The Maritime Rescue and Coordination Centre (MRCC) in Ostend is the first point of contact for incidents at sea, eg: persons and vessels in distress, accidents and oil pollution.
After an emergency call, the MRCC starts up the dispatching of several tasks to the different coas guard partners.
- The Search And Rescue SAR- activities are coordinated from the MRCC Ostend:
- coordination of SAR operations and deployment of support units;
- coordinate the implementation of medical evacuations and assistance;
- reporting and coordinating the implementation of removal of marine pollutants;
- monitoring the emergency frequencies for shipping;
- continuously monitor and ensure maritime safety;
- register, report and evaluate SAR or other actions.
The operational Search And Rescue (SAR) area of MRCC Ostend is the entire Belgian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Geographically, this zone covers a small area of the North Sea but it is one of the busiest shipping areas in the world.
On average the region sees 50,000 seagoing ship movements and 40,000 ferry, 25,000 recreational boating and around 15,000 fishing boat movements. More than 200 million tons are transported annually within this zone. A proportion of these goods is classified as hazardous and/or polluting. Furthermore, the area contains access channels to the Flemish and Zeeland ports, which also demand special consideration to ensure that this traffic flows safely and fluently.
The Coast Guard is responsible for the cooperation between the partners authorised for the North Sea. The Belgian part of the North Sea measures 3600 km² and is also known as Belgium’s eleventh province.
No less than 17 governmental institutions (both regional and federal) are authorised for all these activities. The main responsibility of the Coast Guard is to ensure a good cooperation between all these partners so as increase the efficiency of operations at sea.
The Coast Guard is made up of 2 branches:an administrative branch and an operational branch (this is the coast guard centre). The coast guard centre exists out of the MRCC in Ostend and the MIK (Maritime Information Junction) located on the Naval Base Zeebrugge. There are three complementary administrative bodies working together: the policy-making body, the consultation body and the secretariat.