Regional search and rescue

We contribute to safety in the region by working with our geographic neighbours.

We make a substantial contribution to regional search and rescue (SAR) capabilities by working with countries bordering Australia’s search and rescue region (SRR).

Building relationships and enhancing SAR capabilities in regional countries

Australia’s search and rescue region covers nearly 53 million square kilometres (one tenth of the earth’s surface) and borders the search and rescue regions of 10 other countries.

This presents a range of challenges for meeting our search and rescue responsibilities in this vast and remote area.

The Indian Ocean alone now carries almost half the world’s container ships and one-third of bulk cargo.

Air traffic is forecast to grow by up to 30 per cent over the next 10 years.

This growth means we need to be prepared to respond to potential increases in demand for SAR services.

We make a substantial contribution to SAR capabilities across the region. This includes programs:

  • in the north-west Indian Ocean region
  • across the archipelagic islands of Indonesia and Papua New Guinea
  • through the south-west Pacific island countries and territories.

We have extensive experience tailoring assistance to the individual needs of counterpart SAR agencies.

These programs help national search and rescue services improve their capabilities to meet SAR obligations under international conventions.

The region also benefits from better cooperation and enhanced capability for future SAR needs.

Indonesian Transport Safety Assistance Package

The ITSAP was established in July 2007 through the Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development under the Australia-Indonesia Partnership Country Strategy 2008-13.

The program helps Indonesia regulate and promote transport safety in accordance with international standards and safety management practices.

The original key activities were to:

  • establish an officer exchange program between AMSA and the National SAR Agency of Indonesian (BASARNAS)
  • provide Indonesia with enhanced ship tracking information
  • provide Indonesia with enhanced maritime satellite communications capability
  • conduct additional joint search and rescue exercises
  • hold regular search and rescue forums to share technical information and promote mutual understanding
  • provide Indonesia with a world-leading capability to effectively predict drift patterns of objects in the water with the delivery of a computer based drift modelling system (SARMAP)

Indian Ocean Region—SAR Capability Partnership Program

We have commenced a three and a half year Search and Rescue Capability Partnership Program (SCPP) with the Maldives, Mauritius and Sri Lanka.

The SCPP has received $2.6m in funding to develop and implement the program under the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade's Government Partnerships for Development initiative.

The SCPP is designed to enhance the abilities of the Maldives, Mauritius and Sri Lanka to provide an effective SAR service while also improving regional capability.

The effect is compounded given the three SAR regions are adjacent to the remote north-west corner of Australia’s own SAR region.

A key feature of the activity is implementing a range of systems and training which directly address gaps in each country’s ability to deliver effective SAR services.

The activity will also improve regional capability through better engagement and cooperation between the three SAR authorities, and will be delivered in line with international standards and with the support of the International Maritime Organization and the International Civil Aviation Organization.

The longer term aim is to build mechanisms within the program for sustainable and ongoing improvement of their SAR services.

The program supports the Australian Government’s objectives in taking a lead role in enhancing SAR cooperation in the region.

It also supports global initiatives resulting from the search for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.

Papua New Guinea

We continue to engage with PNG National Maritime Safety Authority (NMSA) to increase their SAR capability as well as contributing to the safety and wellbeing of PNG citizens of surrounding regions.

This relationship is very important when Australia responds to incidents within close proximity of the PNG search and rescue region.

Pacific island countries and territories

We work with pacific island countries and territories (PICT) through the Pacific Community (PC) and IMO to improve SAR coordination and cooperation in the South Pacific.

A regional SAR arrangement—Maritime SAR technical arrangement for cooperation among Pacific Island countries and territories that support international lifesaving in the Pacific Ocean—was signed in April 2014.

We attended the biannual Pacific SAR Workshop in April 2015. The workshop is attended by all PICT nations to facilitate search and rescue capability development and cooperation across the region.


We have an extensive involvement with Antarctica which includes a growing level of cooperation and exchange of information through:

  • engagement in the annual Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (ATCM)
  • collaborative work with Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programs (COMNAP)
  • extensive work on the Polar Code
  • extensive close engagement with the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD).

We have significant operational level engagement in the Antarctic including:

  • providing search and rescue training and equipment for AAD deployed aircraft operating from their Antarctic bases
  • participating in search and rescue exercises (SAREX) and debrief processes.

The involvement also provides specialist equipment and training in proper visual search technique, deployment of equipment and use of distress homing equipment.

Last updated: 9 November 2020