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Rescue Services: Pembrokeshire

Volume 502: debated on Wednesday 16 December 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assessment he has made of the likely effects of reduced operational hours at RMB Chivenor on search and rescue operations in Pembrokeshire. (306657)

With regard to current helicopter Search and Rescue: RMB Chivenor are due to provide 12-hour daytime cover only between 31 December and 7 February as part of a short-term programme of rotating night time closures. However, it is hoped that recent increases in trained SAR personnel may enable a return to 24-hour cover during this period. Arrangements are in place for all UK SAR helicopter units to provide temporary cover if required. The provision of adjacent SAR cover is standard practice and occurs routinely when a SAR helicopter is airborne on a search and rescue sortie or is unserviceable.

When the new Search and Rescue Helicopter (SAR-H) service takes over sometime after 2012, the service provided from RMB Chivenor will operate in the daytime only. In reaching this decision very careful consideration was given to ensuring that the future coverage would still be able to fully meet our national requirement for a night-time SAR Helicopter service to be able to reach all very high, high and 75 per cent. of medium risk areas within one hour from take off. The future SAR Helicopter service will benefit from new modern helicopters which will enable faster transit times to incidents in and from take off. The future SAR Helicopter service will benefit from new modern helicopters which will enable faster transit times to incidents in and around the UK including Pembrokeshire. These helicopters will be some 30 per cent. faster than the current MOD Sea Kings. As a result, the average transit time to all incidents in the Pembrokeshire area and its surrounding coastal waters during the night time (when it would be served by an adjacent base) will be comparable to the current transit times. Historically, over the last five years, RMB Chivenor has responded to a maximum of five incidents per year at night off the coast of Pembrokeshire.