The Jericho Sailing Centre Association is joining other recreational boating and commercial marine organizations in British Columbia by encouraging members to do something they probably haven't done for a long time - send a physical letter; snail mail.
Below is a sample letter to the Minister, Fisheries and Oceans Canada expressing concerns about the planned closure of the Kitsilano Coast Guard Station. We encourage members to write their own letters or welcome them to use all or part of the letter below and copy their own Member of Parliament and the ranking BC Conservative Member, James Moore. Physical letters are harder to ignore than emails or petitions and your life, and the lives of others, could well depend on the final decision to save Kitsilano Coast Guard Station.
June 13, 2012
Honorable Keith Ashfield, Minister, Fisheries and Oceans Canada
200 Kent Street, 13th Floor
Station 13E228 OW, ON
K1A 0E6 Canada
Hon. Mr. Keith Ashfield:
This letter is written to express strong concerns regarding the planned closure of the Kitsilano Canadian Coast Guard Station in Vancouver. Your consideration of the following objections and forwarding of these comments to other responsible authorities would be most appreciated.
Retired Canadian Coast Guard: Captains, Search and Rescue analysts, SAR specialists; marine industry experts, commercial marine workers, recreational boaters, beach lifeguards, and the Canadian Coast Guard's regional advisory board all agree: closure of the Kitsilano Coast Guard Station would be a tragic mistake that will certainly result in the loss of lives. The consensus is that our concerns must be heard.
The Kitsilano Coast Guard Station, over the past 20 years, has consistently been the busiest Coast Guard Station in Canada. Located centrally to serve Vancouver Harbour, Canada's largest and busiest port, as well as surrounding areas; more than 5 million people annually transit the waterway within a 10 minute response time radius of the Kitsilano Coast Guard Station.
Contrary to local marine community knowledge, a number of Federal politicians have stated their opinion that such a closure would not put lives at risk and that response times will actually be improved. Examination of the facts indicates that opinion is blatantly wrong.
The Canadian Coast Guard and Federal politicians are telling Vancouver's marine community that their closest "rescue partners" will be able to fill the large void left by the closure of the Kitsilano Coast Guard Station, yet we all know, and the attached nautical chart illustrates, that the closest "rescue partner" is actually 45 minutes away from the epicenter of Kits Coast Guard Station's 10 minute response zone. We are also, acutely aware, that the professional accountants, carpenters, businessmen, students, etc., that comprise the "rescue partner" auxiliary crews are not an adequate substitute for professional coast guard crew members in a dire marine emergency. Extending the burden of volunteer rescuers to cover the loss of Canada's busiest Coast Guard Station not only puts the public at increased risk; it also increases the risk to these dedicated and committed auxiliary volunteer rescuers.
There are numerous reasons why the Sea Island Station cannot provide adequate safety coverage for the Vancouver Harbour area in addition to their current area of responsibility.
Any response from the Sea Island Station to the Vancouver Harbour area of responsibility would require travel in excess of thirty minutes in ideal sea conditions, which is often not the case.
The Sea Island Station's hovercraft responds to marine emergencies throughout the Salish Sea and the Gulf Islands. During the busy summer season the hovercraft is kept extremely busy and would frequently not be available to respond to an emergency situation in or near Vancouver Harbour.
When there is a serious incident in the highly concentrated marine traffic area of False Creek, it will take, according to a recently retired hovercraft captain, 35 minutes to the entrance and because of restricted navigational circumstances, an additional 25 minutes to get to the east end. The hovercraft is not the right vessel for a rapid response to this exceptionally busy and confined marine traffic area.
The Vancouver marine community is being told that the Sea Island Coast Guard Station will be getting a "NEW hovercraft" as if it were getting an "additional" hovercraft. This appears to be a deliberately misleading statement, as an existing hovercraft will be retired when the new one comes on line - there is no increase in Coast Guard service from Sea Island to fill the large void left by the closure of the Kitsilano Coast Guard Station.
Deep sea traffic: freighters, oil tankers and cruise ships; regularly travel amongst the variety of fishing vessels, tug boats, barges and pleasure craft through the First Narrows, the epicenter of the Kitsilano Coast Guard Station's response radius. Any disruption or loss of this traffic, or an obstruction in this critical waterway, could mean an extreme financial loss to Vancouver and adjacent cities, as well as the revenues of the Province of British Columbia and Canada.
Among the numerous other vessels and activities in Vancouver Harbour, the Sea Bus ferry operation runs scheduled trips daily between downtown Vancouver and North Vancouver. Vancouver Harbour also contains one of Canada's busiest float plane and helicopter operations.
It is inconceivable to think that all of this marine traffic will be left without the closest, best possible, Coast Guard emergency service.
With the future anticipated growth in commercial marine traffic, including oil tankers, through Port Metro Vancouver, the short sightedness of Federal planning to close a major Coast Guard facility with rapid environmental emergency response capabilities, is further evidenced by the relocation of the Government Oil Spill Team to Alberta. What will be the response time of this group should any of these large vessels run aground or collide?
The Coast Guard cutters based at Kitsilano Station have greater fire fighting capabilities, larger pumping equipment to help keep a sinking vessel afloat, life saving and other equipment that the inflatable boats are not capable of carrying. They can get to places in extreme conditions that a hovercraft can't. The current Coast Guard facility and its professional crews need to be supported and the service expanded in order to provide the best possible and fully meaningful response.
The real requirement is the provision of equipment and staff to levels that would ensure that the emergency services provided on the West Coast of Canada meets the capabilities that should be mandatory for the volumes of traffic present, and expanding, in this area.
The amount of money reportedly saved by closure of the Kitsilano Coast Guard Station cannot be considered sufficient reason to potentially place lives, of Canadians and our sea borne or air borne visitors, and the protection of this area's beautiful environment, at increased risk.