U.S. kicks off week-long joint Pacific search and rescue workshop in Honolulu

The United States hosts representatives of more than 15 Pacific countries and territories at a week-long search and rescue workshop at the Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies in Honolulu, July 22, 2019. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Sara Muir)

HONOLULU — On behalf of the Pacific Search and Rescue Steering Committee, the United States is hosting delegations from more than 15 countries this week in Honolulu to discuss search and rescue throughout the region at the Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies.

“When we find a mariner at-sea, it is no accident,” said Cmdr. Solomon Thompson, Chief of Response, Coast Guard 14th District. “It is the result of hours of deliberate search and rescue planning and continual partnership across jurisdictions and borders. Search and rescue governance is an important element in the Pacific, where vast distances and limited resources make saving lives all the more challenging.”

The Steering Committee is a collective of search and rescue agencies from five principle nations; Australia, Fiji, France, New Zealand, and the United States. Each government is committed to working with neighboring countries or territories within or near their areas of responsibility to build SAR response capability. Communally, the committee is working to develop SAR capability and cooperation across the Pacific to work together seamlessly to save lives.

The biennial Pacific Regional SAR Workshop is a forum for improving SAR capability and capacity throughout the Pacific region. Maritime New Zealand hosted the last conference in Auckland in 2017. This year it comes to Honolulu where the group will give reports, conduct case studies, participate in an on-the-water joint exercise and more.

The coordinated effort of those involved garners support from the International Maritime Organization and the Pacific Community. This support enables pacific island states to attend the workshops and provides for the development of participants’ strategic plans. The implementation of these plans already shows results, especially in terms of the political will of all governments.

“Our colleagues in the region have sustained the momentum from efforts in 2017,” said Rich Roberts, search and rescue specialist, Coast Guard 14th District, and current chair of the PACSAR Steering Committee. “Their continuing passion and search and rescue improvements are evident, and this week, we will focus on SAR governance, coordination, response, and prevention.”

The long-term goal of these regular workshops is to further the mission of the steering committee to measurably improve the SAR capability of each of the Pacific Island countries or territories in line with international standards and the PACAR measures of success by 2021. The workshops are not the only way this is done. In March, the U.S. Coast Guard engaged with colleagues during Pacific Partnership in the Republic of the Marshall Islands. Government officials worked with members of the U.S. Coast Guard 14th District in a three day hands-on a search and rescue exercise. The PACSAR 8 workshop is a place to collaboratively share successes and continue the learning process by assessing strengths, risks, opportunities for partnerships, and to learn from each other.

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