Australian Maritime Safety Authority

International search and rescue conventions

Australia's obligations

As signatory to a number of international conventions, Australia is obligated to provide the national search and rescue (SAR) service.

International SAR conventions

The following three international conventions set the obligations and guidance for providing a search and rescue service for international shipping and aircraft:

  • Convention on International Civil Aviation, 1944 (‘Chicago’ Convention)
  • International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, 1974 (SOLAS) (the Safety Convention)
  • International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue, 1979 (the SAR Convention).

Both the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) sponsor global search and rescue plans, allocating search and rescue regions (SRRs) to nations.

Search and Rescue Regions (SRR) were developed by the ICAO and IMO in consultation with member nations, and often reflect existing flight regions and proximity to countries.

A SAR Authority is responsible for the coordination of SAR during a maritime or aviation distress situation in their allocated SRR. 

Australia is responsible for setting its national policies and procedures in line with these international conventions to ensure we can provide an effective search and rescue service to anyone in distress, no matter where they are in the Australian search and rescue region.

Global, Regional and National SAR agreements



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