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The Maritime Rescue centre in St. John's, which answers hundreds of calls for help annually, operates out of the Coast Guard station. ((courtesy: DFO) )

CBC News has learned that the federal government is closing the Maritime Rescue centre in St. John's.

The centre, which answers hundreds of calls for help annually, operates out of the Coast Guard station.

The rescue centre's closure is part of $56 million in Department of Fisheries and Oceans cuts to Newfoundland and Labrador, promised in this week's federal budget.

The centre's role will be moved to the Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centres in Halifax, and Trenton, Ont.

As many as 12 jobs will be cut with the closure.

According to the Coast Guard's web site, the Newfoundland and Labrador Region has the highest proportion of distress incidents in Canada.

The site says the St. John's rescue centre responds in an average year to approximately 500 incidents involving 2,900 people.

The Coast Guard says 28 per cent of those incidents are classified as distress calls, in which 600 lives are saved and 18 lives are lost, on average. The centre is responsible for 900,000 square kilometres of ocean and 28,956 kilometres of coastline.