Written Answers. - Marine Rescue Service.

Brian O'Shea

Question:

84 Mr. O'Shea asked the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources the reason the commitment to provide a 24 hour search and rescue helicopter base for the south-east by the beginning of 2003 has not been implemented; when the service will be provided; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10838/03]

The 24 hour service was expected to commence from Waterford Airport to cover the south-eastern area on 1 January 2003. As indicated in a previous reply, the airport authorities, in mid-December 2002, gave notice to my Department that the sole passenger operator at Waterford airport intended to cease operations on 26 January 2003. As a result of this, the airport authority was unable to provide the necessary support to enable a 24-hour service to operate there from that date.

Since then, the airport has been in discussions with my Department regarding the provision of a 24 hour search and rescue service. It has also been in close contact with the Department of Transport regarding the future development of the airport. I understand that a conclusion to these discussions is imminent and I believe it will be possible to commence the 24-hour service shortly. In the meantime, the Irish Coast Guard is continuing to operate a 12 hour search and rescue service from Waterford airport and 24 hour cover is being provided from Dublin airport.