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COMMUNITIES OUTRAGED AT DOWNGRADING OF SEARCH AND RESCUE SERVICES

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COMMUNITIES OUTRAGED AT DOWNGRADING OF SEARCH AND RESCUE SERVICES

Post by Admin on Mon 29 Mar - 10:22

SPEECH BY BRIAN O’SHEA TD





Labour
Party TD, Waterford



Thursday,
25 March 2010






COMMUNITIES OUTRAGED AT DOWNGRADING OF SEARCH AND RESCUE SERVICES





Speaking
on the Adjournment of the Dail on the Search and Rescue Service in the South
East






Since it
became known in the South East, and South Coast regions, on Monday of last
week, that it is proposed to reduce the Coast Guard Search and Rescue
Helicopter Service from Waterford Regional Airport to daylight hours only,
there has been outrage right across the board.






The protest
against the proposed downgrading of the Helicopter Service is about safety. The
safety of the fishermen, sailors, those involved in sea-based and water-based
leisure activities immediately come to mind.






The
fundamental question is whether the safety of those groups in the South East
Region and along the South coastline is less important than the safety of
similar groups in other parts of the country.






When major
emergencies occur at sea, speed can often be of the essence I the matter of
best outcomes in regard to life and death.






Are the
Department of Transport and the Coast Guard seriously suggesting that in the
absence of the Search and Rescue night time Helicopter Service at Waterford
Regional Airport that seafarers in distress at night along the South East and
South coasts can be reached as quickly as with the present 24-hour service.






Why was the
fact the many international air routes cross the area within range of Waterford
Airport not taken into consideration as part of the risk assessment?






The decision
to downgrade the Search and Rescue Helicopter Service at Waterford Regional
Airport must be immediately rescinded, and I demand that the Minister does just
that.






When taken in
conjunction with the proposal to close the Rosslare Waterford Railway the
Minister for Transport appears to be hell-bent on reducing public transport
provision in the South East while developing services elsewhere.






ENDS





Contact Brian
O’Shea – 087-294-3292
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Reply by Minister of State Barry Andrews T.D. on behalf of the Minister for Transport, Noel Dempsey T.D.

Post by Admin on Mon 29 Mar - 10:27

Dáil Adjournment Debate

I
am very pleased to have this opportunity to speak on the subject of the
Search and Rescue helicopter service.


There
has been much ill informed comment about the proposed new helicopter
contract. Because we are in the “standstill” period of the procurement
process and about to commence contract negotiations I am somewhat
constrained in what can be said.


However I can make the following points.

The
new contract has been presented as a “cutback” in services; nothing
could be further from the truth. Far from being a cutback the contract
is a massive half a billion-euro investment in maritime search and
rescue capability on the island. The new contract will cost
significantly more on an annual basis than the current contract because
of the improved services to be provided.


The
proposed contract represents a dramatic i
ncrease in funding for SAR
helicopter services in
Ireland from approximately €30 million to €50 million per annum. This
is an increase, in difficult circumstances, of €20 million a year in
this service alone.
The Government has also approved the retention of four helicopter bases,
including
Waterford, for a period to at least
2023.


The new contract represents a stepped improvement
in the capacity, range, speed and capability of Irelands SAR service.


The
existing contract expires on 30 June 2010 but includes a once-off
option to flexibly extend individual bases by different lengths up to a
maximum of three years, which is up to 30th June 2013.

The Government therefore decided to replace the
current fleet at significant additio
nal cost – approximately €20
million per annum.


Modern helicopters are much more capable than the
current aircraft. They fly at about 155 knots; they can lift more
people from further out at sea and are usually able to fly in cloud.
They are also more av
ailable and dependable, requiring less routine maintenance and
being less prone to breakdown.


Bidders were required to
quote for a number of options by which the target level of service could
be provided. Each of the compulsory options meant that the Coast Guard
helicopter would reach at least 70% of all incidents within one hour.

A preferred bidder has now been nominated and the
Department of Transport are in the standstill period before contract
negotiations can begin.


The annual cost will increase very substantially
as a result of the provision of modern helicopters. This increased cost
will have to be found from within the Department of Transport’s existing
budget over the next 10 years.


However, it will deliver a marked improvement in
the service. The new helicopters will fly to the scene of the mission
faster, find the vessels or persons in the water more efficiently using
better search, surveillance and tracking tools, winch them to safety
more quickly, provide better medical facilities onboard and return them
to safety in the shortest possible time.


I
want to again confirm that there will be no change in the 24-hour
availability from the
Waterford base before July 2013 if ever. Furthermore, the future of Waterford airport as a base for a
Coast Guard SAR helicopter will be cemented until at least 2023. While a
12-hour contract is to be negotiated for the post 2013 period, the
Government is committed to keeping this position under review in the
light of the operational requirement at
Waterford, the availability of funding
and contract negotiations.


To put the 12-hour operation in context, in 2009
this would have required 13 of the 113 missions flown from
Waterford to be met from another
base. In some case the new helicopters would have arrived earlier but,
on average, the additional time required would have been about 10
minutes.


At a national level in difficult financial
circumstances this new contract is a major recognition by the Government
of the value of the Irish Coast Guard and the communities it serves. It
is also a substantial commitment to the continuing development of Irish
maritime safety services.

ENDS


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Re: COMMUNITIES OUTRAGED AT DOWNGRADING OF SEARCH AND RESCUE SERVICES

Post by Sharky on Tue 30 Mar - 16:57

Looks like the service has been saved and will remain as a 24hr cover, more later.
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Re: COMMUNITIES OUTRAGED AT DOWNGRADING OF SEARCH AND RESCUE SERVICES

Post by barry on Wed 31 Mar - 8:17

great news ,i think it was my signs down at the march that did it SmileSmile
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Statement from Department of Transport 30 - 03 - 2010

Post by Admin on Wed 31 Mar - 9:53






Statement from Department of
Transport


30 - 03 - 2010

Back
to Press Releases








The Minister for
Transport
Noel Dempsey T. D. has today announced that the Government has agreed to
contract discussions taking place on the extension of the new Search and
Rescue helicopter contract to cover a full 24-hour service at all four
existing bases.




The "standstill"
period following the selection for the preferred tender for the new
tender
has concluded. The Minister stated: "The initial constraints
imposed on me by the procurement process have now ended. I am therefore
delighted to be able to confirm that our post-tender negotiations with
the preferred bidder, which commenced yesterday, have shown that we can
achieve a major reduction in the cost difference between a full 24-hour
service at 4 bases and the alternative option which would reduce cover
at one of the bases to 12 hours. Under procurement rules, we
must now inform the tendering companies of this development, and
negotiation
of the details of the contract will recommence in approximately two
weeks
time when a further standstill period has ended."




Successful conclusion of a contract for a
four-base 24-hour service would mean
the
continuation of the Irish Coast Guard (IRCG) Search and Rescue (SAR)
helicopter
service, by way of a new contract to come into effect on a staggered
basis
from mid-2012 for a fleet of helicopters, one constantly at readiness at
each base (Dublin, Shannon, Sligo and Waterford) over ten years.




Minister Dempsey
considered
it unfortunate that the release of some details of the tender before
discussions
had even commenced could have made legitimate post-tender discussion on
the contract details more difficult. In that context he indicated
that no further details on discussions would be released until a
contract
had been concluded.




ENDS
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