ALMOST two dozen posts could be created in the Irish Coast Guard’s search and rescue teams as part of a major €500 million deal signed by Government.
Under the plans, announced by Transport Minister Noel Dempsey, the system’s 130-strong workforce could increase by 20.
The contract with CHC Helicopter will involve leasing “new generation” Sikorsky S 92 aircraft.
CHC, which holds the current contract, will have the rights to provide the equipment until 2022, with an option to extend to 2025 on a year by year basis.
Mr Dempsey said that the firm had “an excellent record in delivering search and rescue (SAR) services to our coast guard” and that the 10-year deal will ultimately prove money well spent when improved safety is taken into account.
“The contract provides for helicopters that will fly to the scene of the mission faster.
“They find the vessels or persons in the water more efficiently using better search, surveillance and tracking tools. This will provide better medical facilities on board and return people in danger to safety in the shortest possible time,” he said.
Among the other benefits of the new contract are improved services for island communities, remote community medical evacuations, mountain rescue, and emergency aero-medical transfer in support of existing HSE services.
While the Department of Defence had been consulted in the lead-up to signing the new contract, Mr Dempsey said the Air Corps was “not in a position to deliver a contract by 2012”.
If the Air Corps became involved, he added that €350m would have to be made available to buy new aircraft.
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