The Search and Rescue Capacity Partnership Programme (SCPP) aiming at strengthening the search and rescue (SAR) capabilities of Mauritius, Sri Lanka and Maldives, will be completed in June 2018. In this context, a closing ceremony was held yesterday at Le Meridien Hotel in Pointe aux Piments in the presence of the Minister of Ocean Economy, Marine Resources, Fisheries and Shipping, Mr Premdut Koonjoo, as well as other personalities.
The three-year Programme, an initiative of the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, was launched in January 2015. The project, to the tune of 2.6 million AuD, was financed by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade through the Government Partnerships for Development Programme.
In his keynote address, Minister Koonjoo highlighted that for an island nation like Mauritius, the maritime industry is a vital and dynamic pillar of its ocean economy. With intensification of maritime traffic in our waters, he observed, safety of navigation stands out as an important part of the maritime industry in order to avoid maritime casualties and loss of life.
The Minister pointed out that the Exclusive Economic Zone of Mauritius constitutes an area of approximately 2.3 million km², which according to him involves increasing challenges and responsibilities. He added that in view of Mauritius' limited technical and technological capabilities, the collaboration and cooperation of neighbouring countries is crucial to enhance its national SAR services and capabilities in the region. While reflecting on the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 crash in 2014, he stressed on the need and importance of working together across national borders to promote the enhancement and improvement of SAR facilities and services.
On that score, Minister Koonjoo expressed gratitude to the Australian Government for its unflinching support in helping Mauritius in fostering regional cooperation which is crucial in unlocking the full potential of the ocean economy in SAR related activities. He recalled that the Programme has indeed reinforced and strengthened the SAR system through expert training and the acquisition of SAR tools and a multipurpose vessel for training and research, to enable a more effective response to maritime and aviation distress situations.
He reiterated Government's aim of ensuring maritime safety and security and added that in line with Vision 2030, the country has developed and implemented a number of maritime strategies addressing a wide range of issues including the facilitation of maritime control and shipping related activities.
Also present on the occasion, the Australian Deputy High Commissioner to Mauritius, Mr Volkan Alasya, underlined that effective search and rescue requires a cooperative and coordinated response across borders and that the partnership is important for both countries in terms of strengthening their capacity to ensure maritime safety and security in the region. He added that the undertaking of the programme reflects the commitment of Australia in playing an active role in ensuring the marine safety and security of the region.
The programme consisted of the implementations of the e-Broadcasts and Search and Rescue Calculator systems, Search and Rescue Exercises, the development of an SAR framework and a PROSAR drift programme.
Some 101 officers from various departments of the Ministry and organisations were offered local and overseas training including, exchange visit in Australia, an aeronautical Search and Rescue course at the Aviation Academy in Singapore in October 2015, SAR development course in 2016 and drift model System training in 2017, amongst others.