Rotor Radio: Flying the first commercial SAR service from Mexico

When Shell began its Deepwater Drilling Project in Mexican waters offshore of Vera Cruz, the company needed to contract for civilian search-and-rescue (SAR) services that the country did not then offer.

In a first for Mexico, a handful of companies have joined forces to provide the first non-governmental SAR service to drilling rigs off the country’s shores. Chris MacKay, owner and international operations manager for Total Response Solutions (TRS), based in New Brunswick, Canada, talks with Vertical’s Rotor Radio about how his team of former Canadian military SAR specialists set the operation up for success watching out for the lives of rig workers traveling from Vera Cruz to the drill ship.

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TRS is contracted to provide hoist operators and rescue specialists for the venture, establishing SAR overwatch for Shell’s “Deepwater Thalassa” drilling rig through 2023. The rig is positioned about 160 nautical miles due east of the border between Mexico and Texas in the western Gulf.

Heliservicio, a Mexican company based in Ciudad del Carmen in Campeche on the Yucatan Peninsula, provided the helicopter company and infrastructure. It operates a fleet of two dozen Bell 412s and 429s but does not have aircraft required to provide offshore SAR. The three Sikorsky S-92s — one passenger aircraft, one SAR/medevac bird and one backup — were provided by PHI. Siemso, a local medical company, provided medical doctors.

One of three S-92s provided by PHI, operated by Heliservicio and manned with rescue swimmers from Total Response Solutions. TRS co-founder Chris MacKay is standing on the right in an orange jumpsuit. Photo courtesy of Chris MacKay
Any time rig workers are being ferried by ship or helicopter to Shell’s drill ship, about 160 miles offshore, Heliservicio is on alert, with TRS rescue swimmers on board. Chris MacKay Photo
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TRS, based in New Brunswick, Canada, provides the hoist operators, rescue swimmers and training for SAR pilots. Chris MacKay Photo
Crews train to medevac oil rig workers from ships in the Gulf of Mexico. Chris MacKay Photo

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