European Search and Rescue (SAR) Competition Bonanza
With the offshore oil and gas market depressed, offshore helicopter operators and other aviation service providers will be pleased by a surge in business opportunities for outsourced government SAR helicopter and aviation contracts. Norway, Netherlands, Ireland and the UK with UKSAR2G (listed in order of expected contract award) are commencing competitions for contract commencement from 2022-2024.
In this article we collate what has been publicly announced so far for each competition and the current arrangements these will replace.
Northern Norway SAR Helicopter Tender: Ministry of Justice and Public Security
This tender, for ‘Procurement of Rescue Helicopter Services for Tromsø, Svalbard and for the Police’, was released in April 2020. It is for a new SAR helicopter in the northern city of Tromsø and the replacement of the current aircraft for the Arctic Ocean archipelago of Svalbard. Both helicopters are required in 2022, but they could be awarded in separate lots or together. The contract(s) will be for 6 years plus 2 x 2 year extensions. The Ministry of Justice and Public Security will manage the contract on behalf of the Governor of Svalbard (Sysselmannen) and the Norwegian Police. It will supplement the main SAR service provided by the Royal Norwegian Air Force (RNoAF), which is transitioning from Westland Sea Kings to 16 Leonardo AW101s. The SAR service in Svalbard is currently provided under contract let by the Governor by Lufttransport (a subsidiary of NHV) with two Airbus Helicopters AS332L Super Puma.
Operations there include operating from the Governor’s support vessel, Polarsyssel. The procurement will involve a dialogue with bidders on their outline solutions this summer before best and final offers (BAFO) in August 2020 and contract award in September 2020, leaving plenty of time to mobilise during 2022. https://youtu.be/JGb23RLbnbI
Netherlands SAR Helicopter Tender: Ministry of Defense / Netherlands Coastguard (NLCG / Kustwacht)
The tender pre-selection for the ‘Search-and-Rescue Helicopter Capacity (SARHC) for the Netherlands Coastguard‘ was released in April 2020 by the Defence Materiel Organisation (DMO) of the Ministry of Defense of the Netherlands (MOD NL). This is for a 10 year contract that will replace the current service provided by NHV with two Airbus Helicopters AS365 helicopters in Den Helder and Pistoolhaven, Rotterdam. The service supports 6 different government ministries.
The Dutch schedule leading to “starting preferably from 1 July 2022″ consists of determining a shortlist of candidates in Q3 2020 before two rounds of bidding in late 2020 and contract award in Q2 2021: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YDzVu5Dzs84 NLCG have two Dornier (now RUAG) Do228 fixed wing aircraft too, which they looked to replace under a separate competition launched in 2019. https://youtu.be/Mhoi0xbJkvU
Ireland SAR Aviation Tender: Irish Coast Guard (IRCG)
The Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport/Irish Coast Guard is undertaking a procurement process to provide an updated, long-term SAR Aviation Service to replace the current SAR helicopter contract. This is a prior information notice to alert the market. A market engagement process will be announced in due course. Indicative timeframes are: Publication of the OJEU Notice Quarter 4 2020, contract award quarter 4 2021 and service commencement quarter 3 2023. Precise procurement procedure has yet to be decided.
The current IRCG helicopter contract, signed in July 2010, is with CHC Ireland (CHCI) who operate 5 Sikorsky S-92As from Dublin, Waterford, Shannon and Sligo. Ireland has contracted SAR helicopters since 1997. The PIN is clear that the procurement will be for an aviation service, not simply a helicopter service.
The current 10 year contract (with 3 x 1 year optional extensions) commenced service in July 2012.
UKSAR2G Aviation Tender: Maritime and Coastguard Agency (HM Coastguard [HMCG])
…will take account of how the current UKSAR helicopter service has evolved and will seek to understand other emergency services’ requirements and needs to shape a highly collaborative and innovative solution…from first principles to develop a more tailored and modern means of delivering vital search and rescue capabilities in a more cost-efficient and innovative way.
Damien Oliver, MCA Commercial & Programmes Director and Senior Responsible Owner (SRO) of UKSAR2G, offers some more insight into the programme in this video (ADDED 12 May 2020).
UPDATE 20 May 2020: The first virtual MCA UKSAR2G engagement session is now online:
The current helicopter contract, awarded in 2013, is due to finish in 2024. Bristow’s first HM Coastguard SAR helicopter contract was in 1971. https://youtu.be/ZXO53hLBXa8
After a MCA/RNLI trial of small Unmanned Air Systems (UAS) / drones, the MCA have recently announced trials with a large fixed wing UAS with an Elbit Hermes 900. Bristow has been demonstrating a large rotary wing UAS too, a Schiebel CAMCOPTER S-100.
UPDATE 29 May 2020: BBC: Coastguard plans to add drones to air fleet
Note: In line with the Coastguard Act 1925 Her Majesty’s Coastguard differ from other Coast Guard in spelling.
Other SAR Resources
- RAeS Webinar: COVID 19 – Helicopter transport – challenges & experience 12 May 2020
- Maritime Search & Rescue vitual conference 13-14 May 2020
- Guidance to UKSAR Responders – COVID-19
- Offshore Helicopter Emergency Response
- Increasing SAR Use by the Oil & Gas Industry
Past Aerossurance SAR safety case studies:
- SAR Helicopter Loss of Control at Night: ATSB Report
- Sécurité Civile EC145 SAR Wirestrike
- Tail Rotor Pitch Control Loss During Hoisting
- Fatal Fall From B429 During Helicopter Hoist Training
- Hoist Assembly Errors: SAR Personnel Dropped Into Sea
- SAR Crew With High Workload Land Wheels Up on Beach
- Fall From Stretcher During Taiwanese SAR Mission
- Fatal Taiwanese Night SAR Hoist Mission
- Taiwan NASC UH-60M Night Medevac Helicopter Take Off Accident
- Night Offshore Windfarm HEMS Winch Training CFIT
- Pitot Punctures Floats in Icelandic SAR Ditching
- Production Errors on a SAR AW139 Helicopter Full Ice Protection System
- USAF CSAR HH-60G Downed by Geese in Norfolk, 7 January 2014
- USAF UH-1H SAR Helicopter Hoist Training Accident
- SAR Questions Feature in PNG AIC B427 Accident Investigation
- Offshore Helicopter Accident Ghana 8 May 2014 & The Importance of Emergency Response
SAR Consultancy: Procurement, Tenders, Contacts and In-Service Assurance and Aviation Advice
In September 2017 one European Coast Guard selected Aerossurance to be their new aviation consultants after a competitive tender with 7 bidders. In July 2018 Aerossurance started work supporting a second European Coast Guard with a procurement project. The Aerossurance team is and has supported humanitarian aid agencies, air ambulance charities, military air arms, environmental agencies and blue chip energy companies on other emergency service and special mission aviation projects around the world. Covid-19 compatible PPE equipment and procedures has been a recent topical issue.