Who is watching Vancouver Island’s coastline?

Ottawa has announced that they intend to reduce staff on watch at Marine Communications and Traffic Services Centres (MCTS) in 2012.

What does this mean for Vancouver Island?

MCTS provide distress and safety communication, vessel traffic services and weather information, including lighthouse weather reports. For a full understanding of what they do and all the maritime traffic that they watch, check out my new page “Vancouver Island Ship Traffic.”

The MCTS centre in Ucluelet regulates 12,000 vessel movements each year through Juan de Fuca Strait, many of them tankers loaded with north slope crude oil from Alaska and resolve 400 marine incidents each year.  A big part of their job is to provide assistance and information to mariners so that accidents are prevented.

Currently, there are three people at MCTS centres with each person working a 12-hour shift. Under the proposed cutbacks, there could be just one person providing information to vessels, and receiving distress calls.

Allan Hughes, from CAW Local 2182 Pacific Marine Communication Officers, says:

“The Pacific Region is the busiest in Canada.  We have a year round navigation season and we have the busiest port in Canada (Vancouver) along with a tremendous level of ferry activity,  as well as increased tanker traffic, and proposed greater number of deep sea shipping into and around the north coast, Prince Rupert and Kitimat.”

Remember the Queen of the North?

The federal government has decided that during winter nights, they don’t need as much staff at these MCTS centres, because there are fewer pleasure boats on the water. Yet there is no way to predict from any given day/month or hour of each day, when a  significant marine incident may happen, requiring the full resources of a fully staffed MCTS centre. An example, the Queen of the North sinking occurred in March at night. If the sinking were to happen now, would someone have received the ferry’s distress signal in time?

Cuts to the MCTS will affect our coastline especially in matters of safety, security and pollution prevention.

If you would like to voice your concern, you can write a note to Keith Ashfield, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans: keith.ashfield@parl.gc.ca or sign the petition to save MCTS from cutbacks.