Air Corps wants to run all marine rescue services


THE Air Corps has submitted a proposal to the Department of Defence with a view to it operating all marine rescue services including Shannon Marine Rescue, which is currently operated on a private contract basis by Irish Helicopters Ltd, it was confirmed yesterday.

Following the Department of the Marine's recent advertisement in the EU Journal seeking tenders for the operation of the marine rescue helicopter service based at Shannon Airport, the Air Corps made a submission to the Department of Defence to include the Shannon service with others it operates around the country, a Department of Defence spokesman said.

The proposal was in a separate form to a commercial tender and would be examined jointly by the Departments of the Marine and Defence and then "put against" the winners of the tender competition.

The Shannon contract is worth over £20 million over a five year period, although the Department of the Marine may only renews the contract for 21/2 years. This, it is understood, may be to allow the Air Corps time to fit out aircraft to be based at Shannon.

A Department of the Marine spokeswoman said it under the Air Corps would not be in a position to fulfil the tender requirements by the end of 1996 when Irish Helicopters five year contract expires.

Irish Helicopters confirmed that it would be re-applying for the contract. "We will be tendering for the contract vigorously. The has operated very successfully if client [Department of the Marine] is very satisfied, a company spokeswoman said.

Irish Helicopters operate a Sikorsky machine at Shannon where they have 23 staff. Its advantage cover the Dauphin used by the Air Corps is that it has a greater carrying capacity and can fly in harsher weather. It can cover a greater range without refuelling, being, able to fly up to 200 miles off the western seaboard.

A Department of Defence spokesman said it was not possible yet to say what aircraft the Air Corps envisaged using at Shannon.

The Minister of State for the Mr Eamon Gilmore, said the contract decision would be based on who could supply the best service.