A clear and crisp Beijing afternoon: - 5° outside the China Ministry of Transport... But things were much warmer inside for a meeting between the IMRF Asia-Pacific Regional Centre (APRC) Vice Chairman Michael Vlasto, APRC Board Member and IMRF CEO Bruce Reid, APRC General Manager and IMRF Trustee Zhang Rongjun and the China MOT International Cooperation Department.
Deputy Director General Mr Zhang Xiaojie hosted the meeting also attended by Ms Lv Juan, Division Chief of the International Organization.
The Ministry recently approved 600,000RMB for the APRC to build on the work done by the IMRF on Mass Rescue Operations recognising that MRO is one of the big challenges facing SAR services in the Asia-Pacific Region with many countries facing regular large scale maritime SAR events. Mr Zhang Xiaojie said the support recognises the increasing influence the IMRF APRC has in the Region but also in the wider international SAR community as he commented on the positive role played by the IMRF at the IMO.
The initial contribution funded the four-day MRO Seminar held at Shanghai Maritime University in December 2015 (see ‘Mass rescue in Shanghai’) and the development of MRO guidance documents and will provide a funding base for the APRC’s MRO projects and seminars in 2016. The Ministry was also instrumental in getting agreement for a further 300,000 RMB donation through China Rescue and Salvage for 2016.
At the meeting Ms Lv noted a number of opportunities to cooperate even further in the future, with funding support, reaching out to other maritime administrations to encourage them to join the IMRF so as to build greater cooperation and collaboration, and also finding ways of sharing the knowledge and skills of the larger countries with developing countries, members assisting members.
The meeting concluded with a commitment to build on what has been achieved to date by the APRC, and a willingness from the Ministry to assist the IMRF build its presence in the Asia-Pacific Region.
The IMRF APRC delegation then met the Director General of IMRF members China Rescue and Salvage, Mr Wang Zhenliang and his Deputy Mr Zhang Jianxin.
Mr Wang expressed his thanks for the positive APRC Board meeting held the previous day and the exciting work plan being applied in the Region for 2016. CRS continues to evolve and with 30m people on Chinese waters every day – waters that experience the best and worst that the weather can offer – they still have work to do. Mr Wang reiterated CRS’s ongoing support of the APRC through an annual donation, the secondment of Mr Zhang Rongjun and two staff, and the provision of the APRC office at the Donghai Rescue Bureau.
There was discussion of the Dong Fang Zhi Xing (Eastern Star tragedy last June, when all but 12 of the 454 people aboard died in the ship’s sudden capsize on the Yangtze River. CRS is working with the APRC to provide a case study of the accident and pass on lessons learned. The accident occurred 1,000km from the nearest CRS base so there were major logistical challenges in just getting to the accident site.
The conditions were extremely difficult, with rescue divers facing low visibility, strong currents and a very difficult riverbed. With three Rescue and Salvage Bureaux responding, the coordination of the search and salvage will prove an interesting study.
Concluding the meeting Mr Wang stressed the important role the APRC has in bringing information together to share with SAR organisations across the region, especially as regards developments in technology and equipment. CRS will be hosting the China International Rescue & Salvage Conference in Qingdao this year and have included the APRC Regional Development Meeting on the programme. This will provide APRC an opportunity to bring SAR organisations from across the region together to continue this sharing process.