International law requires signatory States to establish search and rescue (SAR) systems on a multi-agency, regional or global basis to provide SAR services. South Africa, as a signatory to the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Convention, 1974, the International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue, 1979 and Annex 12 to the Convention on International Civil Aviation, 1944, South Africa accepted the obligation to provide aeronautical and maritime search and rescue coordination and services within her Search and Rescue Region.

South Africa preferred a multi-agency approach mainly because of lack of dedicated SAR resources.  When necessary, other government departments and agencies, private and commercial undertakings as well as voluntary organisations are diverted from their core functions by charter, arrangement, agreement and be requested to fulfil South Africa’s SAR obligations.

South Africa has established a national SAR organization (SASAR) by agreement, comprising of organization alluded above to provide South Africa with a world-renowned search and rescue capability or function. The overall objective of SASAR is to ensure a co-ordinated and effective maritime and aeronautical search and rescue service within the respective South African Search and Rescue Regions (SRRs).

Both the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and International Civil Aviation Organization encourage member states to establish what is referred to as the SAR Co-ordinating Committee either on a national or regional level to improve and support the SAR system or programme.  In South Africa, a SAR Co-ordinating Committee has been established on a national level in terms of an Act of Parliament and is known as the SASAR Executive Committee.

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