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Search and Rescue (SAR) in Malta
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Search and Rescue in Malta
Search and Rescue Training Centre
Being 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.

Inevitably, 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 Malta Search and Rescue RegionRegion (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.

The 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.

In 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 operations.

Due 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 further improve relations and co-operation with other SAR organisations primarily in this region.


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