Freetown, April 20th, 2023 – The National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) through the Sierra Leone Civil Aviation Authority (SLCAA), with support from the Robert Flight Information Region (RFIR) based in Liberia, has established an aeronautical search and rescue sub-centre at the Freetown international airport (FNA).
The RFIR is an international organization established on January 17th, 1975 when Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone set up an aeronautical cooperative venture to provide air navigation services for flights in their combined airspace. With its headquarters in Roberts Field, Margibi County, Liberia, the RFIR is responsible for air traffic control, aeronautical information services and rescue coordination within the three member states.
The RFIR operates a search and rescue unit in Liberia, which is responsible for receiving information, coordinating and directing the conduct of search and rescue operations and promoting efficient organization of search and rescue services to affected persons within the three member states.
Following a two-day visit by representatives of both the NDMA and SLCAA in Liberia from the 27th to 28th of February 2023, It was agreed that an aeronautical search and rescue sub-centre should be established for the NDMA in Sierra Leone to be followed by a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to strengthen the partnership between the NDMA and RFIR on search and rescue operations.
As provided for in section 11(2)(s) of the NDMA Act of 2020, which states that: NDMA shall cooperate with other countries and relevant institutions in disaster prevention, mitigation and search and rescue operations. In this regard, the NDMA and the RFIR signed an MoU to establish the aeronautical sub-hub centre at the Freetown International Airport, ensure the centre is equipped to function properly, and regular training for personnel to effectively manage the centre.
While signing the MoU, the Director General of the NDMA, Lt. Gen. (Rtd) Brima Sesay expressed his utmost appreciation for the support provided by the RFIR. He assured the team from Liberia of his Agency’s commitment to efficiently manage the operations of the sub-centre.
“We are grateful for all the support provided to us throughout this process. I want to assure you of our fullest commitment to the management and operations of the sub-centre. As a coordinating Agency, the NDMA has signed a lot of MoUs with other institutions to enhance effective service delivery within the remit of disaster management for the people of Sierra Leone.” He said.
Daniel T. Johnson, head of RFIR, while making his remarks, said that Sierra Leone has taken the lead in setting the pace for air travel safety through the establishment of an aeronautical sub-centre at its airport and explained the leadership structure of the body.
“The RFIR is governed by a Ministerial Council which happens to be the highest decision-making body, its members consist of Ministers in charge of Civil Aviation in the three countries. There is also the Technical Board that comprised Director Generals of Civil Aviation Authorities of the three countries and the Secretariat which manages the administration of the RFIR. I’m happy Sierra Leone has taken the lead to provide air safety for passengers and flights in their country.” He explained.
The Deputy Director General of the Sierra Leone Civil Aviation Authority, Fatu Marie Wurie mentioned that the aeronautical sub-centre is significant because it ensures air traffic safety, aviation safety, commercial space transportation and security and hazardous materials safety. She furthered that the sub-centre will satisfy an international requirement for the newly constructed Freetown International Airport.