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Caernarfon Search & Rescue Helicopter Service Launch Marked in Ceremony

8th July 2015
Caernarfon Search & Rescue Helicopter Service Launch Marked in Ceremony

#CaernarfonSAR – The launch of the Caernarfon civilian UK search and rescue (SAR) helicopter service was marked today (Wednesday 8 July) in a ceremony held at the new SAR base at Caernarfon Airport in North Wales.

Bristow Helicopters Ltd, is operating the search and rescue Helicopter service for the UK on behalf of HM Coastguard. The UK limited company was awarded the ten year UK SAR contract by the Department for Transport in March 2013. By 2017, it will deliver the service from ten bases strategically located close to areas of high SAR incident rates.

The Caernarfon base went live on 1 July 2015 and has already responded to taskings from the Aeronautical Rescue Coordination Centre (ARCC).

Bristow crews are delivering the UK SAR helicopter service on behalf of HM Coastguard with state-of-the-art helicopters, equipped with the latest search and rescue technology including night vision, mission management and increased onboard medical capabilities.

The base was officially opened by Richard Parkes, Director of Maritime Operations at the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), and was attended by representatives from the Royal Air Force 22 Squadron. Also in attendance were other search and rescue organisations and invited guests with whom Bristow and HM Coastguard have been working closely, and who have been instrumental in preparing the new service.

Speaking at the launch event Mr Parkes said: "HM Coastguard has been providing search and rescue helicopter services in northern Scotland and southern England for over thirty years. Today I am immensely proud to be welcoming our first civilian base to Wales.

"I would also like to pay tribute to the outstanding work that RAF Valley has carried out over many decades, both inland and out to sea. We will ensure that their legacy is continued."

Samantha Willenbacher, Director of UK Search and Rescue at Bristow Helicopters Ltd, said: "Bristow Helicopters Ltd has a long history in providing search and rescue services on behalf of HM Coastguard and the commencement of services from our first Welsh base is a significant milestone. It is important that we acknowledge the incredible service and numerous lives saved by the crews of 22 Squadron at RAF Valley and we are honoured to be continuing this vital emergency service from our new base in Caernarfon.

"I would like to thank all of those here in Caernarfon and around the UK who have supported us in our preparations for the service going live. We look forward to becoming a part of your community."

The company's aircraft and crews have been at the Caernarfon base since May 2015 making preparations for the service going live and conducting a raft of training exercises with local search and rescue partners.

The base is led by Anglesey-local Chief Pilot Captain David Kenyon, a former SAR Unit Commander, Senior Pilot and Instructor at nearby RAF Valley. Capt Kenyon joined the RAF in 1992 and flew SAR tours from bases at Leconfield, Lossiemouth and Boulmer before moving to Valley. In 2006 he received the Air Force Cross, one of the country's highest gallantry awards, following the rescue of a climber who had suffered serious injuries in a fall close to the summit of Glyder Fach in Snowdonia in atrocious weather conditions. Since leaving the RAF in 2009 Capt Kenyon has worked in a number of countries including most recently Ireland as Chief Pilot and operational SAR captain with the Irish Coastguard in Sligo.

Captain Kenyon said: "This area is very much home for me and I am looking forward to providing this essential service to my local community. The role is very similar to the one I had during my military time and I know the area of operations very well.

"We are extremely grateful to the local community and to those at Caernarfon Airport for making us feel so welcome. It has been a pleasure in recent weeks to work closely with many of the other search and rescue organisations in the region in preparation for the service going live; their experience and professionalism is a real asset to the community."

Roy Steptoe, Director of Caernarfon Airport, said: "We welcome the opening of Bristow's new search and rescue base at Caernarfon Airport and the investment that has been made in the new facilities. This is a vital service for the community and we are proud to be able to support the operation."

Published in Coastguard
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Irish Coast Guard

The Irish Coast Guard is Ireland's 4th Blue Light service (along with An Garda Síochána, the Ambulance Service and the Fire Service). It provides a nationwide maritime emergency organisation as well as a variety of services to shipping and other government agencies.

The purpose of the Irish Coast Guard is to promote safety and security standards, and by doing so, prevent as far as possible, the loss of life at sea, and on inland waters, mountains and caves, and to provide effective emergency response services and to safeguard the quality of the marine environment.

The Irish Coast Guard has responsibility for Ireland's system of marine communications, surveillance and emergency management in Ireland's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and certain inland waterways.

It is responsible for the response to, and co-ordination of, maritime accidents which require search and rescue and counter-pollution and ship casualty operations. It also has responsibility for vessel traffic monitoring.

Operations in respect of maritime security, illegal drug trafficking, illegal migration and fisheries enforcement are co-ordinated by other bodies within the Irish Government.

Introduction

On average, each year, the Irish Coast Guard is expected to:

  • handle 3,000 marine emergencies
  • assist 4,500 people and save about 200 lives
  • task Coast Guard helicopters on missions around 2000 times (40 times to assist mountain rescues and 200 times to carry out aeromedical HEMS missions on behalf of the HSE), Coast Guard volunteer units will respond 1000 times and RNLI and community lifeboats will be tasked by our Coordination Centres about 950 times
  • evacuate medical patients off our Islands to hospital on 100 occasions
  • assist other nations' Coast Guards about 200 times
  • make around 6,000 maritime safety broadcasts to shipping, fishing and leisure craft users
  • carry out a safety on the water campaign that targets primary schools and leisure craft users, including at sea and beach patrols
  • investigate approximately 50 maritime pollution reports

The Coast Guard has been around in some form in Ireland since 1908.

List of Coast Guard Units in Ireland

  • Achill, Co. Mayo
  • Ardmore, Co. Waterford
  • Arklow, Co. Wicklow
  • Ballybunion, Co. Kerry
  • Ballycotton, Co. Cork
  • Ballyglass, Co. Mayo
  • Bonmahon, Co. Waterford
  • Bunbeg, Co. Donegal
  • Carnsore, Co. Wexford
  • Castlefreake, Co. Cork
  • Castletownbere, Co. Cork
  • Cleggan, Co. Galway
  • Clogherhead, Co. Louth
  • Costelloe Bay, Co. Galway
  • Courtown, Co. Wexford
  • Crosshaven, Co. Cork
  • Curracloe, Co. Wexford
  • Dingle, Co. Kerry
  • Doolin, Co. Clare
  • Drogheda, Co. Louth
  • Dun Laoghaire, Co. Dublin
  • Dunmore East, Co. Waterford
  • Fethard, Co. Wexford
  • Glandore, Co. Cork
  • Glenderry, Co. Kerry
  • Goleen, Co. Cork
  • Greencastle, Co. Donegal
  • Greenore, Co. Louth
  • Greystones, Co. Wicklow
  • Guileen, Co. Cork
  • Howth, Co. Dublin
  • Kilkee, Co. Clare
  • Killala, Co. Mayo
  • Killybegs, Co. Donegal
  • Kilmore Quay, Co. Wexford
  • Knightstown, Co. Kerry
  • Mulroy, Co. Donegal
  • North Aran, Co. Galway
  • Old Head Of Kinsale, Co. Cork
  • Oysterhaven, Co. Cork
  • Rosslare, Co. Wexford
  • Seven Heads, Co. Cork
  • Skerries, Co. Dublin
  • Summercove, Co. Cork
  • Toe Head, Co. Cork
  • Tory Island, Co. Donegal
  • Tramore, Co. Waterford
  • Waterville, Co. Kerry
  • Westport, Co. Mayo
  • Wicklow
  • Youghal, Co. Cork

The roles of the Irish Coast Guard

The main roles of the Irish Coast Guard are to rescue people from danger at sea or on land, to organise immediate medical transport and to assist boats and ships within the country's jurisdiction.

Each year the Irish Coast Guard co-ordinates the response to thousands of incidents at sea and on the cliffs and beaches of Ireland. It does this through its Marine Rescue Centres which are currently based in:

  • Dublin
  • Malin Head (Co Donegal)
  • Valentia Island (Co Kerry).

Each centre is responsible for search and rescue operations.

The Dublin National Maritime Operations Centre (NMOC) provides marine search and rescue response services and co-ordinates the response to marine casualty incidents within the Irish Pollution Responsibility Zone/EEZ.

The Marine Rescue Sub Centre (MRSC) Valentia and MRSC Malin Head are 24/7 centres co-ordinating search and rescue response in their areas of responsibility.

The Marine Rescue Sub Centre (MRSC) Valentia is the contact point for routine operational matters in the area between Ballycotton and Clifden.

MRSC Malin Head is the contact point for routine operational matters in the area between Clifden and Lough Foyle.

MRCC Dublin is the contact point for routine operational matters in the area between Carlingford Lough and Ballycotton.

Each MRCC/MRSC broadcasts maritime safety information on VHF and, in some cases, MF radio in accordance with published schedules.

Maritime safety information that is broadcast by the three Marine Rescue Sub-centres includes:

  • navigational warnings as issued by the UK Hydrographic Office
  • gale warnings, shipping forecasts, local inshore forecasts, strong wind warnings and small craft warnings as issued by the Irish Meteorological Office.

Coast Guard helicopters

The Irish Coast Guard has contracted five medium-lift Sikorsky Search and Rescue helicopters deployed at bases in Dublin, Waterford, Shannon and Sligo.

The helicopters are designated wheels up from initial notification in 15 minutes during daylight hours and 45 minutes at night. One aircraft is fitted and its crew trained for under slung cargo operations up to 3000kgs and is available on short notice based at Waterford.

These aircraft respond to emergencies at sea, inland waterways, offshore islands and mountains of Ireland (32 counties).

They can also be used for assistance in flooding, major inland emergencies, intra-hospital transfers, pollution, and aerial surveillance during daylight hours, lifting and passenger operations and other operations as authorised by the Coast Guard within appropriate regulations.

The Coast Guard can contract specialised aerial surveillance or dispersant spraying aircraft at short notice internationally.

Helicopter tasks include:

  • the location of marine and aviation incident survivors by homing onto aviation and marine radio distress transmissions, by guidance from other agencies, and by visual, electronic and electro-optical search
  • the evacuation of survivors from the sea, and medical evacuees from all manner of vessels including high-sided passenger and cargo vessels and from the islands
  • the evacuation of personnel from ships facing potential disaster
  • search and or rescue in mountainous areas, caves, rivers, lakes and waterways
  • the transport of offshore fire-fighters (MFRTs) or ambulance teams (MARTs) and their equipment following a request for assistance
  • the provision of safety cover for other search and rescue units including other Marine Emergency Service helicopters
  • pollution, casualty and salvage inspections and surveillance and the transport of associated personnel and equipment
  • inter-agency training in all relevant aspects of the primary role
  • onshore emergency medical service, including evacuation and air ambulance tasks
  • relief of the islands and of areas suffering from flooding or deep snow

The secondary roles of the helicopter are:

  • the exercise of the primary search, rescue and evacuation roles in adjacent search and rescue regions
  • assistance to onshore emergency services, such as in the evacuation of high-rise buildings
  • public safety awareness displays and demonstrations
  • providing helicopter expertise for seminars and training courses

The Irish Coast Guard provides aeronautical assets for search and rescue in the mountains of Ireland. Requests for Irish Coast Guard assets are made to the Marine Rescue Centres.

Requests are accepted from An Garda Síochána and nominated persons in Mountain Rescue Teams.

Information courtesy of Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport (July 2019)

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