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Coastguard Gets Airborne Help

China will set up an airborne offshore search and rescue (SAR) system to reinforce its three-dimensional rescue service, an official said.

The Ministry of Communications purchased two S-76C+ rescue helicopters from the US-based Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation on Tuesday, the first step towards establishing SAR for the nation.

"As a large shipping country, China lags far behind in offshore search and rescue," said Song Jiahui, director of the rescue and salvage bureau under the Ministry of Communications.

Before now, China had no sea rescue helicopters, although it has 80 general-use helicopter in operation.

It is essential for China to equip its 32,000 km-long coastline with rescue helicopters, he added.

He said the bureau dealt with around 300 distress calls in Chinese waters from January to October this year.

"We are not only selling helicopters but helping China's SAR technical research," said Richard Latham, president of China-UTIO (United Technologies International Operations), which owns Sikorsky.

He said they would deliver on time and provide a comprehensive after-sale service.

SAR helicopters are superior to lifeboats in both speed and their ability to search a wreck site whatever the weather.

Configured with sophisticated equipment such as the forward-looking infra-red system and the four-axis auto hovering system, the S-76C+ helicopter can detect and determine how many people are in the water.

The two helicopters will be delivered next year and deployed at Shanghai's Salvage and Rescue Bureau.

The ministry will acquire four more helicopters for SAR as part of the 10th Five-Year Plan (2001-05).

These helicopters will be assigned to bureaux in Guangzhou of Guangdong Province and Yantai of Shandong Province, Song said.

(China Daily 12/14/2000)

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