Reprint – DFO Shutting Down Coast Guard Radio Stations, but Prince Rupert’s Will Be Expanded

 

I wrote an article on January 04, 2012 entitled MCTS To Lose Staff To Save Money. After that date, the department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO or F&O) have changed their plans. They are now closing whole stations instead of a removing a few men! The news article below is well written and explains what is planned for the BC coast. If all goes through we will have only two (2) MCTS stations on the whole BC coast, relying on mountaintop repeaters to reply to ships at sea.

I can also see soon that their plans will include again trying to de-staff the lighthouses. Pretty soon the whole BC coast will be bare of any support for boaters!

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By Alan S. Hale – The Northern View
Published: May 18, 2012 4:00 PM
Updated: May 18, 2012 4:59 PM

The Coast Guard communication monitoring station in Prince Rupert will be even more important to ensuring the safety of seafarers. The Prince Rupert station will be one of only two “modernized” coast guard stations in the entire province – the other one being in Sydney.

DFO is reducing the number of station responsible for monitoring radio communications coming from vessels for distress calls. They also regulate marine traffic and provide weather information, and navigational warnings. At the moment, there are 22 stations across the country performing these functions, the the federal government is planning to reduce it down to 12; Prince Rupert will be one of those 12.

The government is saying the reduction is a “modernization” and “streamlining” of the coast guard’s communication services. Prince Rupert and the other remaining stations are being promised additional staff and cutting-edge equipment that will allow the stations to be interconnected and thus better able to work over a larger area. The radio and radar equipment in place at the other stations will be staying where it is.

“Improving and integrating communications centres across the country will ensure that important information can be properly broadcast to mariners and emergency calls will be received under all circumstances,” says Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Keith Ashfield.

While Prince Rupert and Sydney are being spared from being shut down, but the stations in Vancouver and Comox will not be. The Prince Rupert Northern View contacted both the Coast Guard and DFO to get some idea on how much additional staff the Prince Rupert station can expect and what the new equipment being promised is, but have not heard a reply so far.

That said, not everyone who works at Prince Rupert’s coast guard station can breath a sigh of relief. Support staff who maintain the navigational light stations are finding themselves on the chopping block.

According to Bill Cunningham, the president of the local chapter of the Public Sector Alliance of Canada (PSAC) which represents those workers, eight support staff members in Prince Rupert have been given letters that say that they could be laid-off. Although Cunningham doubts that all eight will lose their jobs. Cunningham doubts that all eight of the workers will lose their jobs, but says that they lay-offs will have consequences.

“It means a lot of the work they’re doing now won’t get done. They do a lot of work on the light stations, and a lot of it will have to be contracted out,” says Cunningham.

Despite government assurances that the level of service being provided to mariners will not be affected, many organizations across the country are questioning how it will affect response times and what the implications of not having radio operators who are not familiar with the waters they are monitoring will be on their effectiveness.

[update]

October 16, 2012 – Coast Guard explains changes to marine coverage

Published: October 16, 2012 10:00 AM 
Updated: October 16, 2012 10:40 AM

Dear editor,

The Canadian Coast Guard must correct recent inaccuracies being reported about changes to its Marine Communications and Traffic Service centres (MCTS).

Our centres rely on a network of unmanned radio and radar towers to pick up and transmit digital and audio information, which is then shared with our highly trained employees at MCTS centres across Canada. Coast Guard’s radio and radar towers will remain exactly where they are today.

In British Columbia, and across Canada, our centres will be upgraded with the latest generation of interconnected radio communications technology. If a centre were to experience an outage, a neighbouring one will be able to pick up the geographical area covered by that centre until service is restored. This improves reliability and enhances the safety of mariners.

The old system, based on integrating diverse information from 30-year-old technology and first-generation computer systems, was always a challenge.

Our employees rely on a variety of digital and automated tools that allow them to interpret and act on information from a workstation to deliver services to mariners.

This modern technology, which includes communication towers, radars and cameras, means that regardless of fog or darkness it is not necessary to visually observe vessel movements or harbour activity for employees to provide these services.

By having more staff at fewer and better-equipped centres, Coast Guard will be able to provide more reliable service to mariners, as well as better manage fluctuating workload and improve backup capabilities.

In British Columbia, the MCTS centres in Tofino, Comox, Vancouver, Victoria and Prince Rupert will be consolidated into updated and modernized centres in Victoria and Prince Rupert, continuing the same excellent service mariners experience today.

It is also important to remember that this is not the first time this has been done. For example, in the 1990s, when more effective technology became available, the Coast Guard integrated vessel traffic and radio services from 44 stations to 22 stations. There was no impact on services.

The Canadian Coast Guard will continue to ensure its employees have the tools necessary to deliver on our top priority — the safety of mariners.

 Jody Thomas

 Editor’s note: Jody Thomas is deputy commissioner of the Canadian Coast Guard.

According to the Coast Guard website for the Pacific Region:

Marine Communications and Traffic Services (MCTS) provides marine safety communications co-ordination with rescue resources and Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre Victoria (JRCC); vessel traffic services and waterway management, broadcast weather and safety information; sail plan services in addition to support for other government and marine agencies. In the Pacific Region, there are centres located at Vancouver, Victoria, Prince Rupert, Comox and Tofino.

May 26, 2012 – Well, according to this Times Colonist website, Comox and Tofino will not exist in three years time.

The closure of the two West Coast Marine Communications and Traffic Services stations was announced by the federal government last week. The Canadian Auto Workers, which represents the staff, says 77 jobs will be eliminated and up to 104 workers will have to move.

 

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