International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue (SAR)

General Detail

General Information

  1. Type: Convention
  2. Date of signature:
  3. Place of signature: Hamburg, Germany
  4. Depositary:
  5. Date of entry into force: 22/06/1985


Transport and telecommunications

Sub category

Maritime shipping and load lines



What is it about?

This Convention establishes an international search and rescue (SAR) plan through the adoption of technical requirements, the division of SAR regions, operating procedures to be followed in the event of emergencies or alerts, the pooling of facilities amongst the Governments, establishment of common procedures, and training. It also establishes preparatory measures that should be taken, including the establishment of rescue coordination centres and subcentres.

Why is it relevant?

This instrument represents the only international agreement covering search and rescue operations at sea. It attempts to assure that no matter where an accident occurs, the rescue of persons in distress at the sea will be coordinated by a SAR organization and, when necessary, by cooperation between Governments.

Additional Information

After the SAR Convention, the IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee divided the world’s ocean into 13 search and rescue areas. Governments are required to ensure that arrangements are made for the provision of adequate SAR services in their coastal waters, imposing considerable obligations on Governments. Amendments to the SAR Convention enter into force on a specified date unless objections are received from a required number of Governments. The 1998 amendments are the most significant ones, providing for greater emphasis on the regional approach and co-ordination between maritime and aeronautical SAR operations.

  • Convention on the International Maritime Organization (Geneva, 06/03/1948).


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