The Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) is responsible for the safe movement of ships in inland and coastal waters. Vital maritime services provided by the CCG includes aids to navigation, waterways management, environmental response, icebreaking, search and rescue, and marine communications and traffic services.
National Coast Guard Initiatives
The Government of Canada on November 7, 2016, announced the Oceans Protection Plan (OPP) to help Canada achieve a world-leading marine safety system. The importance of safe shipping to support Canada’s international trade interests and the need to address the public perception of transportation-related risks were essential factors driving this one in a generation marine policy initiative. The Government of Canada’s tasked the Canadian Coast Guard’s (CCG) with an expanded role in patrolling and monitoring Canada’s marine environment 24/7 and acting as a first responder to maritime incidents.
Heavily influenced by British Columbia’s interests and public expectations the OPP incorporated several distinctive features including:
- Strengthening CCG’s Marine Communications and Traffic Services Centres (Canada’s ears and eyes on the water) to ensure uninterrupted communications with mariners;
- Increasing towing capacity by leasing two large vessels capable of towing commercial vessels and large container ships; and
- Installing towing kits on CCG major vessels to improve capacity to take swift action to avoid disasters.
- Launching a comprehensive plan to reduce abandonment of ships, and clean up existing derelict and wrecked vessels to minimize the associated risks of these vessels harming the environment.
- Conducting regular response exercises with communities, stakeholders and Indigenous communities to ensure response readiness.
Canadian Coast Guard in British Columbia
While the operation of the CCG fleet and the OPP policy announcements were highly visible, Canadian maritime commerce in British Columbia also relies on the often-hidden infrastructure. As the CCG’s Regional Director of Integrated Technical Services (ITS) Cliff Hunt remarked, “the work of his highly dedicated and innovative team stands at the forefront of safe shipping and incident prevention.” The group is responsible for the lifecycle management of all CCG assets in support of incident management, navigational programs and fleet operations.
The lack of road, electrical and other infrastructure along large portions of BC’s coastline presents several challenges requiring a proactive CCG approach to managing cost and the adoption of new technology even in a period of enhanced resources. For this reason, the ITS staff are comprised of over 200 engineers, technicians, technologist, trades people and support staff.
In the western region alone, the CCG has completed construction on 251 aids to navigation sites in the 2017/18 fiscal year. North-west Vancouver Island, Barkley Sound/Alberni Inlet, Skidigate Narrows and the Kitimat project are just some of the priority locations completed this year. For perspective, the CCG Western Region has a total of 3,816 short-range aids to navigation, of which 1,786 are in the B.C. & the Northwest Territories. Increased funding has resulted in a tenfold increase in the number of navigation aid projects the CCG is able to complete each year according to Mr. Hunt.
The Canadian Coast Guard is also modernizing and investing in its infrastructure to take advantage of today’s latest technological innovations to deliver Marine Communications and Traffic Service. While the physical locations of the two upgraded marine communications and traffic services centres generated some public awareness infrastructure large and widely dispersed network of remote monitoring sites is required to make the system effective and expand the range of coverage for shippers is also required.
The OPP provided a $20 million funding commitment for six new radar sites in BC. For example, the introduction a new mountaintop radar project is required to enhance marine vessel communications coverage in the Central Coast / Vancouver Island Inside Passage Region. Each mountaintop site construction costs alone can be in the range of $2 million according to Mr. Hunt. To address both operational and cost pressures the CCG utilizes an innovative integrated project logistics approach. Most recently the buildings were fabricated in Sooke, transported to the Victoria CCG base, fitted up and then barged up the coast and installed in place atop a mountain using a heavy lift helicopter where final equipment testing and site commissioning testing took place. This approach resulted in cost savings over the traditional method of mobilizing equipment, crew, and materials to access remote locations with short construction seasons.
In British Columbia, there has been a significant amount of technology and investment occurring in the CCG’s infrastructure that remains largely invisible to the public. This massive level of effort around implementing these improvements will not go unnoticed or unappreciated by the maritime community and Canadian firms that rely on international trade.