The IAMSAR Manual in Nutshell


An up-to-date copy of IAMSAR Manuals are required to be carried on board ship as per the requirement of SOLAS Chapter V: Safety of Navigation.

  • International Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue (IAMSAR) Manuals/ Volumes are jointly published by IMO and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO);
  • These three volumes IAMSAR Manual provides guidelines for common aviation and maritime approaches to organizing and providing search and rescue (SAR) services.
  • Each volume can be used as a standalone document or, in conjunction with the other two volumes, as a means to attain a full view of the SAR system.

Purpose of the IAMSAR Manual:

The purpose of IAMSAR Manual is to:

  • assist States in meeting their own SAR need and fulfilling obligations accepted under the International Conventions.
  • These volumes provide guidelines for common aviation and maritime approaches to organizing and providing SAR services. States are encouraged to develop and improve their SAR services, cooperate with neighboring States and to consider their SAR services to be part of a global SAR system.
  • Each volume deals with specific SAR system duties and may be used independently or in conjunction with other volumes to understand the full system of SAR.

The IAMSAR Manual is divided into three volumes:

Volume I: Organization and Management,
discusses the global SAR system concept, establishment, and improvement of national and regional SAR systems and co-operation with neighboring States to provide effective and economical SAR services.

Volume II: Mission Coordination,
assists personnel who plan and coordinate SAR operations and exercises.

Volume III: Mobile Facilities,
is intended to be carried aboard rescue units, aircraft, and vessels to help with the performance of a search, rescue, or on-scene co-ordinator function, and with aspects of SAR that pertain to their own emergencies.

How to correct IAMSAR Manual Volumes

  • IMO in collaboration with the ICAO releases updates to IAMSAR Manual, all three volumes.
  • These updates are published in the form of MSC Circulars and are published on the IMO website. Check Sample copy of such Circular here
  • When these circulars are published, download and take a print out.
  • Then file them along with the original manual.

IAMSAR Manual Volume III

The IAMSAR Manual in Nutshell 1


The primary purpose of the IAMSAR Manual Volume III is to assist vessels and aircraft in the performance of a search, rescue, or on-scene coordinator function and with aspects of search and rescue (SAR) that pertain to their own emergencies. It is intended to be carried onboard rescue units, aircraft, and vessels.

The purpose of the International Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue Manual for Mobile Facilities, which is intended for carriage onboard search and rescue units, and onboard civil aircraft and vessels, is to provide guidance to those who:

  • operate aircraft, vessels or other craft, and who may be called upon to use the facility to support SAR operations
  • may need to perform on-scene coordinator functions for multiple facilities in the vicinity of a distress situation
  • experience actual or potential emerg

A new edition is published every three years

Contents of IAMSAR Manual Volume III:

  • Foreword
  • Abbreviations and acronyms
  • Glossary
  • Section 1 Overview
  • Section 2 Rendering assistance
  • Section 3 On-scene co-ordination
  • Section 4 On-board emergencies
  • Section 5 Multiple aircraft SAR operations
  • Appendix A Regulation V/33 of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, 1974, as amended
  • Appendix B Search action message
  • Appendix C Factors affecting observer effectiveness
  • Appendix D Standard format for search and rescue situation report (SITREP)
  • Appendix E SAR briefing and debriefing form
  • Appendix F Own emergency
  • Appendix G Rendering assistance
  • Appendix H Multiple aircraft SAR operations

Important abbreviations and definitions under IAMSAR Vol 3:

  • ACO: AIRCRAFT COORDINATOR: A person who coordinates the involvement of multiple aircraft in SAR operations.
  • AMVER: AUTOMATED MUTUAL assistance VEssel RESCUE system: A world-wide vessel reporting system for SAR for maintaining estimated position and other data of merchant vessels that participate on a voluntary basis. The system fully supports the SAR and is free of charge for participating vessels and RCCs. Much land-based communication service providers too, world-wide, relay ship reports to AMVER free. The confidentiality of the information provided voluntarily by ships is maintained by USCG and is only revealed to SAR authorities or to others authorized by ships involved. Any merchant vessel more than 1000 gross tons and on any voyage of more than 24 hours can participate. Participation in AMVER has obvious benefits and must be encouraged by ship managers and owners:
    • Quicker response to call for assistance
    • Better chances of reaching aid in shorter time to site of distress
    • Lesser number calls for assistance to vessels not in a position to assist
  • ARCC: AERONAUTICAL RCC: An RCC dealing with aeronautical SAR incidents.
  • OSC: ON SCENE COORDINATOR: Person who is designated to coordinate search and rescue within a specified area.
  • RCC: RESCUE COORDINATION CENTRE: A unit responsible for promoting efficient organization of SAR services and for coordinating the conduct of SAR operations within a SAR region.
  • MRCC: MARITIME RCC: An RCC dealing with maritime SAR incidents.
  • JRCC: JOINT RCC: An RCC responsible for both aeronautical and maritime SAR incidents.
  • RSC: RESCUE SUB CENTRE: A unit subordinate to an RCC established to complement the latter according to particular provisions of the responsible authorities.
  • RESCUE: An operation that comprises of retrieval of persons in distress, providing for their medical and other needs, and finally delivery to the place of safety.
  • SEARCH ACTION PLAN: Message, normally developed by the SMC for passing instructions to SAR facilities and agencies participating in a SAR mission.
  • RESCUE ACTION PLAN: A plan for rescue operations normally prepared by the SMC for implementation by OSC and facilities on-scene.
  • SITREP: Situation Report. It gives information about on-scene mission progress and conditions.SITREPs are used by SAR facilities to keep OSC informed, and by OSC to keep SMC informed and by SMC to keep superiors, RCCs and RSCs informed The standard format of SITREP is given in Appendix D of Volume III.
  • SMC: SAR MISSION COORDINATOR: The official temporarily assigned to coordinate the response to an actual or apparent distress situation.
  • SRR: SAR REGION: An area of defined dimensions, associated with an RCC, within which SAR services are provided.
  • SRU: SEARCH and RESCUE UNIT: A unit composed of trained personnel and provided with equipment suitable for the expeditious conduct of SAR operations.
  • SART: SEARCH AND RESCUE TRANSPONDER: A survival craft transponder that, when activated, sends out a signal automatically when a pulse from a nearby radar reaches it. The signal appears on the interrogating radar screen and gives the bearing and distance of the transponder from the interrogating radar for SAR purposes.
  • SC: SEARCH and rescue COORDINATOR: SCs are top-level SAR mangers. Each state may have one or more SCs, who could be a person or an agency.
  • TAS: TRUE AIRSPEED: Speed of aircraft through the air mass. TAS corrected for wind speed gives ground speed.

Procedure to choose Search Patterns:

  • Search patterns and procedures must be pre-planned so as to enable minimum delay, risks and maximum efficiency. Standard search patterns have been devised to meet differing situations.
  • They are based on visual search and have been selected for simplicity and effectiveness.
  • The OSC should obtain a search action plan from the SMC via the RCC or RSC ASAP. OSC should keep the SMC informed at regular intervals and whenever the situation has changed.
  • The choice of search pattern will be decided by following factors:
    • Type and size of distressed craft.
    • Meteorological visibility.
    • Sea and weather conditions.
    • Time of day or night.
    • Time of arrival at datum and size of the area to be searched.

List of IAMSAR Search Patterns under Volume 3 of IAMSAR Manual

With the help of sketch explain all the search patterns as per IAMSAR (BEQ, Mar 2018 | May 2018)

Expanding Square Search (SS)

  • Most effective when the location of the search object is known within relatively close limits.
  • The commence search point is always the datum position.
  • Often appropriate for vessels or small boats to use when searching for persons in the water or other search objects with little or no leeway.
  • Due to the small area involved, this procedure must not be used simultaneously by multiple aircraft at similar altitudes or by multiple vessels.
  • Accurate navigation is required; the first leg is usually oriented directly into the wind to minimize navigational errors.
  • It is difficult for fixed-wing aircraft to fly legs close to datum if S is less than 2 NM.

Sector Search (VS)

  • Most effective when the position of the search object is accurately known and the search area is small.
  • Used to search a circular area centered on a datum point.
  • Due to the small area involved, this procedure must not be used simultaneously by multiple aircraft at similar altitudes or by multiple vessels.
  • An aircraft and a vessel may be used together to perform independent sector searches of the same area.
  • A suitable marker (for example, a smoke float or a radio beacon) may be dropped at the datum position and used as a reference or navigational aid marking the center of the pattern.
  • For aircraft, the search pattern radius is usually between 5 nm and 20 nm.
  • For vessels, the search pattern radius is usually between 2 nm and 5 nm, and each turn is 120°, normally turned to starboard.

Track Line Search (TS):

  • Track Line Search is normally used when an aircraft or vessel has disappeared without a trace along a known route.
  • Often used as initial search effort due to ease of planning and implementation.
  • Consists of a rapid and reasonably thorough search along intended route of the distressed craft.
  • Search may be along the side of the track line and return in the opposite direction on the other side (TSR).
  • Search may be along the intended track and once on each side, then search facility continues on its way and doesn’t return (ISN).
  • Aircrafts are frequently used for TS due to their high speed.
  • Aircraft search height usually 300- 600 m during daylight or 600- 900 m at night.

Parallel Sweep Search (PS):

  • Used to search a large area when survivor location is uncertain.
  • Most effective over water or flat terrain.
  • Usually used when a large search area must be divided into sub areas for assignment to individual search facilities on scene at the same time.
  • The commence search point is in one corner of the sub area, one half track space inside the rectangle from each of the two sides forming the corner.
  • Search legs are parallel to each other and to the long sides of the sub area.
  • Multiple vessels may be used for:
  • Parallel sweep by 2,3,4 and 5 or more ships.

Radar Search:

  • When several assisting ships are available, a radar search may be effective, especially when the position of the incident is not known reliably and the SAR aircraft may not be available.
  • No prescribed pattern has been provided for this contingency.
  • the OSC should normally direct the ships to proceed in “loose line abreast”, maintaining a track spacing between ships of the expected detection range * 1.5.


  • IAMSAR Manual Volume III Here
  • the IMO Website