SNSM chooses Couach for its future rescue fleet

Article published on July 11, 2019 on the Mer et Marine website, find it here.


After several years of reflection and fifteen months of discussions with several teams of architects and builders, the Société Nationale de Sauvetage en Mer chose the winner of its competitive dialogue procedure designed to choose the sole prime contractor for its future rescue fleet. We revealed it at midday, and the SNSM confirmed it immediately afterwards, namely the Couach site in Gujan-Mestras, Gironde, which is entering into an exclusive phase of negotiations with the association with a view to signing the contract by the end of the year.

For this competition, Couach is allied with the architects Frédéric Neuman and Christophe Barreau, the first having for memory worked in 2017 with the SNSM on a preliminary study which had made it possible to define the functional needs and the range structure of the association’s future nautical resources.

Three and then two candidates in the running

Following the call for applications launched in April 2018, three candidates were nominated as finalists last summer. But one of them, the Luxembourger CMN, had decided to throw in the towel. Only the Couach-Neuman-Barreau trio remained in the race against the Grand Large group. On paper, the latter seemed to have serious assets, because apart from its shipyards specialising in pleasure craft (Allure, Garcia, Outremer and Gunboat), it is the owner of Alumarine, a builder of work boats that has already built lifeboats for the SNSM. Grand Large had also teamed up with Pierre Delion’s architecture office in Nantes, which also has solid experience in professional boats, recently designed the star of the SNSM station in Gravelines and a beautiful series of semi-rigid boats with Zeppelin. A background that does not benefit their competitors, who are more specialized in yachting and the military (especially interceptors). “They still have a strong experience in the professional sector and military products in particular are boats with very high standards. Couach also provides a high-performance industrial tool with significant production capacities that provide the flexibility we are looking for in relation to the small traditional sites with which we have worked until now. We must, if our resources allow, be able to quickly increase the level of orders. Through this contract, we will not only buy boats, but also industrial flexibility,” they explain at the association’s headquarters. Because the SNSM, whose funding depends mainly on donations, has fluctuating resources that allow it to make more or less significant investments from year to year.

“Couach was by far the best”

This ability to adapt to the client’s resources seems to have been a decisive factor in Couach’s ability to convince the SNSM. But this is not the only thing that is guaranteed by the rescuers. When asked by Mer et Marine about this choice, Xavier de la Gorce stated that “out of the various assessment criteria that have been put in place, Couach was by far the best”. The choice of the winner made, It is now necessary to conclude a contract: “We set a deadline of six months after the submission of bids last spring. We hope to sign a contract by the end of the year, probably around December. But before that, there are some clarifications to be made and discussions will continue to reach final decisions. This phase must be conducted seriously and take your time because it is a major project, very engaging and fundamental for the future of the SNSM.

As a reminder, in order to reduce costs and solve the financial problems of its status as an association, which cannot borrow and therefore launch a long-term serial acquisition policy, SNSM wanted to entrust a single project manager with the design and construction of its entire future fleet. This gives the selected industrial company long-term visibility and the possibility of finding financing solutions. And for the association, this will make it possible to standardize a very disparate nautical tool, with significant financial gains, while facilitating the training of lifeguards and logistics related to maintenance.

A 10-year contract and at least 70 boats to be built

The contract will cover a 10-year period, with the renewal of at least 70 SNSM boats, including the venerable all-weather canoes built in the 1980s. The estimated budget is in the order of 40 to 50 million euros, the first deliveries are expected in 2020. The exact number of boats that will be built over the next decade will depend, as we have seen, on the financial resources that can be mobilized by rescue workers at sea. In this respect, the association hopes for an additional boost from the State on the occasion of the Inter-ministerial Committee for the Sea, which should take place this autumn. Following the tragedy in Les Sables d’Olonne, the government could indeed decide to increase its annual support. But this is not yet a given.

Six new types of boats

This Fleet of the future will be divided into a range of six types of boats: First-class Offshore Rescue Vessels (NSH 1) of about 17 metres and second-class (NSH 2) of 14.5 metres. Grouped in the same category, the other four boats are dedicated to near-shore operations, with only one model of launch, the First Class Coast Rescue Ship (NSC 1), which will measure 11.7 metres. In addition, there are two types of semi-rigid vehicles, the NSC 2 of 8.6 metres and the NSC 3 of 6.4 metres, as well as 3.9 metre tyres (IRB) and 3.4 metre jet skis grouped in a last category, called NSC 4.

Over the next 10 years, the basic needs to renew the resources of metropolitan and overseas stations are now estimated at around 20 NSH and 50 NSC.