The St John Marine Ambulance is due to come out of the water at the start of next week for routine annual servicing, essential maintenance and planned upgrades. The work is being carried out with a view to extending the operational life of the Flying Christine III, which will be 30 years old at the end of 2024.
The Flying Christine III is a purpose-built marine ambulance, originally constructed with a 30 year design life, but following boat surveys and operational reviews the board of St John Ambulance and Rescue Service has decided to extend the life of the vessel by investing in a programme of improvements. This will help to ensure the boat can continue to provide a lifeline service for the Bailiwick and meet operational needs of the service for another 10 years.
Work includes repainting and cleaning, removal and serving of the engine, upgrading the mechanics and electrics, improvements to the deck hatches, updating clinical area and enhanced infection control standards.
Improvements will be carried out in phases during the year, with phase one taking place from February and the second phase scheduled for December. This time scale avoids the summer period when demand for the marine ambulance is normally higher.
Volunteer Marine Operations Manager, Gary Ward said: “The Flying Christine III has served the Bailiwick well for nearly 30 years and although the vessel is nearing the end of its planned operational life, with some investment and modernisation she is capable of reamining in service for up to 10 more years.”
Under existing and well-rehearsed contingency plans, the RNLI St Peter Port Lifeboat, Access Challenger and Brechou Chief will provide temporary cover for the marine ambulance service, while the Flying Christine is undergoing the planned work.
Mr Ward added: “We are grateful to the management and volunteer crew of St Peter Port lifeboat and operators of the Access Challenger and Brechou Chief for their support in helping us provide resilience while the Flying Christine is out of the water.”
The work is estimated to cost in the region of £200,000, which is a fraction of the price of building a replacement vessel. The costs are being met by charitable funds, from a bequest specifically for the marine ambulance.
In 1994 the Flying Christine III was built thanks to public donations and sponsorship and is the third marine ambulance to serve the Bailiwick of Guernsey. The original launch, a converted passenger boat was in operation from July 1952, with support from the Guernsey Round Table and Jack Martel, after the States of Deliberation voted 27 votes to 17 against funding the marine ambulance service. Flying Christine II followed from 1964 to 1994 and more than 70 years on collectively the three ambulance launches have saved countless lives within the Bailiwick.
Today the marine ambulance is operated by St John Ambulance and Rescue Service, with a boat crew of skilled and experienced volunteers from the local marine community and professional paramedic-led medical teams from the ambulance service. The Flying Christine III is a charitable asset, paid for by a combination of donations, subscriptions and charges. Local company Moonpig has been sponsoring the costs of fuel since 2020.
The marine ambulance provides a life-line service for the islands of the Bailiwick and vessels in local waters, responding to around 40 calls a year. In the past couple of years, a vast amount of work has been carried out to ensure the Flying Christine III meets the local legislative requirements and is a Search and Rescue asset, ready for deployment 24/7.
Events to mark the 30th anniversary of the Flying Christine III are being planned for later in the year, and include an open day with opportunities for the public to take a tour of the vessel and a ceremony at the harbour.