Written Answers. - Marine Rescue Services.

Billy Timmins

Ceist:

41 Mr. Timmins asked the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources the number of air, search and rescue teams on duty at any one time; their location; when the air, search and rescue team located at Waterford was established; the number of operations it has completed to date; and the cost of this team since its establishment. [26574/98]

There are four air search and rescue teams on duty at any one time and they are based at Dublin, Waterford, Shannon and Finner respectively. Details of the four teams are as follows: In Dublin and Shannon Airports, there are medium load carrying all weather Sikorsky S61N helicopters, with 24 hour availability, their response time is 15 minutes from 7.30 a.m. to 9 p.m. and 45 minutes from 9 p.m. to 7.30 a.m., and they have a maximum range of 468 nautical miles. These helicopters are operated on civilian contract by the Irish Marine Emergency Service of my Department.

The Air Corps operate a light load carrying all weather Dauphin helicopter at Finner Camp, County Donegal with 24 hour flying availability. Its response time is 15 minutes by day and 45 minutes at night, with a radius of operation of 150 nautical miles by day and 70 at night.

At Waterford Airport, the Air Corps operate an Alouette helicopter, which is capable of flying in daylight only. This helicopter has a 15 minute response time during the hours 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays. The operational radius is inland and a maximum of 3 miles off the coast. The Waterford Airport base will be upgraded to a 24 hour Dauphin helicopter service on 1 July 1999 assuming that the Air Corps crew numbers remain stable.

The air search and rescue team was located at Waterford Airport by my colleague the Minister for Defence on 1 July 1998, and in the period from 1 July, 1998 to date this team has completed 28 operations with 3 lives saved.

The cost of this operation is a matter for the Vote for Defence, I will ask my colleague, the Minister for Defence, to have his Department convey details of the cost to the Deputy as soon as possible.