The union representing Marine Traffic and Communication Services workers with the Canadian Coast Guard are raising red flags after they say an outage at the Prince Rupert base on the night of Aug. 17 left a portion of the coast unprotected.
According to the union, the system for regulating shipping movements and detecting distress calls was inoperative between 12:50 a.m. and 3:45 a.m. The union says outage meant distress calls from any boaters on the entire west coast of Vancouver Island may have fallen on deaf ears.
Unifor's BC Area director Gavin McGarrigle said the blame for the additional risk incurred by boaters can be put squarely on the shoulders of the federal government, which closed the Ucuelet base that formerly provided coverage to the area back in April.
"The Harper government's cuts have reduced the effectiveness of our coast guard," he said.
"When our coast guard is compromised, the safety of Canadians is at risk ... keeping Canadians safe on our coastal waters is simply not a priority for the Conservative government."
The Canadian Coast Guard says they outage began at 12:40 a.m., with all services restored by 3 a.m. due to "an issue with Telus landlines linking peripheral sites located at Holberg, Esperanza, Estevan and Mt. Ozzard".
"Outages can occur from time to time, and are not unique to the new system being installed at MCTS centres across the country. To address these sporadic occurrences, CCG has the established protocols and procedures in place to maintain communications with mariners," said Coast Guard communications officer Dan Bate.
"As per CCG’s standard operating procedure, the marine community was notified of the outage via a Notice to Shipping. CCG technical staff are working to determine the root cause of the outage to prevent re-occurrence."