Search & Rescue



1.             The Nigeria Mission Control Centre (NIMCC) is primarily responsible for detecting distress alert signals transmitted at a frequency of 406MHZ, from beacons mounted on aircrafts, water borne vessel and land users.

2.             The objective is to provide timely and accurate information of the distress location in order to facilitate rapid search and rescue efforts, and minimize the loss of lives. Information from the NIMCC is passed to Rescue Coordination Centers (RCCs) as well as to other stakeholders who engage in rescue activities.



3.             The equipment manufacturers Techno-Science Incorporation (TSI) with whom the Agency has a maintenance agreement did not carry out maintenance visits usually scheduled twice a year due to none signing of a new maintenance agreement for 2013. The failure to provide the required maintenance services affected the optimal performance of the NIMCC systems. To maintain its full operational capability, the system needs to be upgraded to a MEOSAR ready system before the final migration to MEOSAR system in 2018 by Cospas-Sarsat. It is gratifying to mention that arrangements are currently on to upgrade the NIMCC with the attendant maintenance agreement for the system being factored in. It is hoped that the upgrade would be concluded before the end of second quarter of 2014.

4.             Despite the absence of maintenance visits by the equipment manufacturer TSI, the NIMCC staff were able to keep the system running. Some major problems that affected the system were rectified such as replacing a defective Bias-T which is responsible for satellite processing. The main MCC server and its power supply which crashed at a point were also repaired amongst others.

5.             The two RCC centers at Kano and Lagos were not operational during the period under review due to the ongoing installation of AIS in the Airports including NEMA HQ. It is hoped that at the end of this installation, the RCC terminals at Kano and Lagos will be reactivated.


6.             In every disaster, rescue operations are only possible when the scene of the disaster is located and victims identified.  While the scenes of some disasters are easily located, the case is not the same with others that occur in remote locations such as the seas, Jungles, mountain ranges and host of others.  This situation makes rescue operations very difficult and in some cases unsuccessful. 

7.             However, with the assistance of Search and Rescue Satellites (SARSAT), the challenges of identifying accident locations have been eliminated. The NIMCC’s major role is to provide, accurate and reliable location information (coordinates) of accidents to SAR operators, organizations or agencies to assist them in timely intervention of accident victims.


8.             The Cospas-Sarsat  SAR equipment is basically categorized into Space and Ground segment equipment.   However, to fully function, other supporting elements such as beacons (ELTs, PLBs and EPIRBs) and communication links are required.  The components of the MCCs fall under the Ground segment equipment. 

9.             These include the Satellite receivers (LEOLUT, GEOLUT and MEOLUT), computer servers, display console, GPS and other electrical and electronics accessories (UPS and backup batteries) see figures below.   Other supporting equipment includes VSAT, Router and MODEM which are used to establish communication link between and among MCCs. 



10.      The basic concept of operation of Cospas-Sarsat equipment is that of a transmitter and receiver.  A 406MHz beacon transmits signals from a location on the earth to a SAR satellite and retransmission of the same signal to the ground station equipment (Receiver). 

The figure above shows a constellation of satellites Low Earth Orbiting (LEO), Geostationary (GEO) or Medium Earth Orbiting (MEO)) which receive distress alert signals (406 MHz) via an activated beacon from any location on the earth (uplink).  This signal is received by the satellite onboard repeater, amplified and further processed and retransmitted (downlink) to ground segment satellite receiver (LEOLUT, GEOLUT or MEOLUT).  The receiver processes the distress signal to extract beacon’s unique information (beacon coordinates, country of registration, beacon owner, owner’s contact if any etc.)

11.      This information is passed to the MCC servers for display of the coordinates of the activated beacon with the help of the Geographic Information System (GIS) software.   The coordinates are sent via the communication links (FTP or AFTN) as rescue alert messages to designated Rescue Coordination Centers (RCCs), Search and Rescue Point Contacts (SPOCs), SAR agencies and other MCCs for investigation and prompt rescue operation.


12.      The NIMCC received 92 distress alert signals from January 2013 to  December 2013. Fifty-Seven (61.9%) of these were maritime alerts, Thirty-One (33.7%) were alerts from Aviation (ELTs) while four (4.3%) were from land users (PLBs). Thirty-Six of the alerts (39.1%) were false alerts. Two (2.2%) were real alerts while Fifty-Four (58.7%) were undetermined. The NIMCC also shared distress alert information with RCC Cameroon. The false alerts were mainly due to beacon mishandling while a few were from abandoned beacons.

13.      The large percentage of unconfirmed alerts could be due to such inadequate follow –up by search and rescue stakeholders and might as well have included similar real alerts, which were left unattended. In addition, the centre detected two air crashes involving Associate Airlines and Diamond 40 trainer aircraft belonging to Aviation Training institute Ilorin, Kwara State. The air crashes occurred on 3 October 2013 and 25 November 2013 respectively. The beacons on both aircraft were registered in the NIMCC database. Several alerts could also not be followed up properly because there was no record of the beacons in the NIMCC database. While the NCAA has updated its database. NIMASA is yet to do so.

14.      Furthermore, there was increased collaboration between the Nigerian Navy (NN) and the NIMCC with the Navy providing additional follow-up on distress alerts through the Regional Maritime Awareness Centre (RMACs) located in Lagos, Port Harcourt, Bonny and Abuja. The RMACs often provided conclusive information on maritime alert which NIMASA could not make available. Collaboration with local and international organizations has amongst other things resulted in a marked improvement in the availability and quality of service provided by the center.


15.      It is noteworthy that 8 out of the 18 NIMCC staff still lack basic training. In addition, the upcoming equipment upgrade along with changes that have taken place over the years would make it necessary to train all operators on new equipment and software in order to facilitate operations. Nevertheless, all MCC staff attended basic office management training in various fields in 2013. These very useful and valuable training sessions were organized by the Department of training in collaboration with ASCON, University of Ibadan and Centre for Management Development (CMD). They have contributed immensely to the efficient running of the MCC.


16.      The unit has total staff strength of Eighteen (18). Fourteen (14) at the headquarters and Four (4) at the Lagos RCC. The breakdown of personnel in terms of discipline includes Five (5) Engineers, Four (4) Technical officers, and Five (5) Computer scientists. Others are Two (2) Mathematicians and Two (2) physicists. The composition of the officers is from level 8 to level 12.



Activity/ Workshop/ Conferences





NIMCC was re-commissioned in March 2013 having met up with most of the COSPAS SARSAT requirements.

To enable NIMCC process distress alert data directly from the Cospas-Sarsat System

Poor follow-up of distress alert by stake holders (NAMA and NIMASA).

Upgrade of NIMCC to meet up with new changes and developments in the COSPAS SARSAT community


NIMCC participated in the COSPAS-SARSAT SCDDR meeting in March 2013 and 27th JC meeting in June 2013

Reviewing the system status and including results of annual System Level Tests.


. Poor follow-up of distress alerts   by stakeholders 

Need for coordination with other Agencies to optimize usage of the NIMCC information 


Workshop on the use of satellite Aided tracking Equipment in search and rescue operations held in Lagos on March 2013

To sensitized stakeholders on the effective use of Radio Beacon




Detection of the Associated Airline crash signal in October 2013

To locate the exact position of the crash thus enabling quick rescue of survivors

GIS map embedded in the system did not perform uptimally and needs upgrade.

NIMCC system requires an upgrade


Remarkable improvements in AFTN communication link

Fast and reliable message transmission

Delay in the installation of AIS equipment by NAMA due to security challenges in the country

Upgrade of AFTN to a more reliable AMHS/AIS connection for improved linkage


Successful repair of defective  Bias-T in the  (LUT)

To enable satellite processing by NILUT

Lack of spares



Detection of Kwara State Aviation Training Airline crash.

To locate the exact position of the crash thus enabling quick rescue of survivor

GIS map embedded in the system did not perform uptimally and needs upgrade.

NIMCC system requires an upgrade


NIMCC participated in the COSPAS-SARSAT Open council meeting 28-31 October 2013 in Montreal Canada

Review performance of Cospas Sarsat program.

 Ratify recommendations from Joint Council meeting

Late payment of 2013 cospas-sarsat common cost contribution

Need for coordination with other Agencies especially NAMA, NIMASA and NCAA

 NIMCC’s  return to FOC status was ratified


Successful repair of defective main MCC server and power supply unit

To enable effective NIMCC processing of distress alerts and exchange of data between MCCs

Lack of spares and assistance from the equipment manufacturers

Upgrade of NIMCC by TSI to be fast tracked



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NEMA Nigeria

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