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Three Coast Guard marine communications centres to close

Last Updated Mar 10, 2016 at 10:25 pm PDT

(File Photo)

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – The federal government is moving ahead on its intentions to close three BC Coast Guard communications centres.

The centre located in Tofino will close April 21, while Vancouver’s will cease operations May 6.. A third centre, in Comox, will shut down sometime in early 2016.

Employees were notified last week.

Marine communication centres are responsible for listening for distress calls and guiding ships, much like air traffic controllers at airports.

Scott Hodge, who is with Unifor Local 2182 which represents communications officers, says more centralized operations may mean missed SOS calls.

“In our centres, we are listening to the radio. You can have more than one boater or crew member on a ship communicating on the radio at one time. Radio calls can come in from different areas with different signal strengths. A quiet call from someone in distress might be mixed in with all of the other noises that are going on and you can miss things.”

Communications duties normally carried out in Tofino will be moved to Prince Rupert, while the centre in Victoria will pick up the responsibilities now covered by Comox.

Hodge says with Vancouver marine monitoring moving to Victoria, officers will no longer be able to literally see what’s happening in Burrard Inlet.

“Because there are radar blind spots in the harbour in Vancouver, officers can actually look out the window and see the whole harbour. That ability will be gone when the centre is moved to Victoria.”

The closures are all part of coast guard consolidation the federal government began three years ago, beginning with the scrapping of the Kits Coast Guard Station.