an island nation strategically located in the middle of the Mediterranean
Sea, Malta has for millennia been the focal point of an ever growing
volume of maritime traffic. In times of war this meant that control
of the island was a pre-requisite to the control of the Mediterranean
itself. In times of peace the location of Malta has shaped her role
as a key link in the SAR services that cover the Mediterranean.
Malta has developed into a popular tourist destination and is now
also serving as a major cargo hub for the Euro-Mediterranean region.
Developments in both maritime trade and the growing volume of passenger
arrivals both by air and sea, as well as the greater accessibility
of recreational boating to the population, have all contributed
to making the airspace and sea-lanes around the Maltese Archipelago
a very busy place.
all this has necessitated the development of a substantial Search
and Rescue capability making the best use of modern technology.
While the islands themselves represent only a miniscule landmass
in comparison to other nations, the Maltese Search & Rescue
(SRR) is vast, covering in excess of 250,000 square km.Within this
area, Malta constantly strives to develop and maintain the capability
to respond to an ever-widening array of emergencies ranging from
medical evacuations off commercial vessels to the modern phenomenon
of "migrants at sea" or asylum seekers.
primary responsibility for the co-ordination of all SAR cases within
the Maltese SRR lies with the Armed Forces Of Malta (AFM). To this
end the AFM not only operates the Malta Rescue Co-ordination Centre
(RCC), which is internationally recognised as the SAR Point of Contact
in Malta, but also deploys maritime and air assets on a daily basis
to respond to a variety of cases. The paucity of available resources
compared to the area, which must be covered, has also been a prime
factor why the AFM has become an expert in international liaison
and multi-national operations. In fact, RCC Malta enjoys excellent
working relations with neighbouring RCCs as well as with operational
organisations as the Italian Navy and Coastguard and other navies
in the Mediterranean and beyond.
order to reach the high standards required, which is an absolute
necessity when running SAR operations, the AFM has made a major
investment in the training of its personnel. All SAR training, whether
for RCC personnel or SAR unit commanders, has been modelled on the
United States Coast Guard methodology, thereby drawing on this organisation's
long and varied experiences in this field. All procedures have recently
been further updated in order to reflect International Aeronautical
and Maritime SAR (IAMSAR) Manual standard. All this allows the seamless
integration of the Maltese SAR structure into bilateral and international
to a growing in-house demand for training and in order to maintain
a high level of preparedness in this specialised field of operations
the decision has been taken to set up a SAR Training Centre within
the AFM establishment. The primary role of this Centre will be to
ensure that all AFM personnel involved in SAR will be capable of
operating to the highest standards. As a secondary role, it has
been identified that the Centre's excess capacity can be best utilised
by offering courses to third-party participants, thus serving to
relations and co-operation with other SAR organisations primarily
in this region.