Rankin Inlet selected as new location for Arctic search and rescue station

The federal government has announced the creation of an inshore rescue boat station in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut.

'It's wonderful news,' says Robert Janes, mayor of Rankin Inlet

This Canadian Coast Guard vessel is the type that will be employed at the new rescue station in Rankin Inlet, Nunavut. (Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard)

After careful study, Rankin Inlet, pop. 2,800, has been selected as the site of Canada's first Arctic inshore rescue boat station, the federal government announced Thursday.

"We looked at things such as population size, duration of ice-free water, vessel traffic patterns, types of activities that took people out on the water, weather, ice conditions," said Steve Thompson, superintendent of Arctic search and rescue with the Canadian Coast Guard.

"All of this information was taken and evaluated for every Arctic community."

The station is set to open this summer, likely in mid-June, depending on ice conditions and weather.

Steve Thompson is superintendent of Arctic search and rescue with the Canadian Coast Guard. (Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard)

It will consist of a six-person crew operating out of an existing building — though the Coast Guard couldn't say which one — as well as a nine-metre, enclosed rigid-hull inflatable boat.

"It's fully enclosed, all-weather capable, it's built and designed for search and rescue activities so it's not limited by sea state or weather conditions," Thompson said. "It's designed to go out in all weather."

The goal is to expand search and rescue coverage and reduce response times.

Right now, rescue resources are generally based in the South, with people in distress waiting hours or days for one of seven icebreakers to reach them.

Students to the rescue

The station is just the latest among 25 student-run rescue stations in Canada. However, its first few seasons will included seasoned veterans among the six Indigenous students from the North the Coast Guard is recruiting.

They'll undergo extensive training including safe boat handling, marine first aid, radio communications, search patterns and how the Coast Guard operates.

"We do have a model that works but we are adapting it [to] the unique nature of the station in Rankin Inlet," Thompson said.

The mayor of Rankin Inlet, Robert Janes, said word of the station is "wonderful news."

"It something we really need," he said.

In October, the coast guard held information sessions across Nunavut, the N.W.T., and Northern Quebec to meet community members and begin recruiting.

The new station is part of the $1.5 billion Oceans Protection Plan announced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in November 2016.