Coast Guard upgrades to new tech, boosts safety

In British Columbia centres will be upgraded with the latest generation of interconnected radio communications technology.

Dear editor,

The Canadian Coast Guard must correct recent inaccuracies being reported about changes to its Marine Communications and Traffic Service centres (MCTS).

Our centres rely on a  network of unmanned radio and radar towers to pick up and transmit digital and audio information, which is then shared with our highly trained employees at MCTS centres across Canada. Coast Guard’s radio and radar towers will remain exactly where they are today.

In British Columbia, and across Canada, our centres will be upgraded with the latest generation of interconnected radio communications technology. If a centre were to experience an outage, a neighbouring one will be able to pick up the geographical area covered by that centre until service is restored. This improves reliability and enhances the safety of mariners.

The old system, based on integrating diverse information from 30-year-old technology and first-generation computer systems, was always a challenge. As an example, a significant portion of MCTS Operators’ shifts, as much as 25 per cent, was spent manually recording and maintaining the Continuous Marine Broadcasts of weather and Notices To Shipping information.

Our employees rely on a variety of digital and automated tools that allow them to interpret and act on information from a workstation to deliver services to mariners. This modern technology, which includes communication towers, radars and cameras, means that regardless of fog or darkness it is not necessary to visually observe vessel movements or harbour activity for employees to provide these services.

By having more staff at fewer and better equipped centres, Coast Guard will be able to provide more reliable service to mariners, as well as better manage fluctuating workload and improve backup capabilities. In British Columbia, the MCTS centres in Tofino, Comox, Vancouver, Victoria and Prince Rupert will be consolidated into updated and modernized centres in Victoria and Prince Rupert, continuing the same excellent service mariners experience today.

It is also important to remember that this is not the first time this has been done. For example, in the 1990s, when more effective technology became available the Coast Guard integrated vessel traffic and radio services from 44 stations to 22 stations. There was no impact on services.

The Canadian Coast Guard will continue to ensure its employees have the tools necessary to deliver on our top priority: the safety of mariners.

Jody Thomas

Deputy Commissioner,

Canadian Coast Guard