Norway to increased SAR capability in the Arctic
Norway has plans to add more search and rescue (SAR) capability in the Arctic next year, with a helicopter based in Tromsø. The added capacity comes as cruise ship traffic, fishing, petroleum and military activity are all on increase in Norway’s Arctic waters, even as long distances, a cold climate and polar darkness can complicate rescue efforts in the region. The new rescue helicopter base in Tromsø will be the first operated by a private company and will coordinate with SAR operators in Svalbard, where the Governor has two helicopters based at the airport in Longyearbyen.
A joint supplier and jointly operated base for the helicopters in Tromsø and the helicopter service for the Governor of Svalbard will give financial and quality benefits, Norway’s Government said in its proposal to Stortinget, the country’s parliament.
Norway also has SAR helicopters based in Lakselv and Bodø, which are part of the Air Force. “The base in Tromsø will provide for a substantially strengthened helicopter capacity in the north,” said Monica Mæland, Minister of Justice and Public Security.
The Norwegian Ministry of Public Security owns 12 Sea King helicopters, which are operated by the Norwegian Air Forces’ 330 Squadron. Introduced first time in 1973, the old SAR helicopters are soon to be replaced with the newer AW101.
In recent years, shipping in Arctic waters north of mainland Norway and around Svalbard archipelago has increased. More and larger cruise ships sail north; so do supply vessels to the increasing oil- and gas drillings outside northern Norway.
With increased tensions between east and west, many more naval ships sail the Norwegian- and Barents Sea.
Better HF-radio coverage
Aimed at better communication for shipping in Arctic waters, the Norwegian government also on Monday said better HF-radio coverage will be developed for two way communication between ships and rescue resources in case of emergencies.
Costs for joint operations of helicopters in Tromsø and Longyearbyen are estimated at 1,86 billion kroner (€181 million) for the period between 2022 to 2028.
Today, HF and VHF radio signals in polar areas are severely absorbed due to the more ionized ionosphere up north, especially north of Svalbard. “We suggest establishing HF-coverage in northern waters up to the North Pole to secure emergency communication for shipping in these areas,” Minister Smines Tybring-Gjedde said.
Source: Airmed and Rescue, The Barents Observer