IMO Updates Search And Rescue Alerting Guidelines


IMO publishes revised Guidance on Alerting of Search and Rescue Authorities, states a Marine Regulations news source.

Circular revising the Guidance 

The International Maritime Organization has issued the circular revising the Guidance on Alerting of Search and Rescue Authorities.

This circular has been issued on November 28th, 2022.

The Maritime Safety Committee, at its 106th session (2 to 11 November 2022), approved the revised Guidance on alerting of search and rescue authorities, as set out in the annex, prepared by the Sub-Committee on Navigation, Communications and Search and Rescue (NCSR), at its ninth session (21 to 30 June 2022).

This circular provides guidance to ensure early notification of SAR authorities when involved in emergency situations.

Member Governments are invited to bring the annexed Guidance to the attention of shipmasters, officers, key shore-based personnel and any other parties concerned.

This circular becomes effective on January 1st, 2024, superseding MSC/Circ.892 as from that date.


The need for the earliest possible alerting of the search and rescue (SAR) coordination authority to maritime emergencies cannot be overemphasized.

It is essential to enable shore-based facilities to respond without delay to any situation which constitutes, or has the potential to constitute, a danger to life.

Factors to be considered include position (in relation to hazards and to shore-based or other SAR units); time of day; weather conditions (actual and forecast); the number of persons at risk or potentially at risk; specific assistance required.

It is always best to consider the “worst-case scenario” and to alert the SAR organization accordingly. Depending on the circumstances, the coordinating authority may choose to alert or dispatch SAR facilities as a precautionary measure and/or to reduce transit times.

If assistance is not subsequently required, any such positive response can be easily curtailed. But time lost through delays in notification can never be regained.

It is therefore essential that the SAR coordinating authority be informed
immediately of:

  • 1. all maritime SAR incidents;
  • 2. any situation which may develop into a SAR incident; and
  • 3. any incident which may involve or lead to danger to life, the environment or to  property  which  may  require  action  from  the  SAR  services  and/or  other authorities.

Operating guidance for ships in distress or urgency situations (to be considered in conjunction with GMDSS Operating guidance for ships in distress situations – MSC.1/Circ.1656)

The following diagram shows standard procedures for distress/urgency message routeing.

It is for guidance only, and does not preclude the use of any and all available means of distress alerting.

Credit: Marine Regulations

The following diagram shows suggested procedures for reporting concerns about the safety of another vessel (fire, smoke, adrift, navigating towards a danger, etc.).

Credit: Marine Regulations

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Source: Marine Regulations


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