(Op-ed) Safety First, Service Always

Keith Ashfield, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and Minister for the Atlantic Gateway, issued the following statement on June 15 concerning the closure of the maritime rescue centre in St. John’s

I understand that there has been growing concern and speculation about the consolidation of the St. John’s Marine Rescue Coordination sub-centre and I would like to take this opportunity to assure you that the Coast Guard’s response on the water will not change; the safety of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians will absolutely not be compromised by this move.

The safety of Canadians is our government’s top priority. We will ensure that the Canadian Coast Guard is equipped with the necessary tools and training to provide quality services to Canadians across the country.

Since 2006, our government has made unprecedented investments in the protection of Canadians at sea. There has been a 33% increase in Canadian Coast Guard positions in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. We located two of Canada’s heaviest and most capable icebreakers to the province in 2007 and we have provided the Canadian Coast Guard with 98 new small craft vessels and barges while increasing funding to repair another 40 of its largest vessels. As one of our first acts of government, the Prime Minister announced the re-opening of the Newfoundland and Labrador weather station. All of these decisions were made to make sure that the Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who make their living off of the sea can always count on us and the Canadian Coast Guard to fight for their safety on the water.

The Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Halifax currently provides many of the services mariners rely on in Newfoundland and Labrador. It retains the same knowledge of the area, bilingual services, and prompt response time that Canadians have come to expect. With this move, we are aligning Coast Guard and Canadian Forces air and sea search and rescue coordination to ensure effective and more efficient service in the same way it is effectively done elsewhere in the country.  This is what Canadians demand of us – excellent service, delivered through responsible use of taxpayers’ dollars.

Our government has been clear about refining and aligning our resources accordingly but we will absolutely not put the lives of Canadians at risk. Our top priority is and will continue to be the safety and security of Canadians.


Search and Rescue and the Canadian Coast Guard

The Canadian Coast Guard staffs three Joint Rescue Coordination Centres (JRCC) with the Canadian Forces. The JRCCs are located in Victoria, British Columbia; Trenton, Ontario; and Halifax, Nova Scotia. The JRCCs coordinate all Coast Guard and Canadian Forces search and rescue responses for aeronautical and marine incidents within their respective regions.

The two Marine Rescue Sub-Centres coordinate responses through the Joint Rescue Coordination Centres in their regions – MRSC St. John’s through JRCC Halifax and MRSC Quebec City through both JRCC Halifax and JRCC Trenton.

Every year, Joint Rescue Coordination Centers and Marine Rescue Sub-Centers receive over 7,000 calls for assistance, via radio, telephone and satellite. Staff analyze all incoming transmission to determine the location, severity and nature of incidents to coordinate and provide appropriate response. Out of the 7,000 calls, the Canadian Coast Guard is responsible for coordinating appropriate responses to over 5,000 maritime incidents.

Joint Rescue Coordination Center Victoria:

JRCC Victoria is responsible for coordinating search and rescue activities for 920,000 square kilometres of ocean and 27,000 kilometres of coastline in what is referred to as the most demanding region in the country.

JRCC Victoria responds to an average of 2213 marine incidents annually, 25% are distress cases.

There are 13 Coast Guard positions at the JRCC Victoria.

Joint Rescue Coordination Center Trenton:

JRCC Trenton is responsible for search and rescue activities for more than 10 million square kilometres, containing more than half of the recreational boaters in Canada.

JRCC Trenton responds to an average of 3090 marine incidents annually, 15% are distress cases.

There are 9 Coast Guard positions at the JRCC Trenton.

Joint Rescue Coordination Center Halifax:

JRCC Halifax is responsible for coordinating search and rescue activities for more than 4.7 million square kilometres of ocean, and over 40,000 kilometres of coastline.

JRCC Halifax responds to an average of 1914 marine incidents annually, 10% are distress cases.

There are 19 Coast Guard positions at JRCC Halifax.

Maritime Rescue Sub-Centre Quebec City:

MRSC Quebec responds to an average of 1422 marine distress incidents annually, 13% are distress cases.

There are 9 Coast Guard positions at the MRSC Quebec.

Maritime Rescue Sub-Centre St. John’s:

MRSC St. John’s responds to an average of 421 marine distress incidents annually, 25% are distress cases.

There are 12 Coast Guard positions at the MRSC St. John’s.

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