the person in charge of a: SRU, ship or aircraft participating in search, or nearby facility in position to handle OSC duties. The person in charge of the first facility to arrive at the scene will normally assume the OSC function until the SMC arranges for the person to be relieved. Duties of OSC will include: 1. Coordinate operations of all SAR facilities on-scene. 2. Receive search action plan or rescue action plan from the SMC or plan the same, if no plan is otherwise available. 3. Coordinate on scene communications. SAR facilities will normally report to OSC. SAR facilities should be in possession of a copy of International Code of Signals, 4. Monitor the performance of other participating facilities.

For more details please visit:


Brief notes on IAMSAR Manual

5. Make periodic situation reports (SITREPs). 6. Maintain a detailed record of the operation. 7. Maintain communication with SMC

On receiving a distress message, following immediate action should be taken: Acknowledge distress message If possible, gather relevant information from craft in distress (position, type and identity of craft, type of cargo onboard, POBs, nature of distress, type of assistance required etc.) Maintain continuous listening watch on international distress frequencies. Maintain communication with distressed craft and convey relevant information about own vessel (Position, identity and speed of own vessel, ETA to site of distress etc.) Use all available means to be aware of the latest position of the distressed craft. On reaching closer post extra look outs to keep the craft in sight. Establish contact with SMC and convey all information, updating, as necessary.


SEARCH ACTION PLAN: Example of Search Action Plan message is given in Appendix B of IAMSAR Volume III. SAP is prepared by SMC and implemented by OSC and SAR facilities. SAP may be modified by OSC, under the authority of SMC, as per prevailing conditions. Search Action Plan message consists of six parts: Situation Search area Execution Coordination required

For more details please visit:


Brief notes on IAMSAR Manual

Communications Reports

RESCUE ACTION PLAN: Rescue Action Plan is also prepared by SMC for implementation by OSC and SAR facilities. The plan may be conveyed in Rescue Action message. At times, however, the plan may also be prepared by OSC. The parts of the RAP message are exactly similar to those for SAP message except that Search area is replaced by Rescue area. DATUM: For planning the search, datum is established, which depends on: Reported position and time of the SAR incident Time interval between incident and arrival of SAR facilities Estimated movement of distressed craft due to drift TRACK SPACING (S): Most search patterns consist of parallel tracks or sweeps covering a rectangular area. The difference between adjacent tracks is called the track spacing. Recommended uncorrected TSs are provided in IAMSAR manual along with correction factors which depend on weather conditions and search object. Uncorrected TS is multiplied by correction factor to get the recommended correct TS.TS does not apply to sector search pattern. TS is denoted by S. S is given by:

S = SU x f w
Where SU is TS uncorrected and fw is weather correction factor. Uncorrected TS is given in tabular form for different search objects for different meteorological visibilities. There are three tables, one each for merchant vessel, helicopters and fixed wing aircrafts. Maximum value of fw is 1 which is for normal weather (i.e. Su = S) and as weather gets worse factor fw becomes less thus reducing value of S. SEARCHING SPEED (V): All search facilities should proceed at same speed as directed by OSC. This is normally the maximum speed of the slowest ship. This speed may, however, have to be reduced in restricted visibility.

For more details please visit:


Brief notes on IAMSAR Manual

SEARCH AREA (A): Search radius is computed using 2 methods: 1. If search is to commence immediately, assume R = 10 NM 2. If time is available, compute the area as advised in following steps: i. Compute area A, a certain craft can cover at a speed V in given time T: A = V x T x S; where S = TS , T = Time for which craft will search, V = Crafts speed ii. The total area At which can be covered by several crafts is given by sum total of areas covered by each craft: At = A1 + A2 + A3 = A4 + .. iii. If all crafts are searching at same speed for the same amount of time, then: At = NA; where N is the number of crafts involved. iv. Search Area radius ( R ) is then given by: _ R = At / 2 v. Draw circle with datum as centre and R as radius. Draw tangents to the circle to form square. If several search facilities are involved, then divide the square into sub-areas and assign the sub-areas as appropriate to different search facilities.


Search patterns and procedures must be preplanned so as to enable minimum delay, risks and maximum efficiency. Standard search patterns have been devised to meet differing situations. They are based on visual search and have been selected for simplicity and effectiveness. The OSC should obtain a search action plan from the SMC via the RCC or RSC ASAP. OSC should keep the SMC informed at regular intervals and whenever the situation has changed. The choice of search pattern will be decided by following factors: Type and size of distressed craft. Meteorological visibility. Sea and weather conditions.

For more details please visit:

10 | P a g e

Brief notes on IAMSAR Manual

Time of day or night. Time of arrival at datum and size of area to be searched. Number and type of assisting crafts available.


1. It is most effective when location of object is known. 2. CSP is always the datum. 3. It is appropriate for small vessels and boats to search for survivors in water with little or no leeway. 4. Accurate navigation is required. First leg is usually oriented directly into the wind to minimize navigational errors. 5. Area involved being small, the procedure must not be used by multiple aircrafts at same altitudes or multiple sea crafts.


1. It is most effective when position of search object is accurately known and search area is small. 2. It is used to search a circular area centered on datum point. Due to small area involved procedure must not be used simultaneously by multiple vessels/ aircrafts. 3. An aircraft and a vessel may be used together to perform independent sector searches of same area. 4. A suitable marker (smoke float or radio beacon) may be dropped at datum point for reference or navigational aid mark the center. 5. For vessels, search pattern radius is usually between 2 NM and 5 NM and turn is 120 degrees, normally to starboard. For aircrafts the search pattern radius is usually between 5 NM and 29 NM.


1. It is normally used when an aircraft or a vessel has disappeared without a trace along a known route. 2. It is often used as initial search effort due to ease of planning and implementation.

For more details please visit:

11 | P a g e

Brief notes on IAMSAR Manual

3. Consists of rapid and reasonably thorough search along intended route of the distressed craft. 4. Search may be along one side of track line and return in the opposite direction on the other side (TSR: track line search, return). 5. Search may be along the intended track and once on each side, then , then search finally continues on its way and does not return (TSN: track line search, not return). 6. Aircrafts are frequently used for TS due to their high speed.


1. It is used to search a large area when survivor location is not known. 2. Most effective over water or flat terrain. 3. The CSP is in one corner of the sub area, one half tracks inside the rectangle from each of the two sides forming the corner. 4. Search legs are parallel to each other and to the long sides of the sub area. 5. It can be used by 2, 3, 4, 5 or more ships.


1. The aircraft does most of the searching, while ship steams along a course at a speed as directed by OSC. 2. It gives a higher probability of detection than can normally be attained by an aircraft searching alone. 3. Ship speed varies according to speed of aircraft and size of the pattern.


1. Used around mountains and in valleys when sharp changes in elevation make other patterns not practical. 2. Search is started from highest peak and goes from top to bottom with new search altitude for each circuit. 3. Search altitude intervals may be 150m to 300m. 4. If the mountain cannot be circled, successive sweeps at the same altitude intervals as listed above should be flown along its side.

For more details please visit:

12 | P a g e

Brief notes on IAMSAR Manual

5. Valleys are searched in circles, moving the centre of the circuit one track spacing after each completed circuit. THE DIVERSION resulting from the receipt of a distress message can occur anytime and anywhere; providing it is reasonable, all vessels within a hundred miles or so are likely to respond, even at some increased risk to themselves. The degree of increased risk that is acceptable is a matter of judgment, as there is no point in adding a second casualty to the first. A prompt response is an essential feature of the rescue missions. It is also important not to overlook the need to assess the navigational problems arising from the diversion, and allow for them, so as to minimize any risks. The route towards the distress should be planned, taking into account the probability of proceeding at max speed in less than ideal weather conditions or maneuvering in waters not normally entered by the vessel. RESPONSE: Vessel receiving distress message must proceed towards distress position at their best speed, while reporting their action to the distressed vessel and/or CRS handling the coordination. The closer presence of other vessels does not relieve the master of his duty to respond. Meanwhile radio traffic should be monitored to establish which other vessels are responding. ONBOARD PREPARATION: The period between first turning towards a distress and arriving on the scene is valuable preparation time. With limited manpower on merchant ships, division of labor and full briefing of key personnel will be important feature of preparation time. COORDINATING SAR: This is taken care of by RCC. INTERSHIP COMMUNICATION: Channel 16 may be used for all distress traffic but it is often preferable to conduct most of the organizational details on a working channel while still monitoring channel 16.Where language difficulties exist, standard phrases from standard maritime vocabulary should be used. RESCUING SURVIVORS: The OSC coordinates the rescue action, directing the most suitably equipped rescue units to move in. And other units stand by and assist as required. When survivors are rescued, it is important

For more details please visit:

13 | P a g e

Brief notes on IAMSAR Manual

that full details of the casualty are obtained quickly and passed to the OSC, so that the search is not called off prematurely. Their medical and nutritional needs must also be made. CONCLUSION OF SEARCH: The OSC must decide, in consultation with SMC, when the rescue is completed and must inform assisting ships, thus relieving them of their obligation to remain. The OSC should also inform the CRS of all relevant details. Before leaving the scene of successful rescue, life rafts and lifejackets etc. should be retrieved or sunk and other floating debris should be the subject of radio warning. If search is unsuccessful and all reasonable hope of rescuing survivors has passed, the OSC, in consultation with the SMC, will call off the search and dismiss assisting units. A radio message asking all ships to keep look out is advisable. NOTES: Aircraft can assist by dropping markers, smoke or flame floats, and survival equipment, consisting of nine person dinghy and two bags of supplies. They can carry out an air search, locate a casualty, keep it under observation and guide surface craft to it. Flying-boats may be able to alight and pick up survivors. Helicopters may also pick up survivors.

For more details please visit: