According to SOLAS, a passenger ship must have a plan on board for cooperation with the appropriate SAR services in event of an emergency. The SAR plan must not replace a company’s more detailed emergency response plans. These may already be part of its SAR services arrangements or safety management system (SMS) mandated under the ISM Code. The SAR plan is to be exercised periodically based on the circumstances in which the ship operates, but not more than once in any twelve-month period.

Back in June 2017, the MSC98 approved the revised  Guidelines for preparing plans for cooperation between search and rescue services and passenger ships (in accordance with SOLAS regulation V/7.3). These Guidelines provide a uniform basis for the establishment of plans for cooperation between passenger ships and SAR services1 in accordance with SOLAS regulation V/7.3. Plans developed in accordance with the Guidelines will meet the requirements of the regulatiom.

The aim of SAR cooperation planning is to improve the  understanding between a ship, a company and SAR services so that, in case of an emergency, all three parties will be able to cooperate efficiently. In order for this happen, the parties have to exchange information and perform joint emergency response exercises.

The SAR plan does not replace emergency response plans already in place, whether as part of the company's safety management system or the SAR services' arrangements. SAR cooperation plan serves as a link so that the response to an emergency involving a passenger ship is coordinated effectively.

Specifically, the SAR plan must have these key points:
  • It should contain the basic information which will enable the response to any emergency to commence without delay. This information will include direct contact details for the three parties: ship, company, and SAR services or SAR data provider.
  • Each of the parties to the cooperation plan should have access to an up-to-date controlled copy of it, so that each then knows what information is already available to the others.
  • SAR service personnel should receive periodic training on accessing plans for cooperation and on the importance of the plans' content for coordinating an effective SAR response.
  • Exercises must be formally recorded by the ship, company and SAR service and a record kept aboard the ship for inspection.

It is important the information contained in each SAR cooperation plan should be kept up-to-date. Therefore, review, updating, and auditing of the SAR cooperation plan should be conducted as part of the safety management system required by the ISM Code.

You can see more details regarding the SAR plan onboard ships, by clicking the PDF herebelow