14-Jan-2013 Source: HeliHub.com
Last week it emerged that the UK Government has reduced the number of bidding groups for the UK Search And Rescue contract from three to two – and the loser was CHC. The Canadian based company, who have an established operation on the UK North Sea, are the current contractor operating four Sikorsky S92 and three AgustaWestland AW139s across four bases.
CHC were reported in the Financial Times to have lost out by virtue of a provision in the tender documentation – “a bid which is undercut by at least 20% by any other bid will be automatically rejected”. This means that either Bond or Bristow have bid at least 20% below the CHC number – which surprises us given that the three compete regularly on offshore rig contracts and each maintain a slice of the action on the North Sea.
CHC was also the controversial bid of the three, given that anomalies in the way they approached the previous round of bidding meant that the UK Government called off and relaunched the whole process.
In an ironic twist to the privatisation of British SAR operations, HeliHub.com has now discovered that CHC’s plans included moving at least one base to a new location. CHC had submitted a planning application to build a hangar and accommodation for 33 SAR crew at Caernarfon airport, where Wales Air Ambulance bases one of their three EC135s. The application will be discussed at a Gwynedd Council planning meeting in Pwllheli today, and includes hangarage for two Sikorsky S92 helicopters.
We are not aware of the reasons for CHC to look to another base, but Caernarfon airport would come without the military restrictions of RAF Valley, which will continue to see significant fast jet operations as it does today with BAE Hawk aircraft. It would also be interesting to see whether CHC move ahead any more with this application – even trying to pass on the rights to it to the successful SAR bidder in due course. The plans were only an “outline application” at this time – the documentation dated late November 2012 states:-
CHC consider that they need to start the planning process in advance of the contract award to the successful bidder. Whilst the design has actually been developed into some detail, given that the DfT has not yet selected a preferred bidder this submission is limited to an outline planning application for reasons of commercial confidentiality. The purpose of the application is to receive feedback from the Gwynedd council regarding the scheme before completing the detailed design and submitting a Detailed Planning Application
Jeremy Parkin – HeliHub.com