Marine Atlantic HQ officially opened in North Sydney

Published on August 16, 2013
Minister of Transport Lisa Raitt speaks during Thursday’s ribbon-cutting for Marine Atlantic’s administration and warehouse facilities in North Sydney, N.S. — Photo byGreg McNeil/ Cape Breton Post

By Greg McNeil

TC Media—North Sydney, N.S.

When the the Blue Puttees ran aground in Port aux Basques earlier this month, Marine Atlantic’s immediate response plan was run through the Crown corporation’s facility in North Sydney, N.S.

The ultra-modern emergency operations centre where the Blue Puttees response plan was orchestrated is one of many security and monitoring features of the new administration and warehouse facilities discussed during the ribbon-cutting ceremonies Thursday.

“Basically, sometimes people think it is hard to be a part of an emergency if you are not directly in the location or close to the area,” said Marine Atlantic’s vice-president of operations Murray Hupman.

“In our case, we ran the Blue Puttees incident from our emergency operations centre here and we basically were completely connected by video and audio conferencing systems. We had at all times full tracking of the vessel in real time.”

Hupman said the same remote technology allows him to look at anything happening at any Marine Atlantic terminals and track vessels at any time.

Other technological advancements include a board room that can host functional meetings with groups in several locations through the use of video conferencing.

“We can actually share documents and have meetings from anywhere in the world from one room and it feels like you are part of the group meeting.”

The building features automated security systems and the newest electrical, heat and light and air conditioning equipment.

“The other big area is the reservations centre,” he said. “The call centre basically went from what I would say is ’50s, ’60s technology to close to the most modern technology there is.”

Now things like the number and length of calls can instantly and constantly be monitored so  staff can handle call backlogs more efficiently.

The facilities employ about 85 people during peak times. They opened last October.

The ceremonies featured guest speakers Cecil Clarke, mayor of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality and Lisa Rait, federal minister of transportation.

Raitt talked about the importance of such buildings to the community.

“For me to come back as the minister who has responsibility for the Crown corporation known as Marine Atlantic is an absolute humbling experience,” she said.

“So many people in my family either worked (for it) or depended upon it growing up.

“My aunt Colleen MacNeil had MacNeil’s Motel on the highway out in Bras d’Or. The reason that existed there was because of people coming and going to Newfoundland.”

Clarke said the facility represents economic prosperity for all.

“When you look at the Newfoundland and Labrador marketplace we see future growth and opportunity and you can’t service that marketplace unless you have the tools,” Clarke said.

“You need the ships. You need the facilities, the equipment to do the job and, most importantly, people need the supports to do it. This building is a phenomenal example of the commitment to long-term future of Marine Atlantic as a service.”

Cape Breton Post