Thursday, 3 March 2022
Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport
222. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the level of analysis that was conducted by the Government on the capacity of the Defence Forces to provide a search and rescue service to the State prior to the Government decision to put the service out to tender for a cost of €800 million; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3895/22]
An initial Strategic Assessment and Preliminary Appraisal report was prepared by my Department and brought to Government by the then Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport in July 2020, following approval by the Steering Group.
The report took on board key learnings from the existing service and contractual arrangements. It identified the spending objectives of the programme, including existing arrangements and relevant business needs. It also included an appraisal of various service delivery options, including the State assuming full responsibility for the service, either through the Air Corps or a dedicated IRCG Aviation Branch. Both were ruled out for a variety of reasons including the significant challenges of establishing such a service before the current contract expires and the level of risk which would be assumed by the State.
While it was acknowledged in the preliminary report that the Air Corps would not be in a position to take full responsibility for the service, the Department of Transport agreed to explore the viability of the Air Corps providing some element of the SAR aviation service at the request of the Department of Defence as part of this phase.
The Air Corps proposal, received in March 2021, was considered in the business case as part of a so-called “hybrid” option whereby the Air Corps would provide one helicopter base with a fixed wing component, which would then require a civil operator to provide the remaining element to meet the specification for the national service. The Air Corps provided costings in their proposal for their element. KPMG supplemented with estimates for the costs of the civil operator element. The business case analysis demonstrated, among other things, that there is an inherent cost implication in splitting the helicopter service between two or more providers.
The single provider option can achieve economies of scale and address availability requirements more cost effectively. There is flexibility in relation to how the fixed wing element, which would be a new element of the service, could be provisioned.
However, provision has been made within the Pre-Qualification Questionnaire to allow for the Air Corps to undertake the Fixed Wing element of the service when / if it has capacity.