One of four ducks captured for treatment after the April 11 bunker fuel spill from a freighter in English Bay. Three of the birds

LETTERS: Ex-captain, union fire back on state of Coast Guard

Kitsilano base responded to many small spills, captain says; MP James Moore has his Coast Guard protection facts wrong, Unifor rep says

Captain: Kits Coast Guard station still needed

Re: Coast Guard hysteria sinks lower (B.C. Views, April 28).

I believe I may be the “retired captain from the now-closed Kitsilano Coast Guard station” referred to by Tom Fletcher.

I am a disgruntled Canadian citizen and voter, not a disgruntled retiree of the Coast Guard. I was good at my job and loved my career.

I retired after 32 years of service to an organization that employs so many talented and hard-working people, all dedicated to lifesaving, marine safety and yes environmental response. I didn’t even think of getting involved until such time that the exaggerations and fabrications began pouring from the Coast Guard’s commissioners and deputy commissioners’ mouths, all for the purpose of saving the Prime Minister’s reputation for just one of his many ill-thought-out cuts.

The Coast Guard Station Kitsilano was primarily a rescue boat station, but “Kits Base” was also one of the best equipped and trained lifeboat stations in Canada. That’s a fact, not some jaded opinion from a disgruntled ex-employee. We fought fires, responded to numerous oil spills yearly, rescued and assisted hundreds of mariners and boaters annually, trained many “basic oil pollution responders” annually (until that program was shut down also). The staff at the station also monitored and helped to maintain navigational aids in the busy harbour.

I was a coxswain at Kitsilano Base, a trained pollution response technician and a licensed hovercraft pilot. Because of retirement I can now speak freely, unlike the Coast Guard personnel who are still employed and unable to comment due to fear of repercussions from management.

How do you explain closing one of the busiest Coast Guard stations in the country to save $700,000 a year? When will Canadians wake up?

Capt. Tony Toxopeus AMS, Surrey

Unifor rep: Coast Guard is 911 for ships

Re: Coast Guard hysteria sinks lower (B.C. Views, April 28).

The “ship monitoring stations” that Tom Fletcher refers to are more than just that. Coast Guard Marine Communications and Traffic Services (MCTS) Centres perform two distinct but complimentary functions. They provide vessel traffic services, much like air traffic control for ships, and provide communications and coordination to detect distress situations similar to a 911 centre for mariners.

They also broadcast maritime safety information, screen vessels entering Canadian waters, and provide marine information to other federal government departments and agencies. The MCTS Centres are the result of the merger of Vessel Traffic Services and Coast Guard Radio that occurred in 1995.

This initiative was proposed by the union, which recognized that technological change provided the opportunity to rationalize services and save money. The result was that the combined service went from 44 centres to 22 and the number of staff was reduced by one third.

The reduction in staff was achieved through early retirement and attrition. Total savings of this co-operative effort are $14.5 million per year.

Industry Minister James Moore is quoted as saying that “1970s era ship tracking equipment is being replaced.” That is incorrect; that equipment was replaced five years ago. The equipment that is being replaced is the communications control system. This is what controls the radio equipment used to communicate with vessels.

This “technological innovation” is a touch screen communications control system that replaces the knobs and switches and touch screens currently in use. A new touch screen to replace the old touch screens is hardly a “technological innovation.”

Mr. Moore is also quoted as saying “these fears were also raised back in the ’60s and ’70s, when lighthouses were de-staffed.”

The last round of lighthouse de-staffing took place in the late ‘90s and was halted after only a few lighthouses had been de-staffed. The majority of lighthouses on the B.C. coast are still fully staffed.

The recent 30-minute outage in Prince Rupert should be a wake-up call. For people on the water it was the equivalent of ATC and 911 being out of service from the northern tip of Vancouver Island to the Alaska border. If you were in trouble for those 30 minutes and called for help, your only hope of being heard would have been if you were lucky enough to have another vessel close enough to hear you.

When you get in trouble on the water, seconds count. If your house is on fire you can go outside, If your boat is on fire you are in the water. This is not hysteria, this is a fact. There are many examples of mariners who only managed to make one radio call for help before “going down.”

The MCTS Centre in Ucluelet has been closed and the operations have been remoted to Prince Rupert. If the same outage were to occur again, and there is no reason to believe that it won’t, it would cover the entire B.C. outer coast from Washington to Alaska. If you make your living off the water or just like to get out in your boat for fun and this doesn’t worry you, it should.

Scott Hodge, Unifor Local 2182 (Marine Communications Officers)

 

Just Posted

B.C. Interior free from measles

Vancouver measles outbreak hasn’t spread to the B.C. Interior

Input sought from Cache Creek businesses on Downtown Vision plan

Attracting and retaining employees and businesses are priorities

Community Futures gets more funding to continue business support program

Programs such as Business Ambassadors help small businesses, not-for-profits, and First Nations

Make Children First’s CareFairs are going out with a bang

Folllowing changes to funding, upcoming CareFairs in the region will be the last ones ever held

Support available for those looking after loved ones with dementia

Despite the growing number of people with dementia, a stigma still surrounds it

VIDEO: Iconic ‘snow cone’ takes shape at B.C. park near Clearwater

Snow cone forming at Wells Gray Provincial Park one that would make Disney’s Queen Elsa proud

UPDATE: Reports of rashes prompt closure of all Harrison Hot Springs pools

Public pool available after Fraser Health shut down all five mineral pools until further notice

Legislation to protect B.C. farmland comes into effect

Regulations enhance food security, encourage long-term farming

Have you heard the legend of Shuswaggi, the Shuswap Lake monster?

Witness accounts as old as 1904, and as recent as 2018, place a creature in the lake’s depths

UPDATE: B.C. ticket holder winner of $25.9-million Lotto Max jackpot

Next draw set for Mar. 1 with an estimated jackpot of $10 million

B.C.-based ‘Team Tardi’ brings home gold in junior curling worlds

In a 9-4 victory over Switzerland, a Langley-based curling team earned its 2nd straight world title

People gather for funeral of seven children killed in fast-moving Halifax fire

Traditional portion of the service will be followed by words from community members

B.C. weavers to help Alaska Native project honouring survivors of violence

Dozens of Chilkat and Ravenstail weavers from all over North America will be weaving 5-inch-by-5-inch squares

B.C. skip Sarah Wark and team eliminated at Scotties Tournament of Hearts

Nontheless pretty impressive stuff from the 24th-ranked team in the country

Most Read