Harper government closes Vancouver Coast Guard communications base

Image: Harbour Centre Vancouver / Shutterstock

Another Coast Guard facility in Vancouver has shuttered its doors. This time, it is the communications centre that manages all ship traffic in the waters of Burrard Inlet.

At 10 a.m. this morning, the Marine Communication and Traffic Services Centre on the 23rd floor of Harbour Centre in downtown Vancouver closed its operations and transferred the region’s maritime communications responsibilities to the Victoria base.

The now-closed downtown Vancouver base overlooked the region, including English Bay and Burrard Inlet where there is a high level of container and cruise ship traffic. For years, the facility monitored the busiest port in Canada, but the decision is being made to save $700,000 in annual operational expenses for the federal government.

In 2012, Stephen Harper’s Conservatives announced a plan to shutdown 10 communications facilities and consolidate operations at 12 existing locations. The remaining stations received renovations totalling $64 million to outfit the facilities with equipment that can monitor marine traffic in distant waterways.

For instance, this means Vancouver’s local marine traffic will be monitored in Victoria with the use of cameras, radar and transponders.

The Vancouver closure adds to the recent spate of Coast Guard facility closures in B.C., including the Tofino/Ucluelet communications centre last month and the highly controversial Kitsilano base in 2013. Another base in Comox is scheduled to shutdown next year.

The federal government maintained its decision to close the communications centre despite local opposition, particularly after last month’s English Bay oil spill when local and provincial government officials blamed Conservative decisions that jeopardize marine safety.

A federal NDP motion to reopen the Kitsilano base was rejected in the House of Commons last month by the Conservative majority.

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