Rescue at sea: Updated and revised IMO guide

Refugees and Migrants

Published: 4 June 2015

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has published "Rescue at Sea: A guide to principles and practice as applied to refugees and migrants".

The updated and revised [publication] is now available in six languages, providing guidance on relevant legal provisions, on practical procedures to ensure the prompt disembarkation of rescued persons, and on measures to meet their specific needs, particularly in the case of refugees and asylum seekers.

The guide has been prepared jointly by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

"This guide is extremely important as it sets out the relevant legal framework for the rescue of persons in distress at sea," said IMO Secretary-General Koji Sekimizu.

"Our noble tradition of search and rescue enshrined in SOLAS and UNCLOS must be maintained. However, at the same time, it has to be recognized that our system is not designed for rescuing hundreds of thousands of people. We need to prevent the large flow of maritime passage on board unseaworthy craft or we need to rescue them by specifically arranged rescue facilities," Mr. Sekimizu said.

The guide is intended for use by ship masters, ship operators and Governments. Printed versions will be distributed to ships and fishing vessels by Member States, while the online version can be downloaded from the websites of IMO, UNHCR and ICS.