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.