Regulation 33 - Distress Situations: Obligations and procedures

Summary

  • Masters obliged to respond to information that persons are in distress at sea received from any source.
  • Ships can be requisitioned by the master of a ship in distress or the search and rescue authorities.
  • Rescued persons to be treated humanely and delivered to a place of safety.
Regulation 33
1. The master of a ship at sea which is in a position to be able to provide assistance on receiving information from any source that persons are in distress at sea, is bound to proceed with all speed to their assistance, if possible informing them or the search and rescue service that the ship is doing so. This obligation to provide assistance applies regardless of the nationality or status of such persons or the circumstances in which they are found. If the ship receiving the distress alert is unable or, in the special circumstances of the case, considers it unreasonable or unnecessary to proceed to their assistance, the master must enter in the log-book the reason for failing to proceed to the assistance of the persons in distress, taking into account the recommendation of the Organization, to inform the appropriate search and rescue service accordingly.

1.1

Contracting Governments shall co-ordinate and co-operate to ensure that masters of ships providing assistance by embarking persons in distress at sea are released from their obligations with minimum further deviation from the ships' intended voyage, provided that releasing the master of the ship from the obligations under the current regulation does not further endanger the safety of life at sea. The Contracting Government responsible for the search and rescue region in which such assistance is rendered shall exercise primary responsibility for ensuring such co-ordination and co-operation occurs, so that survivors assisted are disembarked from the assisting ship and delivered to a place of safety, taking into account the particular circumstances of the case and guidelines developed by the Organization. In these cases the relevant Contracting Governments shall arrange for such disembarkation to be effected as soon as reasonably practicable.
2. The master of a ship in distress or the search and rescue service concerned, after consultation, so far as may be possible, with the masters of ships which answer the distress alert, has the right to requisition one or more of those ships as the master of the ship in distress or the search and rescue service considers best able to render assistance, and it shall be the duty of the master or masters of the ship or ships requisitioned to comply with the requisition by continuing to proceed with all speed to the assistance of persons in distress.
3. Masters of ships shall be released from the obligation imposed by paragraph 1 on learning that their ships have not been requisitioned and that one or more other ships have been requisitioned and are complying with the requisition. This decision shall, if possible be communicated to the other requisitioned ships and to the search and rescue service.
4. The master of a ship shall be released from the obligation imposed by paragraph 1 and, if his ship has been requisitioned, from the obligation imposed by paragraph 2 on being informed by the persons in distress or by the search and rescue service or by the master of another ship which has reached such persons that assistance is no longer necessary.
5. The provisions of this regulation do not prejudice the Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules of Law Relating to Assistance and Salvage at Sea, signed at Brussels on 23 September 1910, particularly the obligation to render assistance imposed by article 11 of that Convention.*
6.

Masters of ships who have embarked persons in distress at sea shall treat them with humanity, within the capabilities and limitations of the ship.

* International Convention on Salvage 1989 done at London on 28 April 1989 entered into force on 14 July 1996

MCA Guidance
1. Reg. 33 applies to all ships.
2.

The regulation places an obligation on masters to respond to information from any source that persons are in distress at sea.

3.

This Regulation has been substantially revised, including the addition of paragraphs 1.1 and 6. to clarify the obligations and procedures when information on any distress situation at sea is received. Included is the obligation for rescued persons to be delivered to a place of safety and their humane treatment when on board the rescue ship.

Further information is contained in IMO Resolution MSC.167(78) Guidelines on the treatment of persons rescued at sea.

The revisions to this Regulation came into force on 1 July 2006 [IMO Resolution MSC.153(78)]

4. Reference should be made to Volume 3 of the International Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue (IAMSAR) manual adopted in 2000 by IMO Resolution A.894(21) which is required to be carried on board all ships as per Regulation 21 - International Code of Signals and IAMSAR Manual.
5. Masters who, in special circumstances, decide not to respond to a distress must enter their reasons in the logbook and, if they have responded to the distress, inform the appropriate search and rescue authorities of their decision not to proceed.

 


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