Unintelligible communication with Coast Guard risks marine safety

OTTAWA, March 10, 2016 /CNW/ - Ongoing failures in the "new" technology deployed in the Coast Guard's Marine Communications and Traffic Services (MCTS) centres in Victoria and Prince Rupert are so serious that the union representing coast guard communication officers is warning that the safety of vessels and the coastline are at risk.

Audio, obtained by Unifor using a Freedom of Information request, was presented to the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans in Ottawa today during a meeting on the planned closure of the Comox MCTS station. The audio exchange, originating from the Marine Communications and Traffic Services Centre in Iqaluit, clearly demonstrates that, at times, Coast Guard transmissions from MCTS stations using the new technology are unintelligible. Listen to the audio here: https://soundcloud.com/unifor/tracks

"In some instances, the transmissions are so rife with echoes and static they are distorted beyond comprehension," said Joie Warnock, Unifor's Western Director. "We're talking about vital communications here with the potential to be a life or death situation."

Unifor is demanding a halt to the planned closure of the Comox communications centre. The Comox location does not use the new technology, so it is the only functional redundancy during the ongoing problems in Victoria and Prince Rupert. The malfunctioning technology was initially supposed to reduce the number of MCTS centres required on the coast. By monitoring traffic, they are the first line of defense if a crew is in distress or an ecological disaster strikes. Scott Hodge, a Coast Guard member for over twenty years, told the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans that over the last two years 9 of the 22 MCTS Centres were closed without consulting industry, mariners, the public, or the Union.

In addition to technological flaws with downsizing, Unifor says that geographic and seismic considerations demand a cancellation of the planned closure of the Comox base. Both the Prince Rupert and Victoria MCTS centres lie in a tsunami hazard zone in older buildings that will be evacuated during a major earthquake. Only the Comox base could be staffed for the emergencies inherent in a seismic event.

Unifor Western Director Joie Warnock is available for media interviews. Joie will be in Winnipeg on March 10 and 11. Unifor is Canada's largest union in the private sector, representing nearly 300 communication officers at Canada's Marine Communications and Traffic Services (MCTS) centres.


For further information: please contact Unifor Communications Representative Ian Boyko at 778-903-6549 (cell) or Ian.Boyko@Unifor.org

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