CGheliThe proposed downgrading of the Coast Guard Search and Rescue (SAR) helicopter service based at Waterford Regional Airport to a day-time operation has been met with disbelief and anger locally.
In a statement issued yesterday (Monday), the Department of Transport said that there will be no change to the existing 24-hour service until the new SAR contracts kick in during 2012 and 2013.
However, with “a preferred bidder” to supply the Coast Guard services at Waterford, Dublin, Shannon and Sligo now in place, the service at Killowen is set to be reduced to 12 hours “subject to review”.
Fine Gael’s sitting TD John Deasy and his aspirant Dáil colleague Senator Paudie Coffey have condemned the decision, with Fianna Fáil’s Brendan Kenneally questioning the rationale behind the move.
“When you consider that it takes 45 minutes for a helicopter to organise and take off at night, we are looking at a delay of approximately one and a half hours or more in an emergency situation,” said Deputy Deasy.
“The Department of Transport has indicated that reducing the service from 24-hour cover to a 12-hour daylight service would save an estimated €1 million per year.
“The annual budget for the coastguard service is approximately €50 million for the entire country. For less than €1 million the Department of Transport will have jeopardised the safety of fishermen and everyone else who operate at sea, as well as those involved in leisure based activities.”
See The Munster Express newspaper for full story.