Coast Guard closures could overload Halifax centre
Canadians at risk, says retired captain
A retired Coast Guard captain says the closure of two search and rescue centres is putting Canadians in danger and won’t save the federal government much money.
It's been almost a year since the Coast Guard shut down its Search and Rescue Centre in St. John's.
The service is shutting down its Quebec centre in the fall and splitting its calls between Halifax and Trenton, Ont.
Hubert Desgagnés, now a maritime consultant, said the closures mean the number of incidents that the Halifax's search and rescue operation will have to handle will double.
"We are transferring quite a busy workload on the already very busy rescue centre in Halifax and Trenton in Ontario. For me, it doesn’t make sense to play with the delicate balance of search and rescue services," he said.
The St. John's centre handled about 540 calls a year, which have now been shifted to Halifax, which already handled 1,800.
According to Desgagnés, the Quebec centre receives close 1,500, When it closes 500 calls will go to Halifax and 1,000 to Trenton. The majority of the calls will be in French.
Coast Guard officials have agreed to have one bilingual person on every shift, but Desgagnés says that may not be enough if there's more than one incident that requires someone who speaks French.
"It would double the number of incidence, but I would say it would triple the complexity of the job. The incidents you have to deal with on the Labrador coasts and the St. Lawrence River are a little bit different. First of all, on the St. Lawrence we have two shorelines and the incidents occur much closer off the shoreline. We need to know the area," he said.
Desgagnés said during major events, like the Swiss Air crash, the Halifax centre becomes saturated with calls and the St. John's and Quebec centres have been used for back-up.
He said he’s asking the Coast Guard to revisit its decision.
The Coast Guard hasn’t responded to CBC’s request for an interview.