Lack of respect

Andrew
Andrew Robinson
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Wiseman says Halifax rescue centre downplays local response to marine rescues

Merv Wiseman speaks during a protest at the small boat basin on the south side of St. John's harbour in a recent effort to have the marine rescue sub-centre re-opened. - Telegram file photo

The spokesman for the union representing workers at Canadian Coast Guard radio stations in Newfoundland and Labrador claims the Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre (JRSCC) in Halifax has purposely downplayed local contributions made to recent marine rescues.

"In each case, what's been reported, of course, is that the JRSCC in Halifax orchestrated the intervention there and executed the case and so on, but you know in each case the Coast Guard radio stations were on the very front end of this," said Merv Wiseman, speaking on behalf of Canadian Auto Workers union Local 2182.

Two distress incidents at sea recently occurred on water surrounding the Avalon Peninsula.

Thursday, a pleasure craft called Labrador Freedom sank in Trinity Bay after it caught fire. The night before, a longliner called Nautical Twilight broke down off Torbay and was drifting towards rocks along the shore. No one was hurt in either incident.

On the former incident, The Telegram reported crew members that abandoned the boat "placed a mayday call" to JRSCC from a cellphone.

However, Wiseman said the station in St. John's received the initial mayday calls in both cases before issuing mayday relays to all vessels in the area. A longliner in the vicinity of the Nautical Twilight subsequently tied a rope onto the vessel to prevent it from drifting towards the shore.

"Their actions have been totally and absolutely operative on the front end to executing these cases properly and doing a very good job, and yet there's no acknowledgement of their role in this, and in fact it doesn't even look like they exist, and I'm saying they're being purposely scripted out of the communications that come from the department on this intentionally."

Stations in St. Anthony and St. John's are due to close at some point in 2014 or 2015, according to Wiseman.

"Our staff is very frustrated after doing a very good job saving lives and being involved in distress, very frustrated their work can't be acknowledged."

Wiseman contends that local marine communications and traffic services staff have situational awareness about local vessels not possessed by JRSCC.

"I know the relationship very well between the two," said Wiseman. "I know the JRSCC has got the authority and the responsibility and the decision-making people in terms of what resources will go and how the case is going to be executed, but the facilitation and the way these expert radio operators perform is absolutely key to facilitating the process for the JRSCC in Halifax."

arobinson@thetelegram.com Twitter: TeleAndrew

Organizations: Canadian Coast Guard, Joint Rescue Co, Canadian Auto Workers union Local 2182 The Telegram

Geographic location: Halifax, Newfoundland and Labrador, St. John's Trinity Bay Torbay St. Anthony

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  • Maurice E. Adams
    September 08, 2012 - 14:46

    While I stand to be corrected, the workload of Coast Guard staff at St. John's will be transferred to those at Argentia's radar equipped tanker monitoring centre. What will that do in terms of increased risk to tanker traffic and potential fishing vessel/tanker incidents in Placentia Bay. The centre's traffic regulating staffing level is already well below what was originally planned and what previously existed at that centre.