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This note looks at the changes to the Coastguard service over the past few years and the recent privatisation of helicopter Search and Rescue.

Over the past twenty years, since it was established as an executive agency of the Department for Transport in 1994, the Coastguard has undergone a series of structural changes and reorganisations, most recently in 2010-11.

These changes provoked intense debate within the industry and were subject to a number of reports from both the Transport Select Committee and the Scottish Affairs Committee. The Government insists that the changes, announced in November 2011, reflect a “clear blueprint for the operation of the nationally networked coastguard co-ordination service”.

Government-funded emergency towing vessels in England have also been scrapped; to be replaced by a commercial service. There is still one Government-funded ETV in Scotland.

The second issue summarised in this note is the recent announcement on the privatisation of Search and Rescue helicopters. SAR-H was previously separated between military and civilian operations, but brought together in 2005 as a joint entity. The Government abandoned a first attempt to secure a private sector bidder for the contract in February 2011.

The competition was re-run and in March 2013 the Government announced that Bristow Helicopters Ltd had been awarded the £1.6 billion contract to provide SAR-H in the UK.

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