Bidders confirmed for interim UK SAR service

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The UK Department for Transport (DfT) has confirmed to Waypoint the four organisations bidding for the Gap Search and Rescue Helicopter Service (GAP SAR). The contract, which was put out to tender in July, is designed to provide a temporary solution to maintain the Maritime and Coastguard Agency’s (MCA’s) helicopter cover after the Agency’s contract with CHC expires in 2012 and its fleet is transferred to the Republic of Ireland. Replacement aircraft were due to be provided under the government’s SAR-H project, which would have brought a unified fleet to take over from the MCA, the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy, but that fell through earlier this year after the winning bidder, Soteria, was investigated for alleged misconduct during the bidding process.

Under the new GAP SARprogramme, the contractor will provide search and rescue helicopters on behalf of the MCA for six years, with the option to extend for a further 12 months. The all-weather service will include the whole MCA coverage area, with capability for the maritime environment and limited overland capability. The DfT has stipulated that service delivery must continue at the MCA’s current ‘southern’ bases at Lee-on-the-Solent and Portland, but bidders ‘can consider alternative locations for service delivery on the Isle of Lewis and the Shetland Islands’, which are termed the ‘northern’ bases. Bids are invited for cover at just the southern bases, just the northern bases, or for north and south combined. The total value of the north and south options together is estimated by the DfT to be between £200 and £250 million.

According to the Dft, the current bidders for GAP SAR are: Bond Offshore; CHC; Bristow; and the Ipod Consortium, made up of ERA Helicopters and British International. The deadline to submit tenders is 4 October.

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