May 9, 2016
A simple “We’re Back” sign hung from the tower of the Vanier Park facility as staff began the process of getting the base up and running after it was closed due to federal cutbacks by the Stephen Harper government.
Photo: Officer in Charge Simon Jesshope stands outside the reopened Kitsilano Coast Guard Base in Vancouver on Sunday. Ric Ernst / PNG
“There has been an overwhelming show of support by the public, people waving and giving us the thumbs up and saying welcome back,” said Simon Jesshope, the officer in charge of the Kitsilano Coast Guard base.
The Kitsilano base has three crew members on duty right now and within weeks Jesshope said they will have four shifts of three crew members working around the clock. The inside of the building has had a renovation and by June the facility is expected to be finished.
As they move into the busy boating season, Jesshope said they are ready to handle any emergency on the water. “We have 24-hour-a-day search and rescue capability,” he said.
Three boats are tied to the base’s dock, one a pollution response vessel and two rigid-hull inflatables for search and rescue work.
The cutter Osprey was sold after the base was closed in 2013. But Jesshope said the two inflatables they use are adequate for their type of work. “These two vessels are more than capable to handle any weather,” he said.
The Liberal government had promised to reopen the Kitsilano Coast Guard base if elected. Following an oil spill by a cargo boat, the federal government also committed to upgrading the base’s pollution response equipment.
Jesshope said another boat for search and rescue work is on its way. “It is a busy port,” he said of the waterfront they cover.
When the Kitsilano base was shut down, concern was raised about the response time in case of emergencies. With the closure, many of the distress calls were handled from the Coast Guard base at Sea Island in Richmond.
Bill Tieleman, a spokesman for the Union of Canadian Transportation Employees said they are concerned whether there will be enough staff and the right boats to handle the busy volume of calls. “There is no cutter here if you have serious weather,” he said of the loss of the Osprey.
“It is the union’s view they need a cutter and full crew here as soon as possible.”
“The union is hoping everything that was promised by the government gets delivered.”