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Maritime Rescue Sub-Centre in St. John’s reopens, facility was closed by Harper government six years ago

Maritime search and rescue co-ordinators at work at the Canadian Coast Guard’s Maritime Rescue Sub-Centre in St. John’s Thursday. The sub-centre was officially reopened on Thursday.
Maritime search and rescue co-ordinators at work at the Canadian Coast Guard’s Maritime Rescue Sub-Centre in St. John’s Thursday. The sub-centre was officially reopened on Thursday. - Glen Whiffen

‘Righting a wrong’

It had already been operating for 18 days on Thursday and during that time has dealt with 23 marine calls.

The Canadian Coast Guard’s Maritime Rescue Sub-Centre (MRSC) in St. John’s was officially reopened on Thursday by Veterans’ Affairs Minister Seamus O’Regan, who called it a day that a wrong was made right.

Minister of Veterans Affairs Seamus O’Regan tours the building under construction that will become the new Canadian Coast Guard Atlantic headquarters. The building is expected to be completed and ready for occupancy in early 2019. -Glen Whiffen/The Telegram
Minister of Veterans Affairs Seamus O’Regan tours the building under construction that will become the new Canadian Coast Guard Atlantic headquarters. The building is expected to be completed and ready for occupancy in early 2019. -Glen Whiffen/The Telegram

O’Regan said it was a dark day for the province in 2012 when the previous Conservative government closed the centre as part of cuts to the Canadian Coast Guard.

The move sparked outrage in the province and a number of large protests.

The Liberal government under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to bring the centre back.

“We made a promise to re-establish it. We did, and $2 million and some hard work later it is back up and running and better than ever,” O’Regan said.

“Staff operating this facility will work closely with the Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Halifax to ensure a rapid and efficient response to maritime incidents. And it will be staffed 24/7 by maritime search and rescue co-ordinators who will lead on-the-water responses to maritime search and rescue incidents.”

The MRSC has 12 specially trained maritime search and rescue co-ordinators, plus supervisors. It is located next to the regional operations centre in the current Canadian Coast Guard building on Southside Road in St. John’s.

The MRSC, along with all other operations in the current building, will be transferred to a new building under construction at the southside harbour base.

O’Regan, other politicians, Coast Guard officials and media were given a tour of the new building Thursday. It is expected to be completed and ready for occupancy in early 2019.

Wade Spurrell, Canadian Coast Guard assistant commissioner for the Atlantic region, said there are a lot of positive things happening with the Coast Guard locally. In addition to the MRSC reopening and the new building under construction, there are three new lifeboat stations and the announcement of a contract to remove bulk oil from the Manolis L shipwreck near Change Islands in Notre Dame Bay. 

The new Canadian Coast Guard Atlantic headquarters building under construction in St. John’s. -Glen Whiffen/The Telegram
The new Canadian Coast Guard Atlantic headquarters building under construction in St. John’s. -Glen Whiffen/The Telegram

“There’s been a significant increase in funding and responsibility in the Coast Guard in the last two years,” Spurrell said. “We’ve hired a lot of people. It’s a good time to be in the Coast Guard, with growth and new people coming on board, and new programs for us to deliver.”

The new Candian Coast Guard Atlantic headquarters building will have improved security, more natural daylight and modern workspaces. The building will have environmentally friendly features such as geothermal energy to heat and cool the building — which will eliminate the annual cost of burning 200,000 litres of fuel — as well as energy-efficient lighting and water fixtures.

The existing building — constructed in 1962 — will be demolished after the transfer of employees and equipment to the new building is completed.

O’Regan said the focus on the Canadian Coast Guard is a key part of the Government of Canada’s Oceans Protection Plan, which is seeing $1.5 billion spent on various projects to improve marine safety, protect the marine environment and support economic growth.

He said the presence of the MRSC in St. John’s is important because in any given year in Newfoundland and Labrador there are about 375 maritime search and rescue incidents.

“And any family or community that has to deal with an incident like this, it is life changing,” he said. “By reopening this facility it will provide an essential link for mariners and other ocean users who are operating in the unique, challenging and dangerous waters off our coast. It will allow staff to take the appropriate search and rescue actions and utilize the proper resources to resolve an incident as quickly and as safely as possible.”

glen.whiffen@thetelegram.com

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