New lifeboat for Clark's Harbour will have to wait, says DFO Minister

Speaking in Halifax Monday, Jonathan Wilkinson said deployment of the new bay-class lifeboats was based on need.

Request grounded for busy Nova Scotia station

A Coast Guard search and rescue vessel is shown at Clark's Harbour, N.S., where it serves the lobster fishery. Lobster boats will head out on the ocean in late November, during what is often a gruelling and dangerous time. (Steve Berry/CBC)

Canada's Minister of Fisheries and Oceans says his department is justified in waiting two years before sending a new lifeboat to the Canadian Coast Guard search and rescue station at Clark's Harbour, N.S.

Speaking in Halifax Monday, Jonathan Wilkinson said deployment of the new bay-class boats was based on need.

"The priority in terms of which boat went where was based on the assessment of the condition of the assets that exist now," Wilkinson said.

"The one in Clark's Harbour now is in pretty good shape relative to many of the others. It is not near the end of its life and the [new] one in Clark's Harbour will be delivered in 2020."

20 new high-endurance vessels

Canada is building 20 new, high-endurance search and rescue lifeboats.

The first four have been delivered. One went to Quebec, one to Newfoundland and two others are headed to the West Coast.

Last week, a decorated 28-year veteran of the Canadian Coast Guard spoke out, saying there is a "desperate need" for a new vessel at the search and rescue station where he serves at Clark's Harbour in southwestern Nova Scotia.

Case for a new lifeboat

Coast Guard sailor Eric Nickerson says the lifeboats at the station are in rough shape. Two are in dry dock for refit and a temporary replacement will soon head for refit.

"That gives a pretty good perspective on the condition of our vessels," Nickerson said.

"There's no doubt, it's no secret they are getting used up. The condition over 20 years is definitely taking its toll."

Nickerson was backed by lobster fishermen Kevin Ross of the Brazil Rock Fishermen's Association in calling on the federal government to send a new lifeboat to Clark's Harbour, at least temporarily, for the opening of the winter lobster season.

Coast Guard claims reliability record not bad

The Coast Guard agrees with Nickerson and Ross that the station at Clark's Harbour is one of the busiest Canada.

Nickerson says it receives 120 search and rescue calls a year.

But, in a background briefing Monday, a Coast Guard official said the Clark's Harbour lifeboats have a good record for reliability.

The Coast Guard will send two larger vessels to the area, in addition to the lifeboat on station, during the opening of the lobster season.

The military will provide aerial surveillance.

Both steps are customary for one of Canada's biggest fisheries.

The official said the Coast Guard wharf at the Clark's Harbour needs to be expanded to accommodate the larger bay-class vessel and the wharfside electrical power system needs to be upgraded.

For his part, Nickerson did not say the vessels are unsafe, noting they pass safety inspection.

About the Author

Paul Withers

Reporter

Paul Withers is an award-winning journalist whose career started in the 1970s as a cartoonist. He has been covering Nova Scotia politics for more than 20 years.