Case studies

Assessing and improving the systems and procedures behind search and rescue operations at sea

key fact

The UK search and rescue jurisdiction covers a staggering 1.25 million square nautical miles of sea, and more than 10 500 nautical miles of coastline

Advising the Maritime and Coastguard Agency on leaner processes and a systems convergence strategy to improve control room performance


The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) approached us seeking an expert impartial review of its systems and procedures used to carry out and manage search and rescue operations at sea. It was hoping for overall improvements to its operational processes, as well as for us to identify opportunities to rationalise and streamline its key search and rescue systems – all of which contribute to providing a faster reacting, higher standard of service to sailors, freighters and seafarers across the MCA’s 1.25 million square nautical mile jurisdiction.


We started the project by mapping and analysing the existing search and rescue operations used in the MCA’s rescue coordination centres, with a view to reducing any duplication of information or processes, as well as to reviewing the viability of converging operational systems and assessing new and emerging technologies that could be used to make the centres more efficient overall.

As well as mapping these processes, we reviewed the technical feasibility of converging systems and evaluated the options available for doing so, providing justifications, outlining timescales and identifying the potential risks associated with each.

We concluded that though the search and rescue processes that they had in place were robust and worked well, the tools and equipment that they had in place didn’t adequately support their efforts. We recommended that the ageing core control room systems were replaced by a more user-focused platform. At the same time, we argued that the emergency response guidance, instructions and checklists could be restructured to make it easier for users to access mission-critical information. With respect to the convergence strategy, we determined that some of the separate incident management systems could (and should) be combined.


We supplied the MCA with the process maps that we developed and advised the agency to use them to support the optimisation of their internal processes, we also recommended that they revisit their emergency response guidance and instructional documentation to make sure that they were up-to-date, clear, legible and easily understood.

In terms of measuring and monitoring control centre performance, we suggested that the MCA should create a balanced scorecard to measure its successes, while also carrying out careful process observation and measurement on a month-by-month basis to make sure that control centres continue to run smoothly.

Finally, we advised the MCA on systems convergence and re-procurement strategies.

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