The ‘Flying Christine III’ returned to operational duty last week following a mechanical failure. The St John marine ambulance has been out of the water since January, when a fault was discovered with the gearbox during routine maintenance.
Repairs were delayed while a replacement part was sourced from manufacturers in the USA and shipped to Guernsey, which was hindered by the global supply chain crisis. During this time St John has taken the opportunity to complete a number of other servicing tasks and upgrades, including work on the vessel’s electronics and cosmetics.
The Flying Christine has undergone extensive sea trials in local waters in readiness to return to service. Sea trials were completed last week with no issues reported and the vessel was back on call at St Peter Port harbour on Friday. During the past two weeks the Flying Christine has also been deep cleaned and restocked with medical equipment and supplies.Under existing and previously used contingency plans a number of relief vessels have been made available to ensure the ambulance service has been able to respond to urgent and emergency cases in the other islands of the Bailiwick over the past few months.
The RNLI St Peter Port Lifeboat, Brecqhou Chief, Access Challenger and the Pilot boat have all been deployed with ambulance crews onboard for various medical and trauma cases.
Since February St John Ambulance & Rescue Service has been deployed on a total of 31 marine missions. 21 to Sark, 8 to Herm and 2 to visiting cruise ships.
The RNLI St Peter Port Life boat has responded to 24 of those incidents, most of which were Category 1 or 2 medical emergencies.
The Brecqhou Chief has been deployed on 4 occasions, Access Challenger has been deployed twice and the pilot boat used once. These were for less urgent medical cases. Stuart Malley, Operations Lead at St John Ambulance & Rescue Service (SJARS) said: “I would like to thank the volunteers from the St Peter Port Lifeboat and the crews of the Brecqhou Chief, Access Challenger and the pilot boat who have all helped St John maintain lifeline medical cover for the other islands. They have responded to emergencies around the clock, leaving their jobs and their families, often in the middle of the night to assist us. I would also like to thank the volunteers who crew of the Flying Christine, that have given many additional hours working behind the scenes to prepare the vessel for a return to duty.”
SJARS Chief Executive Officer, Mark Mapp added: “I would also like to thank the crews of the relief vessels, as well the St Peter Port lifeboat management and other the boat owners for their support and assistance over the past few months, which has allowed us to continue to provide an essential emergency service for the Bailiwick. After extensive delays, which have been beyond our control I am pleased that the Flying Christine is back in operation as a dedicated, purpose built marine ambulance which has a devoted clinical area and inbuilt medical equipment, designed to enhance patient care and the patient experience.”
The Flying Christine III was originally built thanks to public donations and sponsorship and was launched in 1994 by the Duke of Gloucester, with a design life of 30 years.
Mr Mapp added: “The recent work on the Flying Christine will help extend her operational life, however as we look to the long term, we are continuing to evaluate the most cost-effective way of extending her design life further with additional resilience being built-in.”
The Flying Christine III is the third in a succession of St John marine ambulances dating back to 1952. The current vessel is operated by expert volunteers and crewed by professional paramedic-led medical teams from Guernsey’s emergency ambulance service, providing pre-hospital paramedic care and the ability to deliver advanced life support for the islands of the Bailiwick.