European Search and Rescue (SAR) Competition Bonanza

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.

Irish Coast Guard (IRCG) '/ CHC Ireland (CHCI) Sikorsky S-92A EI-ICG Exercising with an IRCG RIB and an RNLI Severn-class Lifeboat (Credit: J Crawford - CC BY 2.0)

Irish Coast Guard (IRCG) / CHC Ireland (CHCI) Sikorsky S-92A EI-ICG Exercising with an IRCG RIB and an RNLI Severn-class Lifeboat (Credit: J Crawford – CC BY 2.0)

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.

Sysselmannen / Luftransport Airbus AS332l (Credit: Lufttransport)

Sysselmannen / Luftransport Airbus AS332l (Credit: Lufttransport)

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. no n sar timetable 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.

Kustwacht / NHV Airbus Helicopters AS365 in 2016 (Credit: Romme Boerkoel – CC BY-SA 4.0)

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: nl sar timetable   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YDzVu5Dzs84 NLCG have two Dornier (now RUAGDo228 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 IRCG issued a Prior Information Notice (PIN) early in May 2020:

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.

IRCG / CHCI Sikorsky S-92A (Credit: Aerossurance)

IRCG / CHCI Sikorsky S-92A (Credit: Aerossurance)

The current 10 year contract (with 3 x 1 year optional extensions) commenced service in July 2012.

ircg 2019

https://youtu.be/N5pEKriIP8s https://youtu.be/1Hqm50w8uPE

UKSAR2G Aviation Tender: Maritime and Coastguard Agency (HM Coastguard [HMCG])

In March 2020 the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) announced their second-generation SAR aviation programme (UKSAR2G).  They say this…

…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:

Since 2015, the UK SAR helicopter service has been delivered by Bristow from 10 sites around the UK using 11 Sikorsky S-92As and 11 Leonardo AW189s.

HMCG / Bristow Leonardo AW189 (Credit: Aerossurance)

HMCG / Bristow Leonardo AW189 (Credit: Aerossurance)

The current helicopter contract, awarded in 2013, is due to finish in 2024.  Bristow’s first HM Coastguard SAR helicopter contract was in 1971. uk sar taskings https://youtu.be/ZXO53hLBXa8

The MCA also contract two Beechcraft King Air 200 fixed wing aircraft from 2Excel based at Doncaster (video).

HMCG / 2Excel Aviation Beech King Air 200 (Credit: MCA)

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

Past Aerossurance SAR safety case studies:


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.

The Tender Trap: SAR and Medevac Contract Design: Aerossurance’s Andy Evans discusses how to set up clear and robust contracts for effective contracted SAR and HEMS operations.


Aerossurance has extensive air safety, operations, SAR, HEMS, airworthiness, human factors, aviation regulation and safety analysis experience.  For practical aviation advice you can trust, contact us at: enquiries@aerossurance.com