Royal Navy search and rescue role to end 2016

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HMS Mersey, in the foreground, escorts the Vishnya class (520) Feodor Golovkin and its Russian task group through the English Channel. Credit: Louise George

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THE Royal Navy will stop providing a search and rescue helicopter service by 2016, the government has announced.

The Department for Transport said it will take over responsibility for helicopter search and rescue around the United Kingdom – merging a service currently provided by the Fleet Air Arm, RAF and Coastguard.

It will mean a civilian firm will take over the vital service when the navy’s Sea King helicopters come to the end of their service life in 2016.

The government also confirmed the closure of Portland coastguard base in 2017.

This is part of the move to base all of the south coast’s search and rescue operations at the unused fire control centre in Fareham, as reported in The News last week.

The new Maritime Operations Centre in Titchfield will replace the Solent Coastguard’s centre at Lee-on-the-Solent. The MOC will have a back-up at the existing coastguard centre in Dover, which will retain its 24-hour co-ordination role. A small London coastguard station will also remain open as cover.