Cullen: Coast Guard penny-pinching risks lives

  • Feb. 11, 2011 6:00 p.m.

A plan to replace long-serving Coast Guard search and rescue vessels with smaller, less capable motor boats will put lives at risk, MP Nathan Cullen said in the House of Commons February 9.”This will mean a major reduction in the safety services available to people living and working along British Columbia’s coast,” said Mr. Cullen, “and all for the sake of saving a few bucks by cutting staff.”The 70-foot CCGS Point Henry based in Prince Rupert and the Point Race in Campbell River provide critical search and rescue services to the Central and North Coast. They are slated to be replaced by smaller, less capable 47-foot motor life boats.”I’ve talked to search and rescue experts, paramedics, and Coast Guard Auxiliary members. They all say that the Motor Lifeboats are not up to the job. We need a ship to match the challenging conditions of our coastal waters,” Mr. Cullen said.A comparison of the vessels clearly demonstrates the shortcomings of the proposed replacement. The Point-Class ships have a range of 250 miles and can operate at sea for up to 23 hrs. The Motor Lifeboats can travel only 100 miles and stay at sea for just eight hours.In addition, while the Point-Class vessels are designed for up to nine passengers and can carry 20 persons in case of emergency, the Lifeboats are limited to four passengers and often are unable to carry an escort during medical evacuations.”The stats on these ships couldn’t be clearer.” said Mr. Cullen “If the Coast Guard goes through with this down-sizing, the people who depend on the waters for transportation and jobs will be at risk.””The communities have been very clear in their opposition to this plan. We stand with them in calling on the minister of Fisheries and Oceans to reverse the decision and maintain the safety standards for BC’s coast.”