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26 March 2013 | Adam Leach
The UK Department for Transport has awarded a £1.6 billion search and rescue services contract to US company the Bristow Group.
The deal means a significantly reduced role for the Maritime & Coastguard Agency in carrying out future rescue missions.
Under the contract, the US-based helicopter services firm will be responsible for search and rescue across most of the UK by the summer of 2017. It will operate from 10 bases across the country, using 10 Sikorsky S92s and 10 AugustaWestland AW189s. The new choppers will be faster than the RAF and Royal Navy Sea King models, enabling Bristow to broaden coverage and cut journey times.
Transport secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, said: “Our search and rescue helicopter service plays a crucial role, saving lives and providing assistance to people in distress on both land and sea. With 24 years of experience providing search and rescue helicopter services in the UK, the public can have great confidence in Bristow and its ability to deliver a first-class service with state-of-the-art helicopters.”
As a result of the new arrangements, two search and rescue bases, which are run by the Maritime & Coastguard Agency, will be closed and Bristow will run the remaining 10.
The company, which has an office in Aberdeen, has provided search and rescue services in the UK since 1971. It recently won the contract to provide search and rescue services in Scotland.