New lifeboat stations could save lives, says retired rescue co-ordinator

Merv Wiseman says new facilities on the northeast coast and Bay de Verde area will cover off popular fishing areas.

Merv Wiseman says new N.L. stations designed for growing inshore fishery

Merv Wiseman, retired maritime search and rescue co-ordinator, spoke out against the closure of the Maritime Rescue Sub-Centre in 2012 and is now applauding the federal government for announcing two new stations in the province. (CBC)

Retired search and rescue co-ordinator Merv Wiseman says the promise of two new lifeboat stations for Newfoundland and Labrador is wonderful news that could save lives in popular fishing areas that are not currently covered.

A five-year, $108-million federal government plan includes new lifeboat stations in Old Perlican and Twillingate and improvements to a search and rescue facility in St. Anthony.

Details revealed Tuesday indicate that work will begin this spring on the construction of buildings and a new boat for the Old Perlican facility.

A lifeboat station is a search and rescue centre that focuses mostly on the inshore fishery, with resources customized for work within 190 nautical miles from shore.

A Canadian Coast Guard ship off Old Perlican, one of two areas that will now be getting a new search and rescue lifeboat station. (Rebecca Brookings)

Wiseman, who spoke out against the Harper government's decision to cut search and rescue capabilities in the province, says the news is another step in the right direction.

It comes after last year's announcement that the Maritime Rescue Sub-Centre would be returning to St. John's —  and that the federal government would be enhancing search and rescue in other regions.

"We're now seeing that come to fruition and fills a great gap that was badly needed there," Wiseman told the St. John's Morning Show.

'A great fit'

Wiseman said the two new stations will cover busy inshore fishing areas.

​"This is a great fit, especially considering Old Perlican and the amount of activity there. It has always been an area of high activity inshore and some offshore fisherman, and it's growing," he said.

A fast rescue craft, like the one seen in this file photo, will be part of the new lifeboat station in Old Perlican. In addition to it's regular duties, it can also assist with pollution patrols and police work. (Canadian Coast Guard)

Wiseman said 70 per cent of search and rescue incidents are related to the fishery, and 90 per cent of all inshore fishing activity in Canada happens in areas adjacent to Newfoundland and Labrador.

He said having more lifeboat stations reduces the distance search and rescue teams will have to travel when a distress signal is received.

Still areas to address

Wiseman said there are still gaps that need to be addressed. He pointed to the offshore oil industry, with its hundreds of workers and the potential for a major marine disaster, as an area that should be given more search and rescue resources.

Wiseman said extra search and rescue capacity is needed to keep the hundreds of workers in the offshore oil industry safe. (CBC)

But he added that after years of protesting cuts, now is the time to celebrate.

Referring to 2012 and the closure of the Maritime Rescue Sub-Centre as the low point for search and rescue capabilities in Newfoundland and Labrador, Wiseman said it's refreshing to see that the newly announced stations were designed after proper research.

"What amazed me mostly was that [the closure of the Maritime Rescue Substation] was such a political decision. It was not a decision based on study or analysis," he said.

"The fact that you could make a life and death decision without that kind of analysis really puts a bad mark not only on the decision, but actually puts a bad mark on politics to put it quite franky."

With files from St. John's Morning Show