My father is a tugboat captain, as was my grandfather, and I grew up with a great deal of respect for maritime safety. I also understood how important it is for help to arrive quickly if you get into trouble on the water. So I was astounded, to put it mildly, when Canada’s federal government announced the closing of the Kitsilano coast guard station in Vancouver in September.
I remember going out in Vancouver’s harbour on tugs with my dad. I know how large and busy the harbour is, and how challenging some of it is to navigate. So I can only assume that it’s someone who’s only driven over or walked around the harbour, or seen pictures of it, who thinks that it can be adequately patrolled by crews located at Sea Island in Richmond, which is a half-hour away by sea.
To be blunt, closing the Kitsilano Coast Guard station is stupid. When things go wrong on the water, they can go really wrong really quickly. A half-hour response time is too long, and the response might be considerably longer than that if the crew at the Sea Island station is off on another call – which could easily happen if they are also responsible for safety in the areas they already are assigned to patrol.
This story suggests that volunteers for the Jericho Yacht Club might be expected to respond to distress calls if Coast Guard staff are unavailable, but the story also makes it clear that the Club is likely not prepared or able to do this. It’s also worth noting that Vancouver’s harbour has more than its share of weekend warriors who operate recreational boats with no concern for their own or others’ safety. And all of this is supposed to be patrolled, and distress calls answered promptly, by a Coast Guard station half an hour away? Unbelievable.
The Union of Canadian Transport Employees is participating in a campaign to save the Kitsilano Coast Guard base. I am sure there will be suggestions from the usual naysayers that these highly paid unionized workers are only interested in saving their own jobs. But these are highly skilled professionals in a difficult occupation who know what they are talking about. We need to listen.
Please join me in “liking” the Facebook page for the Save Kitsilano Coast Guard Base campaign, and show your opposition to this short-sighted and potentially very dangerous decision.