Treaties, States Parties and Commentaries
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Commentary of 2017 
Article 27 : Protection of coastal rescue craft and fixed coastal installations
Text of the provision*
(1) Under the same conditions as those provided for in Articles 22 and 24, small craft employed by the State or by the officially recognized lifeboat institutions for coastal rescue operations, shall also be respected and protected, so far as operational requirements permit.
(2) The same shall apply so far as possible to fixed coastal installations used exclusively by these craft for their humanitarian missions.
* Paragraph numbers have been added for ease of reference.
Reservations or declarations
None
Contents

A. Introduction
2149  The protection of ‘small craft employed … for coastal rescue operations’ is not surprising, because they have long rendered assistance to those in distress at sea, whether civilians or wounded, sick or shipwrecked persons protected under the applicable provisions of international humanitarian law. In numerous States, rescue craft were, and continue to be, operated by coastal municipalities, private associations, individual volunteers or State organs, whether the armed forces or other governmental institutions. The vessels employed for life-saving purposes range from rowing and rubber boats to technologically sophisticated craft that can operate far off the coast and in difficult sea conditions.
2150  In a number of States, rescue craft were operated by civilian associations or volunteers who were not under State control. For a long time belligerents seem to have considered rescue craft exempt from attack and capture as long as they were exclusively employed for their humanitarian mission. That attitude changed with technological developments, as those craft became faster and capable of operating at a considerable distance from the coast. Because of their small size and their speed, they were difficult to identify and were often suspected of engaging in intelligence-gathering or of otherwise having been integrated into the enemy’s war effort.
2151  At the same time, smaller States, in particular those bordering on shallow coastal waters and which did not have or could not afford big hospital ships, had a keen interest in employing vessels of less than 2,000 tons gross to aid the wounded, sick and shipwrecked.[1] Therefore, the only solution was to balance the divergent interests involved by way of a compromise, which eventually became Article 27 and which accords limited protection to rescue craft. The equally limited protection of fixed coastal installations is a necessary corollary of the protection of rescue craft because they are essential for the effectiveness of coastal rescue operations.
2152  At the time of writing, only three States operate military hospital ships,[2] but most coastal States provide maritime search-and-rescue (SAR) services through their coast guards, their navies or SAR organizations. Still, only one clause of the Geneva Conventions provides for the protection of coastal rescue craft, and this protection is more limited than the one conferred on hospital ships.[3] This has met with considerable criticism, in particular from the International Lifeboat Conference.[4] In view of the importance of maritime search and rescue, this criticism is not unfounded. However, States have so far not been prepared to expand the protection accorded by international humanitarian law to rescue craft, their coastal installations and their crews and personnel. With regard to the status of the said crews and personnel, Article 27 itself is silent.[5] With regard to the means of identification of craft covered by Article 27, see Article 43.
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B. Historical background and further developments
1. Developments from 1868 to 1907
2153  The 1868 Additional Articles relating to the Condition of the Wounded in War did not contain a provision on rescue craft. Nor did the 1899 Hague Convention (III) contain a provision explicitly protecting them. However, according to Article 5(3) of that Convention, the lifeboats of hospital ships and ‘also small craft which may be used for hospital work’ must be distinguished by being painted in a way similar to hospital ships and are thus implicitly protected. According to the report of the Second Commission of the 1899 Hague Peace Conference, the delegates were convinced that ‘all vessels devoted exclusively to hospital service’ should distinguish themselves by being painted in a manner adapted to their size.[6] By obvious implication, there was no doubt about the protection afforded to such small craft so long as they were exclusively employed for ‘hospital work’.
2154  By adopting Article 5(3) of the 1907 Hague Convention (X) without further discussion relevant in this context, the 1907 Hague Peace Conference took the same approach as its predecessor in 1899.[7] There seems to have been an implicit agreement that not only the lifeboats of hospital ships but also ‘small craft which may be used for hospital work’ should enjoy the protection associated with the distinctive emblem.
2155  This, however, does not necessarily mean that, under the 1899 and 1907 Hague Conventions, coastal rescue craft enjoyed the same protection as under Article 27 of the Second Convention. One conclusion that can be drawn from those provisions is that a minimum size of craft used for ‘hospital work’ was not considered a constitutive element of protection. Hence, the Hague Conventions do not explicitly provide for the protection of coastal rescue craft employed for, and engaged in, life-saving activities for those in distress at sea.
2156  According to Article 4 of the 1907 Hague Convention (XI), ‘vessels charged with religious, scientific, or philanthropic missions’ are exempt from capture. Although the life-saving activities of coastal rescue craft could conceptually qualify as ‘philanthropic missions’, there is no clear indication in the drafting history whether the delegates considered that the protection would equally apply to coastal rescue operations.[8]
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2. State practice during the world wars
2157  During the two world wars, lifeboat institutions (SAR organizations), such as the British and Irish Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) or the German Maritime Search and Rescue Service (Deutsche Gesellschaft zur Rettung Schiffbrüchiger (DGzRS)), continued to conduct life-saving operations off their countries’ coasts.[9] Unless those lifeboat institutions (SAR organizations) were integrated into, or assimilated to, the armed forces (such as the US Coast Guard), or otherwise integrated into the respective State’s war effort, the belligerents allowed coastal rescue craft to continue to perform their humanitarian function for the sake of those in distress at sea.[10]
2158  During the Second World War, there were, however, uncertainties as to the protected status of coastal rescue craft and their right to bear the same or similar protective markings as hospital ships. In some instances, they were allowed to display the red cross because they were considered ‘small craft’ in the sense of Article 5(3) of the 1907 Hague Convention (X).[11] However, that ‘new visual designation for lifeboats was not fully accepted by allied forces during the early part of the war’.[12] In 1940, Germany claimed protected status for fast light craft used for air-sea rescue purposes off the British coast, asserting that the 1907 Hague Convention (X) ‘laid down no limit to [the] size of a hospital ship and even referred to smaller craft as entitled to protection’.[13] The British Government believed that those craft could ‘be used by the enemy for espionage and intelligence work and … it announced the rejection of all notifications of hospital ships’ below 3,000 tons gross.[14]
2159  State practice during the two world wars thus may seem to be far from uniform. It must be noted, however, that the British Government’s refusal to grant protection to small craft was due to its suspicion that they were to contribute to the enemy’s war effort.[15] There is no instance which suggests that coastal rescue craft were considered to share the status of enemy merchant vessels or of enemy auxiliaries and warships. Rather, the practice of belligerents of allowing the respective enemy’s lifeboat institutions (SAR organizations) to pursue their humanitarian operations during the two world wars provides sufficient evidence that they did not consider coastal rescue craft to belong to the category of vessels they could interfere with.
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3. The 1949 Diplomatic Conference
2160  Before and during the Diplomatic Conference of Geneva of 1949, the minimum size of hospital ships proved to be a contentious issue. Some States, in view of the experience of the Second World War, had difficulty accepting that coastal rescue craft were entitled to protection and respect.[16] Had a rule requiring a minimum tonnage been adopted, coastal rescue craft would not have been included in the protective scope of the Second Convention. During the 1947 Conference of Government Experts, the ‘question of the use of speed-boats for saving airmen from the sea was discussed. For reasons of military security – speed itself constituting sufficient protection – the Commission considered that these boats should not have the protection of the Convention.’[17] A proposal to insert ‘a new Article to protect life-boats of low speed and attached to a fixed base, which cannot be assimilated to … speed-boats … nor to hospital-ships’ was unsuccessful.[18] The draft originally submitted to the 1948 International Conference of the Red Cross in Stockholm maintained the 1907 approach by not providing for specific protection and by dealing with ‘small craft which may be used for hospital work’ merely in the context of identification.
2161  Prior to the Stockholm Conference, the International Lifeboat Conference, meeting in Oslo in 1947, adopted the following resolution:
Les règles actuellement contenues dans la Convention de La Haye du 10 octobre 1907 n’assurent pas aux services des institutions de sauvetage maritimes et à leurs installations une protection suffisante en temps de guerre. Tout en se rendant compte que de multiples considérations doivent nécessairement jouer un rôle en ces matières, la Conférence estime que les importants intérêts humanitaires attachés aux institutions de sauvetage maritime du monde exigent impérieusement que celles-ci soient spécifiquement représentées à toute conférence qui aurait à l’avenir à traiter du sujet. (The rules currently contained in the Hague Convention of 10 October 1907 do not provide sufficient protection to maritime rescue services and their installations in time of war. While realizing that multiple considerations must play a role in these matters, the Conference believes that the important humanitarian interests attached to the world’s maritime rescue institutions make it imperative that they be specifically represented at all future conferences dealing with the subject.)[19]
2162  The 1948 Stockholm Conference took this resolution into consideration, and included the following paragraph in its draft article 20 (ultimately Article 24 of the Second Convention) on hospital ships utilized by National Red Cross Societies, officially recognized relief societies or private persons:
In the same conditions, coastal life-boats of low speed, not exceeding twelve knots, of small tonnage and attached to a fixed base, which are employed by private persons or officially recognized relief associations, shall benefit by the same protection as the vessels described in paragraph 1.[20]
2163  At the 1949 Diplomatic Conference, the protection of coastal rescue craft remained closely linked to the contentious issue of a minimum tonnage for hospital ships. After the latter problem had been solved by a compromise that eventually became Article 26 of the Second Convention, the discussion focused on the protection of coastal rescue craft.[21]
2164  During the Conference, the Danish delegate proposed to establish three categories of protected vessels: (1) military hospital ships of over or less than 2,000 tons gross; (2) private or Red Cross Societies’ hospital ships; and (3) lifeboats and coastal rescue boats. However, in the last case, ‘certain reservations should be made on the grounds of difficulties of recognition’.[22] The Working Party entrusted with the topic of coastal rescue craft proposed draft article 21B, which was, however, rejected by the Soviet delegate, who believed it was ‘necessary to limit the speed of coastal vessels to 12 knots, in order to prevent any abuse’.[23] Moreover, the Turkish delegate claimed that the Working Party had not come to a decision on a Turkish proposal, ‘which aimed at including coastal installations in the protection given’.[24] The Working Party reopened the discussion on draft article 21B and focused on ‘three main points: (a) the restriction of the use of coastal lifeboats; (b) a speed limit for these boats; (c) the protection of shore installations serving as bases for coastal lifeboats’.[25] Since only the Soviet delegation continued to insist on a speed limit for coastal rescue craft, the text of article 21B, which was finally adopted for submission to Committee I, read as follows:
Under the same conditions (Articles 19 and 20), small craft employed by the State or by officially recognized lifeboat institutions for coastal rescue operations, shall be equally respected and protected, so far as operational requirements permit.
The same shall apply so far as possible to fixed coastal installations used exclusively by these craft for their humanitarian mission.[26]
2165  While the Soviet delegate insisted on a speed limit and considered the second paragraph superfluous, the Danish delegate argued that ‘small nations could not equip large hospital ships and would therefore have to make use of small craft’.[27] The Italian delegate pointed out that, ‘without fixed bases, lifeboats could not undertake their duties. … The speed of lifeboats was one of the essential requirements for saving shipwrecked persons, who could not always be rescued by the vessels called to their assistance. Furthermore, it was impossible for the crew of an aircraft to assess the speed of a lifeboat.’[28] The Swedish delegate, who shared the views of the Danish and Italian delegates, said that ‘the texts adopted for Articles 19, 20 and 21 must be considered as a whole, as certain delegations had renounced their views in order to arrive at a compromise solution’.[29] The proposal to introduce a speed limit of 12 knots was rejected by 12 votes to 10, with 8 abstentions. The proposal to delete the second paragraph was rejected by 14 votes to 9, with 7 abstentions. Article 21B, as proposed by the Working Party, was adopted.[30]
2166  In its report, Committee I stated:
Several nations desirous of avoiding any possibility of abuse, such as the utilization of such craft for reconnaissance or other operations of a military character, would have preferred to place restrictions on speed. The Committee was of the opinion that it was in the interest of the wounded and shipwrecked that they should be landed as rapidly as possible.
Fixed coastal installations exclusively utilized by these craft shall receive similar protection.
It was, however, understood that the protection promised to these low tonnage craft as well as to coastal installations could not be absolute. Such protection can only be afforded within the measure of operational necessities. A belligerent face to face with an opponent in a restricted maritime area would find it difficult to tolerate the traffic of a large number of very fast, small craft belonging to the adverse party.[31]
2167  After some minor modifications,[32] draft article 21B eventually became Article 27 of the Second Convention.[33]
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4. Later efforts to enhance the protection of coastal rescue craft
a. Additional Protocol I
2168  While Article 22(3) of Additional Protocol I does not modify the substantive protection afforded to coastal rescue craft, it removes an important procedural requirement of the Second Convention, by providing that:
Small craft described in Article 27 of the Second Convention shall be protected even if the notification envisaged by that Article 27 has not been made. The Parties to the conflict are, nevertheless, invited to inform each other of any details of such craft which will facilitate their identification and recognition.
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b. Activities of the ICRC and the International Lifeboat Conference
2169  During a meeting with the ICRC, held in Geneva on 16–17 April 1984, a Special Working Committee of the International Lifeboat Conference submitted the following recommendations with a view to enhancing the protection of coastal rescue craft:
1. In the future, vessels employed by the State or by the officially recognized lifeboat institutions, used in search and rescue operations in accordance with Article 27 of the Second Geneva Convention, should be known as ‘rescue craft’, irrespective of their size or range of operation.
2. The above mentioned rescue craft should not be restricted to coastal rescue operations in order to be ‘respected and protected, so far as operational requirements permit’ as provided for in the Second Geneva Convention, Article 27.
3. Crews of State or officially recognized lifeboat institution rescue craft should be ‘respected and protected’ in the same manner as religious and medical personnel (see Articles 36 and 37 of the Second Geneva Convention) during the time they are involved in rescue operations. The same protection should apply to personnel of fixed installations when involved in rescue operations.
4. The above mentioned crews and personnel should be entitled to the armlet, special identification cards and discs referred to in Article 42 of the Second Geneva Convention during rescue operations.
5. Much of the recent work done by IMO, (see Chapter XIV of the International Code of Signals, e.g. blue flashing lights) and ITU, (see Art. 40, Radio Regulation, e.g. Radio Identification) has been tied to the term ‘medical transport’ which is only defined in Protocol I of 1977 to the Geneva Conventions of 1949. The Protocols and Resolutions to the Second Geneva Convention contain material relevant to the further interpretation of which articles and provisions of the Second Geneva Convention are applicable to rescue craft. It is recommended that the ICRC call this matter to the attention of States not yet party to those Protocols concerning rescue craft for their consideration.
6. The need exists to ensure that the protection provisions of medical transports be made applicable to all rescue craft utilized solely for humanitarian purposes.[34]
Recommendations 1 and 2 were considered especially necessary in order to better reflect the state of modern rescue craft, which were more efficient than earlier ones.
2170  The Special Working Group also adopted a draft manual for the protection of coastal rescue craft and their fixed installations in armed conflicts.[35] It contained, inter alia, provisions on the identification, marking and communication of coastal rescue craft and suggested a wide assimilation of coastal rescue craft to hospital ships. Moreover, the manual describes the term ‘fixed coastal installations’ as comprising ‘hangars, repair shops, fuel depots, offices, employees’ quarters, sick-bays, stocks of relief and medical supplies, slip docks and equipment for launching coastal rescue craft’.[36] According to the manual, ‘fixed coastal installations may include a radio communications station to be used exclusively for rescue operations’.[37] Lastly, the Special Working Group emphasized the need for a definition of the various small boats and craft referred to in the Second Convention.[38]
2171  In response to a request by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the ICRC, on 15 March 1985, submitted the following definitions:
– ‘Lifeboat’: Any vessel especially designed and permanently equipped for life-saving purposes, shore-based and employed for inshore or offshore rescue work by the State or by the officially recognized lifeboat institution.
– ‘Rescue craft’: Any vessel, shore-based and employed temporarily or permanently for inshore or offshore rescue work, for life-saving purposes, by the State or by the officially recognized lifeboat institutions.
– ‘Rescue operations’: Any inshore or offshore rescue work needed for life-saving purposes made by rescue craft or lifeboat, according to Article 27 of the Second Geneva Convention.
2172  At its 31st session, held in London on 8–12 July 1985, the then IMO Sub-Committee on Safety of Navigation accepted those definitions. Presently, under the 1979 SAR Convention and the IAMSAR Manual the terms ‘SAR units’ and ‘additional facilities’ are used.[39]
2173  Interestingly, the 1984 draft manual did not have a sustained impact. Only its provisions on the identification of coastal rescue craft served as a basis for the Meeting of Governmental Technical Naval Experts, convened by the ICRC in 1986, which adopted recommendations on the methods of identification and signalling for means of transport protected by the Second Convention.[40] The 24th International Conference of the Red Cross (1981) dealt, in its Resolution VIII, with the identification of medical transports.[41] The 25th International Conference (1986), in its Resolution III, invited governments to implement the proposals of the International Lifeboat Conference and to draw up ‘a technical manual intended to facilitate the practical application of the Second Geneva Convention’.[42] At the time of writing, that proposal had not been followed up. Hence, as far as international humanitarian law is concerned, only the provisions in the 1984 draft manual on identification remain relevant. Of course, in peacetime the 1979 SAR Convention and the IAMSAR Manual do apply.[43]
2174  In 1990, the ICRC published its Manual for the use of technical means of identification by hospital ships, coastal rescue craft, other protected craft and medical aircraft.[44] The definitions of lifeboats and coastal rescue craft proposed by the ICRC and adopted by the IMO, and the proposals in the manual of the International Lifeboat Conference on the assimilation of coastal rescue craft to hospital ships and on strengthening the protection of the personnel, were not explicitly taken up again. Hence, apart from Article 22 of Additional Protocol I, the status and protection of coastal rescue craft and their fixed installations on land, as provided for in Article 27 of the Second Convention, have remained mostly unchanged.
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c. San Remo Manual on International Law Applicable to Armed Conflicts at Sea (1994)
2175  According to the 1994 San Remo Manual on International Law Applicable to Armed Conflicts at Sea, ‘small craft used for coastal rescue operations’ are exempt from attack and from capture[45] ‘if they (a) are innocently employed in their normal role; (b) submit to identification and inspection when required; and (c) do not intentionally hamper the movement of combatants and obey orders to stop or move out of the way when required’.[46] They may be attacked only if ‘(a) diversion or capture is not feasible; (b) no other method is available for exercising military control; (c) the circumstances of non-compliance are sufficiently grave that the vessel has become, or may be reasonably assumed to be, a military objective; and (d) the collateral casualties or damage will not be disproportionate to the military advantage gained or expected’.[47]
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C. Paragraph 1: Respect for and protection of craft employed for coastal rescue operations
1. Small craft employed for coastal rescue operations
a. Small craft
2176  The use of various terms in the Second Convention – apart from ‘ships’ and ‘vessels’, ‘lifeboats’ in Articles 26 and 43(3) and ‘coastal lifeboats’ and ‘small craft’ in Article 43(3) and (6) – makes it difficult to provide a definition of the term ‘small craft’ (or ‘coastal rescue craft’, as in the title) used in Article 27. A systematic interpretation merely justifies the conclusion that the lifeboats of hospital ships, which are protected under Article 26, are not covered by Article 27.[48] The same holds true for ‘small craft used by the Medical Service’ referred to in Article 43(3).[49] This, however, does not help to clarify the term ‘small craft’ as such, because the distinctive criterion would only be the platform, unit, institution or service that the respective vessel or craft is associated with.
2177  In view of the variety of terms, the International Lifeboat Conference, as it was called at the time, and the IMO ‘have pointed out the need to clarify the technical terms and expressions used to denote rescue craft and their operations’.[50] Although it is possible to distinguish ‘lifeboats’ from ‘rescue craft’ or ‘small craft’,[51] this does not add much clarity either because the distinctive criterion would not be the design or function but merely the permanent or temporary employment of the vessels for life-saving operations.
2178  Hence, it is preferable to interpret the term in the light of the nature of rescue craft indicated by the subsequent practice of the States Parties. Since the 19th century,[52] States or private lifeboat institutions (recognized SAR organizations) have employed various categories of vessels for search-and-rescue (SAR) operations at sea. Even today, they range from rowing boats to the most technologically advanced vessels, which can carry out rescue operations under the most difficult conditions.[53] In some States, the coast guards or private lifeboat institutions (SAR organizations) operate a variety of craft, namely:
– small, manoeuvrable craft, such as inflatable or rigid-hull inflatable boats and hovercraft, primarily designed for inshore rescue and capable of high-speed operation in suitable conditions;
– larger craft (rescue boats) of less than 24 metres in length and often designed to operate in severe weather and sea conditions;
– rescue vessels (or rescue cruisers) of more than 24 metres in length, capable of extended seakeeping and often equipped with daughter craft, firefighting capability, etc.[54]
2179  The type of vessel used for coastal rescue operations depends on a variety of factors, be they geographic, economic or technical.[55] According to the International Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue Manual (hereinafter IAMSAR Manual), the ‘type of vessel assigned to an incident will depend upon the location of the distress scene, the number of survivors, the weather conditions, the speed, range and seagoing qualities required, and availability’.[56] Hence, the IAMSAR Manual merely distinguishes between rescue boats (‘short-range coastal and/or river craft’) and rescue vessels ‘(long-range seagoing craft)’,[57] without specifying their size, range or speed.
2180  It has been rightly stated that:
[I]t is the rescue institutions, whether State-owned or private, which choose the type of rescue craft best suited for a particular area; the international organizations interested in rescue matters have not laid down any regulations for the specifications of rescue craft. … There is no exact definition for a universal type of rescue craft.[58]
2181  The wording and drafting history of Article 27 support this position. Coastal rescue craft are not limited to vessels of a maximum or minimum tonnage, speed or range.[59] Nor need they be specially designed or equipped for life-saving purposes, unlike hospital ships under Article 22 of the Second Convention. For coastal rescue craft, it suffices if they are in fact employed for such purposes. Hence, the use of the adjective ‘small’ is of limited relevance, serving principally as a criterion for distinguishing coastal rescue craft from fully equipped hospital ships, which should, according to the terms of Article 26, be over 2,000 tons gross. Accordingly, it is preferable to use, in the context of Article 27, only the term ‘coastal rescue craft’ or, as their operations are not limited to proximity to the coast[60] but may extend far beyond the territorial sea, the term ‘rescue craft’ and/or ‘rescue vessel’.
2182  Although the Second Convention does not provide objective criteria for distinguishing between small hospital ships on the one hand and bigger coastal rescue craft on the other, it seems safe to assert that they can be distinguished by the following criteria: (a) the entity operating the vessel; (b) the procedures applied before the vessel was put into service; and (c) the type of marking used in peacetime (in accordance with Article 43 or in line with provisions such as those of the International Life-Saving Appliance Code (1996).
2183  Article 27(1) applies only to coastal rescue craft of the Parties to the conflict. This follows from the explicit reference to Articles 22 and 24. Had it been the intention of the 1949 Diplomatic Conference to include neutral coastal rescue craft, the reference would have been extended to Article 25. The nationality of these vessels/craft is determined by the flag they are flying.[61] Of course, neutral coastal rescue craft are protected under the law of maritime neutrality, the applicable international conventions on maritime search and rescue[62] and general international law. Neutral coastal rescue craft may also obtain special protection on the basis of Article 21.
2184  Lastly, it is important to note that Article 27 does not apply to aircraft (unmanned or not) employed for coastal rescue operations, whether they are land-based or sea-based (e.g. helicopters on board a rescue vessel). During the Second World War, the argument for including within the protective scope of the 1907 Hague Convention (X) the ‘ambulance aircraft’ that Germany had deployed for air-sea rescue purposes off the British coast was rightly rejected by the British Government.[63] According to the Second Convention, aircraft are protected only if they qualify as medical aircraft under Article 39. However, although they may qualify on the basis of Article 8(j) of Additional Protocol I, ‘search-and-rescue aircraft do not qualify as a medical aircraft nor must they be used to search for the wounded, sick and shipwrecked within areas of combat operations, unless pursuant to prior consent of the enemy’.[64] The fact that many SAR organizations also employ aircraft, such as land-based helicopters, has not contributed to a widening of the limited scope of applicability of Article 27 because that practice is restricted to peacetime SAR operations.
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b. Coastal rescue operations
2185  Article 27 protects craft ‘employed … for coastal rescue operations’ without defining that phrase. In view of its inclusion in Chapter III, and the overall object of the Second Convention to protect the wounded, sick or shipwrecked (Articles 12 and 13), any activity that is to render assistance to the wounded, sick and shipwrecked at sea, whether inshore or offshore, qualifies as a ‘rescue operation’. Such a restrictive interpretation would, however, not be in compliance with the wording and object of Article 27. The provision applies to the rescue work of lifeboat institutions (SAR organizations) in general. The purpose of the provision is to enable governmental search-and-rescue services and relief societies to continue their charitable work even in time of conflict, though it will more often be for the benefit of civilians. The present article is therefore applicable to rescue craft for the assistance of victims who may be military personnel, or civilians, or both, according to the circumstances. Accordingly, Article 22(1) of Additional Protocol I is but a declaratory clarification of the scope of Article 27.
2186  While Article 27 thus seems to extend the protection of the Second Convention to maritime search-and-rescue operations in general, and although not dealing with the same issue as Article 27, the peacetime rules regulating these activities can serve as a useful guidance with a view to clarifying the concept of coastal rescue operations for the purposes of international humanitarian law. According to Article 98(2) of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea,
every coastal State shall promote the establishment, operation and maintenance of an adequate and effective search and rescue service regarding safety on and over the sea and, where circumstances so require, by way of mutual regional arrangements co-operate with neighbouring States for this purpose.
2187  The 1974 SOLAS Convention obliges each State Party to
ensure that any necessary arrangements are made for coast watching and for the rescue of persons in distress at sea round its coasts. These arrangements should include the establishment, operation and maintenance of such maritime safety facilities as are deemed practicable and necessary having regard to the density of the seagoing traffic and the navigational dangers and should, so far as possible, afford adequate means of locating and rescuing such persons.[65]
2188  The 1979 SAR Convention regulates maritime search and rescue in a comprehensive manner. It provides, inter alia, for the establishment of ‘search and rescue regions’ and of rescue coordination centres and sub-centres. The general obligations under Article 25 of the 1944 Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation to provide assistance to aircraft in distress and to search for missing aircraft have been specified in Annex 12 to the Convention.
2189  The IAMSAR Manual contains useful definitions of terms that may be taken into consideration for defining the phrase ‘coastal rescue operations’: ‘search’ is ‘an operation, normally co-ordinated by a rescue co-ordination centre or rescue sub-centre, using available personnel and facilities to locate persons in distress’; ‘rescue’ is ‘an operation to retrieve persons in distress, provide for their initial medical or other needs, and deliver them to a place of safety’; and ‘search and rescue service’ is ‘the performance of distress monitoring, communication, co-ordination and search and rescue functions, including provision of medical advice, initial medical assistance, or medical evacuation, through the use of public and private resources, including co-operating aircraft, vessels and other craft and installations’.[66] Subject to the exception regarding the use of aircraft not covered by Article 27, the definition of ‘search and rescue service’ provides useful guidance for the definition of ‘coastal rescue operations’ because it reflects the complexity of SAR operations and, indeed, the practice of State and officially recognized SAR organizations.[67] This definition is logical although the term ‘search’ is not used in Article 27. A coastal rescue operation, in order to be effective, requires distress monitoring in the respective sea area in order to enable coastal rescue craft to arrive at the location as soon as possible and to provide the assistance necessary.
2190  It is important to note that the adjective ‘coastal’ does not mean that the small craft concerned may operate only near the coast. If humanitarian considerations obliged a small craft to go to a point some considerable distance from the coast, it would nonetheless remain protected. The term is relevant insofar as the base of the coastal rescue craft must be located at the coast (Article 27(2), dealing with fixed coastal installations, speaks of ‘these craft’). Moreover, the focus of State and private lifeboat institutions (SAR organizations) on life-saving does not exclude coastal rescue craft from collecting dead bodies found at sea.[68]
2191  Coastal rescue operations in times of armed conflict, which have many common features with ‘maritime search and rescue operations’ as regulated in the 1979 SAR Convention, must be distinguished from combat search-and-rescue operations that are not protected under international humanitarian law. A clear distinction between a protected ‘coastal rescue operation’ and ‘combat search and rescue’ (CSAR) will often prove difficult, in particular when an operation aims at rescuing pilots of downed aircraft at sea, who, according to Article 12(1) of the Second Convention, qualify as ‘shipwrecked’ and therefore as protected persons.[69] The fact that a CSAR operation is designed to return the rescued personnel to friendly control and to enable them to resume service is not sufficient as a distinctive criterion because the same would hold true for shipwrecked personnel collected by their own hospital ships. Hence, what may serve as a distinctive criterion is whether or not the craft is armed. If it is armed with other than light weapons for individual self-defence and tasked with the collection of downed airmen, the operation will most likely qualify as CSAR and would thus not be protected under Article 27.
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2. Employed by the State or by officially recognized lifeboat institutions (SAR organizations)
2192  To qualify for protection under Article 27, coastal rescue craft must be employed either by the State, i.e. a Party to the conflict,[70] or by officially recognized lifeboat institutions (SAR organizations). It suffices if the craft are employed for coastal rescue operations; there is no requirement that they be the property of the State or the lifeboat institution (SAR organization) concerned.
2193  Some States operate rescue craft through their own State organs. These may be the State’s armed forces or civilian governmental agencies. In both cases, provided that all the other conditions of Article 27 are met, the craft operated by these State organs, along with their fixed coastal installations in the sense of paragraph 2, are protected under Article 27. Their protection will cease, however, if they are used for military purposes, or if they commit acts harmful to the enemy.[71] This is no different from, for example, hospitals operated by the armed forces in land warfare.[72]
2194  In turn, other States rely to a greater or lesser extent on resources provided privately. In still other States, coastal rescue craft are operated by private lifeboat institutions (recognized SAR organizations). Governmental institutions, such as the coast guard, the navy or a competent ministry, may perform coordinating functions, but this does not mean that the lifeboat institution (SAR organization) belongs to the State. For their assets (i.e. coastal rescue craft and their fixed coastal installations) to enjoy protection under Article 27, these private lifeboat institutions (SAR organizations) must be ‘officially recognized’. This means that the institution must have been approved or authorized by a governmental authority or other public body[73] to perform coastal rescue functions.[74] There are no specific requirements as to the form or the time of the official recognition.[75] It is clear from the text that the lifeboat institutions are not required to be officially recognized solely for coastal rescue work. Hence, officially recognized National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies may qualify as private lifeboat institutions (recognized SAR organizations) under Article 27.
2195  Coastal rescue craft operated by private institutions of the Parties to the conflict, which have not been officially recognized, or by private individuals belonging to a Party to the conflict who render assistance to those in distress at sea on their own initiative, are not protected by Article 27. It was proposed at the Stockholm Conference in 1948 that vessels used by private persons should also be protected.[76] That idea was dropped in 1949, as it would have opened the way for abuse, in the absence of any proper control. One can well imagine that the owners of small pleasure craft might describe them as rescue craft in order to keep them safe. The lack of a specially protected status may not be misunderstood as depriving them of their general protection as civilians.
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3. Obligation to respect and protect
a. Respect and protect
2196  The reference to Articles 22 and 24 and the use of the word ‘also’ indicate that the obligation to respect and protect coastal rescue craft must be interpreted in the same manner as in the two articles referred to and as used throughout the Second Convention.[77] Accordingly, they may not be attacked, captured or otherwise prevented from performing their humanitarian tasks, unless and to the extent such interference is provided for in the Convention. The obligation to protect coastal rescue craft means that the Parties to the conflict must ensure respect by others (e.g. non-State actors, in particular pirates or other criminals). The obligation to respect and protect coastal rescue craft applies irrespective of whether there are wounded, sick or shipwrecked persons on board.
2197  Article 32 and Article 43(6)[78] of the Convention concern specific aspects of the protected status of coastal rescue craft, namely their stay in a neutral port and their operation with the consent of the Occupying Power from a base which is occupied.
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b. Conditions of protection
2198  Coastal rescue craft enjoy protection under Article 27 if the following formal and material conditions are complied with.
2199  The formal conditions of protection are ‘those provided for in Articles 22 and 24’. This means that the Parties to the conflict must be notified of the names and characteristics of coastal rescue craft, whether employed by the State or by an officially recognized lifeboat institution (SAR organization), at least ten days before they are employed in wartime.[79] With regard to the details to be communicated, it has been rightly pointed out that the means of communication used by coastal rescue craft should be included in the notification and that it would be ‘advisable for State and private lifeboat institutions to agree with national telecommunication Administrations for notifications of rescue craft radio stations to the ITU [International Telecommunications Union] to differentiate those protected by the Second Geneva Convention and those which are not’.[80] It is important to note that, according to Article 22(3) of Additional Protocol I, notification is no longer required, although the Parties to the conflict are ‘invited to inform each other of any details of such craft which will facilitate their identification and recognition’.[81]
2200  The second formal condition only applies to rescue craft employed by private lifeboat institutions (recognized SAR organizations), which must also have been given an official commission (see Article 24(1)), and which must be provided with certificates from the responsible authorities, stating that they have been under proper control (see Article 24(2)). One may wonder whether the requirement of the certificate in addition to an official commission is necessary,[82] but the reference in Article 27 to Article 24 is unconditional and must therefore be observed.
2201  The marking of coastal rescue craft in times of armed conflict, a step that is not constitutive of their protection but merely facilitates identification, is regulated by Article 43.[83]
2202  The material conditions of protection are those provided for in Article 30.[84] Rescue craft that do not comply with these conditions lose their protection against capture.[85] It needs to be emphasized that non-compliance with the conditions of protection does not render rescue craft liable to attack.[86] An attack will, as an exceptional measure, be lawful only if several conditions are met.[87] With regard to Article 30(1), it must be noted that, pursuant to Article 27, coastal rescue craft are allowed to provide relief and assistance to the wounded, sick and shipwrecked, as well as to other persons, in particular civilians, who do not fall into any of the categories of Articles 12 and 13. Rescue craft are obliged to submit to control and search and to the other measures provided for in Article 31.[88] In this context, it has been doubted whether the measures set out in Article 31(2)–(4) are of any practical value for rescue craft.[89] These doubts are not unfounded, because in practice those measures will most probably be taken only vis-à-vis rescue craft of a certain tonnage. However, since Article 27 applies to rescue craft of any tonnage, it would have been most difficult to draft Article 31 in such a manner that a distinction between small and bigger coastal rescue craft would have been feasible.
2203  Lastly, merchant vessels that have been transformed into coastal rescue craft may, in principle, be retransformed into merchant vessels. Article 33 prohibits such retransformation but this provision only applies to merchant vessels that have been transformed into hospital ships. However, to enhance the protection of such craft, it would be prudent not to put them to any other use throughout the duration of hostilities.[90]
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c. Discontinuance of protection
2204  Rescue craft that do not comply with the conditions laid down in Article 30 lose their protection, in that they may be captured.[91] The Second Convention is, however, silent on the consequences for rescue craft that ‘are used to commit, outside their humanitarian duties, acts harmful to the enemy’, because, according to its wording, Article 34 on the discontinuance of protection does not include rescue craft within its scope of application. A systematic interpretation of Articles 34 and 27 and the drafting history of Article 27 suggest that the delegates to the 1949 Diplomatic Conference did not intend to spare rescue craft from attack if they committed an ‘act harmful to the enemy’ outside their humanitarian duties. It may be recalled that it was
understood that the protection promised to these low tonnage craft … could not be absolute. Such protection can only be afforded within the measure of operational necessities. A belligerent face to face with an opponent in a restricted maritime area would find it difficult to tolerate the traffic of a large number of very fast, small craft belonging to the adverse party.[92]
Accordingly, their protection is subject to ‘operational requirements’ and not only based on whether they comply with the conditions of Article 30 or refrain from committing ‘acts harmful to the enemy’.
2205  The omission of a reference to coastal rescue craft in Article 34 does not render them immune from attack, but relieves the enemy from the procedural safeguards in the second sentence of Article 34(1) – due warning, a time limit and a warning that has remained unheeded. As the 1960 Commentary pointed out, ‘For reasons of military security, it might have been difficult to extend those procedures to them, precisely because they are small and may be very rapid.’[93] If, by use, rescue craft effectively contribute to the enemy’s military action, they may become liable to attack.[94] According to the 1994 San Remo Manual on International Law Applicable to Armed Conflicts at Sea, they may, however, be attacked only if the four following cumulative conditions are met:
(a) diversion or capture is not feasible;
(b) no other method is available for exercising military control;
(c) the circumstances of non-compliance are sufficiently grave that the vessel has become, or may reasonably be assumed to be, a military objective; and
(d) the collateral casualties or damage will not be disproportionate to the military advantage gained or expected.[95]
2206  In accordance with the wording of Article 27, the protection of rescue craft, which includes their right to conduct coastal rescue operations, extends ‘so far as operational requirements permit’. It is important to note that ‘operational requirements’ are not the same as considerations of ‘military necessity’. Nor must the ‘operational requirements’ be ‘urgent’ (for an exception of ‘urgent military necessity,’ see Article 28). Hence, operational considerations by a reasonable commander may justify interference with rescue craft by, inter alia, preventing them from performing their humanitarian tasks in a given sea area. Since the reasonableness will, of course, depend on the prevailing circumstances, it is impossible to define the terms in an abstract manner. In this context it may not be forgotten that naval commanders will endeavour to acquire a most accurate ‘recognized maritime picture’ in order to identify lawful targets and to distinguish them from civilian objects. In narrow or limited sea areas they will be interested in sufficient space for preserving a sufficient manoeuvrability for their military units. In both situations, the presence of small and fast craft may be legitimately considered an operational problem and they may therefore be prevented from operating in the sea area concerned.[96] Operational requirements do not, however, relieve the Parties to the conflict of their obligations under Article 18.
2207  Given that (reasonable) operational requirements may prevail over the protection of rescue craft and their humanitarian tasks, it has not been authoritatively settled whether the conditions not depriving hospital ships of their protection according to Article 35 apply to such craft. That article would be applicable by analogy only because, according to its wording, it applies exclusively to hospital ships and sickbays.
2208  There can be no doubt that rescue craft, in particular when they operate at a considerable distance from the coast, may be equipped with ‘apparatus exclusively intended to facilitate navigation or communication’ as provided for in Article 35(2). Means of communication are crucial for the success of their rescue operations, which are often coordinated from bases ashore. Moreover, they must be able to receive the orders provided for in Article 31.
2209  Since rescue craft are entitled to continue, even during an international armed conflict, their humanitarian mission, which is not limited to persons protected under Articles 12 and 13, the fact that they are assisting civilians may not be considered as depriving them of their protection either. Since assistance to civilians is part and parcel of the protection granted by Article 27, there is no need to apply, by analogy, Article 35(4).
2210  Rescue craft are protected because they render rapid assistance to those in distress at sea. Therefore, the transport of surplus equipment and personnel, as provided for in Article 35(5), will not be of any practical relevance; the more so since many types of rescue craft are comparatively small and do not have sufficient space to carry personnel or equipment ‘over and above the normal requirements’.
2211  There is no compelling reason to deprive rescue craft of their protection if portable arms and ammunition taken from the wounded, sick or shipwrecked are discovered on board.
2212  Lastly, it is doubtful whether the crews of rescue craft need to be ‘armed for the maintenance of order, for their own defence or that of the sick and wounded’, as provided for in Article 35(1), because of their small size and the comparatively short stay on board of rescued persons. There may be a need to arm their crews for their own defence, in particular if they are operating in sea areas in which pirate attacks occur. Still, the crews of rescue craft should be armed only in very exceptional cases. Most State or private lifeboat institutions (recognized SAR organizations) refrain from arming their personnel, unless they have combatant status under domestic law. In this context, it must be recalled that combatants may operate craft which, in view of the protected activity they carry out, may or may not qualify for protection on the basis of Article 27.[97] In this case, where arming may be permissible in accordance with the same constraints as those applicable to coastal rescue craft in general, particular care must be exercised by those operating such craft not to use them for any military purpose. Otherwise, their protection may be lost.[98]
2213  In relation to arming, it is important to reiterate that ‘combat search and rescue’, which is distinguished from ‘coastal rescue operations’ by the arming of the craft employed (as opposed to its crew), is not protected under Article 27.[99] Armed rescue craft and rescue craft integrated into, or assimilated to, the naval forces of a Party to the conflict do not qualify for protection under this provision.
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D. Paragraph 2: Respect for, and protection of, fixed coastal installations used exclusively by rescue craft
1. Fixed coastal installations used exclusively by rescue craft
2214  Coastal installations are required to have all the facilities necessary for the operation and, if necessary, repair of SAR units, and they will often have to provide the instruments required for the (initial) medical treatment of the persons rescued at sea.
2215  In accordance with the applicable international conventions, maritime search and rescue systems, in order to be effective, must be organized and adequately managed and equipped.[100] A clear designation of a search-and-rescue region and, if necessary, of a search-and-rescue subregion under the responsibility of a rescue coordination centre or sub-centre, is of particular importance. The centres coordinate search-and-rescue services by providing the necessary data or other information. They must therefore be equipped with adequate communications technology.
2216  It is important to note that, in accordance with the applicable international conventions, a Party to the conflict may have established a SAR cooperation agreement with neighbouring neutral States. Hence a rescue coordination centre located in that State’s territory may be responsible for the coordination of search-and-rescue units belonging to a neutral State.[101] If an attack is expected to cause incidental damage to a fixed coastal installation, the affected interests of the neutral State and its SAR organization will have to be taken into consideration as well.
2217  Coastal installations are crucial for effective rescue operations, and they are therefore accorded protection similar to that of rescue craft, provided that they are ‘fixed’ and not mobile. They may, however, fall under the definition of medical units; see Additional Protocol I, Article 8(e). In practice, it must be recalled that SAR organizations often deploy mobile land units to incidents on or near the coast, for various purposes but including providing information to the relevant rescue coordination centre, which is likely to be remote. Such mobile land units are not covered by Article 27.
2218  The various maritime search-and-rescue systems that have been established by States or by officially recognized lifeboat institutions (SAR organizations) differ considerably, either because of the characteristics of the search-and-rescue region or because of the resources available. Hence, any exclusive enumeration of the facilities and equipment qualifying as a protected coastal installation would be contrary to the object of Article 27(2). In the light of State practice and the international conventions on maritime search and rescue, it is, however, safe to conclude that the enumeration in the 1984 draft manual provides sufficient guidance.[102] Accordingly, fixed costal installations may comprise: rescue coordination centres and sub-centres, hangars, repair shops, fuel depots, offices, employees’ quarters, sickbays, stocks of relief and medical supplies, slip docks and equipment for launching coastal rescue craft.[103] In addition, ‘fixed coastal installations may include a radio communications station to be used exclusively for rescue operations’,[104] and other communication systems.
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2. Scope of protection
2219  Like rescue craft, fixed coastal installations must be respected and protected.[105] Their special protection ceases as soon as they are used for purposes other than coordinating and assisting life-saving operations at sea (maritime search-and-rescue operations). If they effectively contribute to the enemy’s military action and fulfil the other criteria to qualify as a military objective, they are liable to attack. The protection of fixed coastal installations is not dependent upon notification. Although the phrase ‘the same shall apply’ in the beginning of the second paragraph may be understood as including the reference to Articles 22 and 24 in paragraph 1, those procedural requirements do not apply to fixed coastal installations used by rescue craft because their protection is not dependent on either a notification of their characteristics or a period of ten days. Of course, the Parties to the conflict are not precluded from notifying the adversary of the details of their coastal installations.
2220  Fixed coastal installations must be protected ‘as far as possible’. Because of the different terms used in the two paragraphs, it does not mean ‘so far as operational requirements permit’, but seems to provide for a less strict standard. It has been introduced owing to the difficulty of identifying small establishments in the event of operations directed against a point on the coast. Today, the attacker would not, however, be absolved from the fundamental obligations of international humanitarian law to target only military objectives, to take all feasible precautions (including target identification and avoiding or, in any event, minimizing excessive collateral damage) and to refrain from attacks that would be indiscriminate, in particular because they are expected to inflict excessive incidental civilian damage. In this context, it has been noted that despite the similarities with civil defence tasks, which are protected under Articles 61–67 of Additional Protocol I, maritime search-and-rescue facilities, including their fixed coastal installations, do not qualify as civil defence.[106] Unless they effectively contribute to the enemy’s military action and meet the other conditions rendering them military objectives, they continue, however, to qualify as civilian objects as far as the law applicable to the conduct of hostilities is concerned.[107] Lastly, with regard to measures short of attack, such as capture, the coastal installation’s operation may be interfered with if doing so is justified by operational requirements and provided that the capturing Power is able to ensure the proper care of the wounded, sick and shipwrecked, whose needs depend on the capability of the said installation to continue to function as before.
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Select bibliography
de Preux, Jean, ‘Protection du sauvetage maritime côtier’, in Christophe Swinarski (ed.), Etudes et essais sur le droit international humanitaire et sur les principes de la Croix-Rouge en l’honneur de Jean Pictet, ICRC/Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, The Hague, 1984, pp. 103–111.
Eberlin, Philippe, ‘The protection of rescue craft in periods of armed conflict’, International Review of the Red Cross, Vol. 25, No. 246, May–June 1985, pp. 140–152.
Evans, Clayton, Rescue at Sea: An International History of Lifesaving, Coastal Rescue Craft and Organisations, Conway Maritime Press, London, 2003.
Gidel, Gilbert, ‘La protection des embarcations de sauvetage’, Revue internationale de la Croix-Rouge et Bulletin international des Sociétés de la Croix-Rouge, Vol. 37, No. 441, September 1955, pp. 549–558.
Mossop, J. C., ‘Hospital Ships in the Second World War’, British Yearbook of International Law, Vol. 24, 1947, pp. 398–406.

1 - On this point, see the commentary on Article 26, section B.
2 - See the commentary on Article 22, footnote 4.
3 - See IAMSAR Manual, 2016, para. 6.1.2: ‘In times of armed conflict, SAR [search and rescue] services will normally continue to be provided in accordance with the Second Geneva Convention of 1949 (Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of Wounded, Sick and Shipwrecked Members of the Armed Forces at Sea, of 12 August 1949) and Additional Protocol I to the Conventions.’
4 - The International Lifeboat Conference became the International Lifeboat Federation and then, according to a decision of 2003, the International Maritime Rescue Federation (IMRF). The IMRF is the international umbrella organization which represents over 100 maritime search-and-rescue organizations from more than 60 States. For further information, see http://www.international-maritime-rescue.org. For the criticism of the limited protection under the Second Geneva Convention, see section B.4.b.
5 - See, however, the commentary on Article 36, section C.2.d.
6 - See Proceedings of the Hague Peace Conference of 1899, p. 37.
7 - See Proceedings of the Hague Peace Conference of 1907, Vol. I, p. 63.
8 - During the seventh meeting of the Fourth Commission of the Committee of Examination, there was a proposal to also exempt from capture ‘hospital boats for the use of fishermen’. See Proceedings of the Hague Peace Conference of 1907, Vol. III, p. 968. See also San Remo Manual on International Law Applicable to Armed Conflicts at Sea (1994), paras 47(f) and 136(e).
9 - See Evans, pp. 69–72.
10 - Evans (p. 69) reports that ‘in June 1920 the DGzRS sent a letter of appreciation to the RNLI thanking them for their efforts during the war which, through their relationship with the British Admiralty, had ensured that the large German motor lifeboat at Heligoland was not destroyed’.
11 - Ibid. p. 70.
12 - Ibid.
13 - Mossop, p. 403.
14 - Ibid. See also the commentary on Article 26, para. 2121.
15 - Ibid.
16 - See the commentary on Article 26, section B.
17 - See Report of the Conference of Government Experts of 1947, p. 88. It may be added that the 1937 Commission of Naval Experts adopted the same approach as the 1907 Hague Convention (X). The Commission did not propose a separate provision on the protection of coastal rescue craft, but dealt with ‘small craft used for hospital work’ only in the context of identification. See Naval Expert Report of 1937, p. 49.
18 - See Report of the Conference of Government Experts of 1947, pp. 88–89.
19 - Gidel, p. 551.
20 - Draft Conventions adopted by the 1948 Stockholm Conference, p. 38.
21 - See the commentary on Article 26, section B.
22 - Final Record of the Diplomatic Conference of Geneva of 1949, Vol. II-A, p. 72.
23 - Ibid. p. 110. Article 21B in its rejected form read: ‘Small boats used for coastal rescue work, such as coastal lifeboats which are employed by governments or by officially recognized lifeboat institutions, shall be respected and protected likewise, so far as operational requirements permit and the provisions of Article 19 concerning notification have been complied with.’
24 - Ibid.
25 - Ibid. p. 152.
26 - Ibid.
27 - Ibid.
28 - Ibid. p. 153.
29 - Ibid.
30 - Ibid.
31 - Ibid. p. 202.
32 - Ibid. p. 167.
33 - As to the proposal to include all relevant information on coastal rescue craft in a register administered by the ICRC, see Draft Conventions adopted by the 1948 Stockholm Conference, p. 38, draft article 20(3).
34 - Minutes of the Meeting of the Special Working Group with the International Committee of the Red Cross, held at the Henry Dunant Institute, Geneva, 16–17 April 1984, Appendix B.
35 - See Draft for the international lifeboat conference, Manual for the protection of Coastal Rescue Craft and their fixed Coastal installations in period of armed conflicts, Special Working Group, Geneva, 17 April 1984.
36 - Ibid. p. 21.
37 - Ibid.
38 - Eberlin, p. 141.
39 - Use of the term ‘lifeboat’ at the international level now tends to be restricted to survival craft carried aboard ships, rather than the SAR units deployed by the long-established rescue organizations. Ships can also carry ‘rescue boats’ (which may simply be specially designated lifeboats) and ‘fast rescue boats’. On the question of whether the 1979 SAR Convention applies in time of armed conflict, see Introduction, section C.5.f.
40 - Meeting of Governmental Technical Naval Experts, Geneva, 13–17 January 1986.
41 - 24th International Conference of the Red Cross, Manila, 1981, Res. VIII, Identification of Medical Transport. See also the document drawn up by the ICRC for the 25th International Conference of the Red Cross, Geneva, 1986, ‘Respect for International Humanitarian Law: Identification of Medical Transports’.
42 - 25th International Conference of the Red Cross, Geneva, 1986, Res. III, Identification of Medical Transports. See also the document drawn up by the ICRC for the 26th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, Geneva, 1995, ‘Reaffirmation and Development of International Humanitarian Law: Identification of Medical Transports’.
43 - On the applicability of these instruments in time of armed conflict, see Introduction, section C.5.f.
44 - ICRC, Manual for the use of technical means of identification by hospital ships, coastal rescue craft, other protected craft and medical aircraft, Geneva, 1st ed., 1990.
45 - San Remo Manual on International Law Applicable to Armed Conflicts at Sea (1994), paras 47(b) and 136(a).
46 - Ibid. para. 48 (emphasis added). According to para. 137, similar exceptions apply to the prohibition of capture.
47 - Ibid. para. 52 (emphasis added).
48 - See the commentary on Article 26, section C.2.b.
49 - See the commentary on Article 43, section E.1.
50 - Eberlin, p. 141. See also section B.4.b.
51 - See the definitions provided by the ICRC that have been accepted by the IMO, section B.4.b.
52 - For example, the Deutsche Gesellschaft zur Rettung Schiffbrüchiger (DGzRS) (German Maritime Search and Rescue Association) was founded on 29 May 1865.
53 - Eberlin, p. 145.
54 - The length of 24 metres is relevant only insofar as vessels of 24 metres and beyond are subject to IMO conventions and regulations.
55 - Eberlin, pp. 144–146.
56 - IAMSAR Manual (2016), Vol. II, Appendix G.3.5.
57 - Ibid. Appendix G.3.4.
58 - Eberlin, p. 144.
59 - As to the interpretation of the term ‘coastal’, see para. 2190.
60 - Ibid.
61 - See UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (1982), Article 91.
62 - For an overview, and the question of whether these instruments apply in time of armed conflict, see Introduction, Introduction, section C.5.f. See also Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation (1944), Annex 12, “Search and Rescue”, and IAMSAR Manual (2016), Glossary.
63 - Mossop, p. 403.
64 - Manual on International Law Applicable to Air and Missile Warfare (2009), Rule 1(u), para. 5. As to the necessity of entering into a special agreement, see also Eberlin, p. 151.
65 - SOLAS Convention (1974), Chapter V, Regulation 15(a).
66 - IAMSAR Manual (2016), Glossary, Vol. I, pp. xiii–xiv.
67 - See also the definition suggested by Eberlin, p. 149: ‘any inshore or offshore rescue work needed for life-saving purposes made by rescue craft or lifeboat, according to Article 27 of the Second Geneva Convention’.
68 - For the treatment of the dead, see Articles 19–20.
69 - See also Eberlin, p. 150.
70 - On the exclusion of a neutral State’s coastal rescue craft under Article 27, see para. 2183.
71 - For details, see section C.3.c.
72 - See the commentary on Article 21 of the First Convention, section C.1.
73 - Concise Oxford English Dictionary, 12th edition, Oxford University Press, 2011, p. 993.
74 - See also IAMSAR Manual, 2016, para. 6.1.2: ‘SAR [search and rescue] personnel should be informed about their Administration’s status regarding, and views on the implementation of, the Second Geneva Convention and its Additional Protocol I.’
75 - For example, the Deutsche Gesellschaft zur Rettung Schiffbrüchiger (DGzRS) was officially recognized in the Federal Maritime Responsibilities Act of 1965.
76 - See Draft Conventions adopted by the 1948 Stockholm Conference, p. 38, draft article 20(3).
77 - See the commentary on Article 22, section C.3, and the commentary on Article 24, section C.3.
78 - See the commentary on Article 43, section H. For the protection of costal rescue craft and their fixed coastal installations in occupied territory, see de Preux, pp. 108–109.
79 - For details, see the commentaries on Article 22, section C.4 and section D, and the commentary on Article 24, section C.2.b.
80 - Eberlin, p. 148.
81 - As early as 1951, the Belgian Government pointed out that the notification requirement may be difficult to meet and that the protection granted by Article 27 may prove illusory (see letter of 4 January 1952 from the Swiss Ministry of Foreign Affairs, transmitting a letter received from the Belgian Embassy in Bern). It therefore proposed that all information on coastal rescue craft should be communicated in peacetime to a neutral organization, such as the ICRC, at regular intervals. Although the ICRC was prepared to take over that task, a central register for coastal rescue craft was not implemented. Some States claimed that they were unable to transmit the necessary particulars; others pointed to the dual responsibilities of their coast guards for coastal security as well as rescue operations and the fact that the security interests at stake would militate against the proposed registration of coastal rescue craft. For details, see letter of 2 October 1958 from Jean-Pierre Schoenholzer and ICRC Archives, Reference ACICR, B AG 042-048. See also IAMSAR Manual, 2016 version, para. 6.1.2: ‘It is recommended that Parties to a conflict notify the other Parties with the name, description and locations (or area of activity) of their above-mentioned rescue craft and coastal installations in the area they are located.’
82 - See de Preux, p. 104.
83 - For details, see in particular the commentary on Article 43, section C.
84 - For further details, see the commentary on Article 30. See also Eberlin, p. 147.
85 - See the commentary on Article 30, section H.
86 - For the distinction between non-compliance with the conditions of protection and ‘acts harmful to the enemy’, see the commentary on Article 30, para. 2275.
87 - See San Remo Manual on International Law Applicable to Armed Conflicts at Sea (1994), para. 52.
88 - For further details, see the commentary on Article 31.
89 - See de Preux, p. 105.
90 - See Eberlin, p. 146.
91 - See San Remo Manual on International Law Applicable to Armed Conflicts at Sea (1994), para. 137.
92 - Final Record of the Diplomatic Conference of Geneva of 1949, Vol. II-A, p. 202.
93 - Pictet (ed.), Commentary on the Second Geneva Convention, ICRC, 1960, p. 190.
94 - See San Remo Manual on International Law Applicable to Armed Conflicts at Sea (1994), para. 52, and Eberlin, pp. 147–148.
95 - San Remo Manual on International Law Applicable to Armed Conflicts at Sea (1994), para. 52 (emphasis added).
96 - See also United States, Law of War Manual, 2016, para. 7.12.1.5: ‘The phrase, “so far as operational requirements permit,” has been used to acknowledge the risks incurred by such crafts, because of their small size, in a zone of military operations.’
97 - See para. 2191.
98 - For details, see section C.3.c.
99 - See section C.1.b.
100 - For this and the following, see the treaties referred to in paras 2187–2189 and the IAMSAR Manual (2016).
101 - For a definition of ‘neutral Powers’, see the commentary on Article 5, section C.1.
102 - See fn. 35 (Manual for the protection of Coastal Rescue Craft and their fixed Coastal installations in period of armed conflicts) and section B.4.b.
103 - See also IAMSAR Manual, 2016, para. 6.1.2: [the protection of Article 27] ‘applies to fixed coastal SAR installations, including RCCs and RCS as far as these centres are located in coastal areas and are used exclusively to coordinate search and rescue operations.’
104 - See fn. 35 (Manual for the protection of Coastal Rescue Craft and their fixed Coastal installations in period of armed conflicts, p. 21.)
105 - See section C.3.a.
106 - See de Preux, p. 110.
107 - Ibid. p. 107.