New Delhi, Mar.11 : Defence Minister A K Antony today urged all national and international agencies involved with search and rescue operations to pool in their efforts and experience to achieve optimum results.
Inaugurating a two-day-long International Maritime Search and Rescue Conference (IMSARCON-2008) here, Antony said: "We must also think of ways and means to increase cooperation in maritime sphere. Technology and resources, like fuelling and medical facilities must be shared for mutual benefit. Exchange of information is critical for efficient search and rescue."
"Nations must also consider developing and strengthening Area/Regional Contingency Plans for quick and effective response. Modem training and search and rescue exercises to develop Standard Operating Procedures must be done on a regular basis," he added.
Referring to the role of the Indian Coast Guard, Antony described it as a national coordinating authority for maritime search and rescue, and therefore, it had an onerous responsibility.
He called on the Indian Coast Guard not to rest on its laurels.
"It (the Coast Guard) has the responsibility of guarding an area of about 4.6 million square kilometres. That's twice the area of our country's landmass. The Coast Guard's responsibilities are bound to increase further with an increase in maritime trade across the globe, especially through the Indian Ocean region," he said.
He also said that he was aware of the shortage of manpower faced by the Coast Guard, and expressed hope about overcoming such challenges collectively.
Mankind's dependence on the seas for sustenance has never ceased to exist, he said, adding that it is bound to increase further, as the resources available on land are depleting at a fast pace.
Therefore, there was a need to take care of the common environment and of all life forms - human, as well as marine, he said.
The vagaries of nature affect the seafaring vessels much more than any other mode of transportation. Natural hazards apart, sea-lanes are today increasingly at the risk of attacks by terrorists, pirates and agents of trans-national crimes, Antony said, adding that he was sure the conference would identify ways and means to provide timely help to those in distress and trauma at sea.