Government announces five-year search and rescue contract

The goverment is to tender for a five-year interim contract to operate coastguard search and rescue helicopter services at Sumburgh after a £6 billion privatisation plan was ditched earlier this year.

Transport secretary Philip Hammond has announced his department will shortly run a competition to procure a service at Sumburgh and Stornoway as well as at Portland in Dorset and Lee-on-Solent in Hampshire.

He said the contract would be similar to the arrangements currently in place for the bases.

It comes after a planned sell-off to preferred bidder Soteria was axed in February after claims of irregularities in the bidding process. Soteriar had admitted it had access to commercially sensitive information.

Under the privatisation plans, Soteria would have provided US Sikorsky helicopters to fly search and rescue missions from 12 bases, including ones operated by the Royal Navy and the RAF.

Mr Hammond said that the RAF and Navy operations would continue while consideration was given “to the long-term provision of search and rescue helicopter capability”.

He said he would announce the government’s long-term intentions later in the year.


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