Written Answers. - Air-Sea Rescue Services.

Tony Killeen

Question:

678 Mr. Killeen asked the Minister for the Marine if the equipment to be provided by Bond Helicopters for the air-sea rescue contract secured IAA approval. [16575/96]

Tony Killeen

Question:

679 Mr. Killeen asked the Minister for the Marine if the LN500 type auto hover system currently available to the search and rescue service will be operational after 1 January 1997. [16576/96]

Tony Killeen

Question:

680 Mr. Killeen asked the Minister for the Marine the level of air-sea rescue services which will be available on the west coast from 1 January 1997 to 28 February 1997. [16577/96]

I propose to answer Questions Nos. 678, 679 and 680 together.

I announced on 2 August 1996 that the Government had approved the award of a contract to Bond Helicopters (Ireland) Ltd., for the provision of a marine emergency helicopter including search and rescue based at Shannon Airport. The contract will commence on 1 January 1997, on the expiry of the existing contract with Irish Helicopters Ltd., and will be for a minimum period of two and a half years with an option to extend for up to five years.
Under the terms of the contract a fully equipped Sikorsky S61N helicopter incorporating an auto-hover system must be operational before 28 February 1997. In the interim the service will be provided by a helicopter without an auto-hover system but otherwise fully equipped for 24 hour search and rescue operations with effect from 1 January 1997.
The contract helicopter will be fitted with the SN501 auto-hover system whereas the current contract helicopter is fitted with the LN400/450 version.
The contractor is obliged to comply with the regulatory requirements of the Irish Aviation Authority.
Helicopters are just one of a range of resources available for marine search and rescue purposes. In co-ordinating rescues at sea and along the shore the Irish Marine Emergency Service (IMES) of my Department draws on many declared resources including the IMES Coastal Units, the Community Inshore Rescue Service units, the many purpose-built lifeboats operated by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, the light load carrying air corps helicopters based at Baldonnel and Finner and the medium load carrying helicopter based at Shannon. I must add that there has been a significant upgrading of marine search and rescue facilities and the marine communications network under the direction of IMES since it was established in 1991.