Shiny New Guest Blogger, Bearing a Letter

Hi all. Our lovely blog master asked if I would make a guest post now and then, and, since the world as I appreciate it is where everyone listens to me, of course I said “yes!”

By way of introduction, I’ll post a letter that I sent to Hon. Mr. Keith Ashfield, Minister of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, on the topic of Marine Communications and Traffic Services cutbacks. This blog has already posted on this topic, but I thought I would add my voice.

I also sent a copy to my MP Jean Crowder. Ms Crowder responded promptly. She thanked me for my concern, and linked me to a letter her party has already sent on the matter. I have yet to hear back from Hon. Mr. Ashfield, or his office.

 

Dear Hon. Mr Keith Ashfield,

I am writing because I feel very concerned about proposed government cuts to Coast Guard’s Marine Communication and Traffic Services. In an effort to save costs, the Coast Guard has proposed slashing overtime and holiday time for its operators, leaving the BC’s MCTS stations vulnerable to understaffing.

I grew up on the west coast of Vancouver Island, and am currently a lightkeeper at Carmanah Point Lightstation. In my many years of experience working and observing rescue operations on BC’s hazardous waters, I have always greatly admired the hard work and dedication displayed by the MCTS operators. They are highly-trained professionals who work twelve-hour shifts in dark rooms to ensure that our coast is as safe as it can be. Even fully staffed, operators may have to work several marine incidents at once. As anyone who has worked on the coast knows, Murphy’s Law Squared is fully in effect: If something can go wrong, it will; if two things can go wrong, they’ll do it at the same time.

I have no doubt that the MCTS officers will do their best to cover everything, but a human being is only capable of so much. I am very much afraid that with only two officers in place, important things will fall through the cracks. For example, if two operators are working a complicated incident such as arranging assistance for a sinking vessel, no one would be available to monitor traffic or collect and issue weather information for other mariners. We often think of MCTS as just working with vessels in distress, but much of their work involves preventative measures to keep mariners from having to issue those maydays in the first place.

Susan Steele Regional Director, Maritime Services, Coast Guard  has said that staffing will only be reduced during periods of low traffic, such as winter and the middle of the night. It is true that less incidents occur at these times; pleasure craft are generally not on the water, and commercial traffic is lighter. However, when a fishing boat runs aground in the middle of a January night, the crew aren’t going to care much about statistics. These incidents happen, and when they do, the marine community expects the Coast Guard to do its best to keep them safe. These cutbacks are not our best. I ask you to please reconsider them in light of public safety.

Regards,

Justine Etzkorn
Assistant Lightkeeper, Carmanah Point Lightstation

 

If you feel strongly about this topic, or are worried about how it will impact marine safety, I urge you to write to both your local MP and Hon. Mr. Keith Ashfield: keith.ashfield@parl.gc.ca

Thank you all for reading. I’m hoping that my next post will be about the history of women on West Coast lights.

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