Just yesterday evening, a man was missing off the waters of Singapore, 4km south of Kusu Island, after falling off from a passenger ferry to Batam. The Singapore Rescue Coordination Centre (RCC) was stood up that same night for an operation in search for the missing man. At press time, 2 MPA vessels and one Police Coast Guard and a Navy Patrol Vessel were on-scene.
Often a forgotten service in air traffic, one of the responsibilities of an air traffic / flight information provider is the ability and provision of search and rescue assets and services in a 24 hour basis. Recommendations from the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) is that the search and rescue region be corresponding to the Flight Information Region (FIR). Singapore FIR in this case is 245,000 sq miles in area, more than 1,000 times the size of the island state. The sole purpose of the RCC is to provide a point of contact for SAR operations and where different related agencies will come together to plan, coordinate and execute SAR operations.
The Singapore RCC is tucked away in the Singapore Air Traffic Control Centre (SATCC), and depending on the nature of emergency, in collaboration with the Ministry of Defense (most commonly RSAF and RSN), Home Team (Civil Defense and Singapore Police Force), Maritime Port Authority (MPA) and other government agencies. The proximity of the RCC with the RSAF ATC unit also enable swift responses and coordination from the RSAF personnel in setting up the RCC. There, a computer will factor in the currents, wind, and tides etc and recommend a search area within minutes, a process which will take a couple of hours if done manually. Together with dedicated radio sets and LAN lines, SAR operations can be carried out concurrently with CAAS and RSAF ATC daily operations.
One of the most employed assets is the SAR helicopter, most of the time the RSAF Super Puma from 125 Squadron, with its ability to hoist victims and land at hospitals. In most case, the chopper will be supported by medical crew from 1MS. In conjunction with RSAF ATC units, the SAR liaison officers at RCC, will direct and receive updates from the on-scene assets. For far flung SAR operations, the RSAF CH-47SD Chinook from 127 Squadron might be activated in place of the Super Pumas. On standby is also the Fokker 50 Maritime Patrol Aircraft from 121 Squadron for Search and Locate (SAL) duties. The RSN also committed two vessels for SAR duties everyday.
The RCC was last stood up in December 20 2013 when a barge, Heng Long 168, flipped over off Horsburgh Lighthouse, while Police Coast Guards were able to rescue 6 crew, 5 were missing. Similarly in July 24 2013, 2 Super Pumas and 2 Fokker 50 from the RSAF were deployed for SAR and SAL respectively and the RSN deployed four Patrol Vessels in search for 8 missing crew when another barge, Guo Liang 677, capsized.