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American firm to operate Portland Coastguard helicopter
11:30am Monday 18th March 2013 in News
THE Portland Coastguard search and rescue helicopter is set to be operated by a new American owner.
US helicopter operator Bristow is due to win a £3bn contract to take over the search and rescue service.
Bristow has beaten Bond Aviation, a British rival, to secure the 13-year deal.
The Department for Transport may announce the decision as early as next week.
The rescue service is currently run jointly by the RAF, the Royal Navy and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.
Public sector unions fought the privatisation of the service, citing concerns about safety and the closure of two bases.
Bristow is listed in New York and based in Houston.
The Portland Coastguard helicopter faces the axe in 2017 under government cost-cutting plans to relocate it to Lee-on-Solent.
Campaigners are fighting to keep the helicopter service based locally.
More than 14,000 people have signed an e-petition to Save Portland Helicopter.
The under-threat aircraft was recently raised in the House of Commons.
South Dorset MP Richard Drax urged ministers to come to Dorset and meet lifesavers.
Mr Drax was speaking at an adjournment debate in the House of Commons in front of Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport Norman Baker.