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Canadian Coast Guard 'rolling the dice' with offshore search and rescue coverage: SEA-NL

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Friday, Nov. 3rd, 2023 — Seaward Enterprises Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (SEA-NL) says the Canadian Coast Guard is rolling the dice with maritime safety with only a single primary offshore search and rescue (SAR) vessel dedicated to covering the province’s entire offshore area.

The Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) vessel Leonard J. Cowley at drydock in St. John's Friday. The CCG Cygnus was also tied up at a nearby wharf.

“In a maritime environment where every minute could be the difference between life and death in SAR incidents, there is no room for any compromise in response capabilities,” says Merv Wiseman, a member of SEA-NL’s executive, and outspoken advocate for stronger SAR services and fishing-vessel safety.

“My question is not just why SAR standards have been lowered, but for how long and whether this is the new normal?

A Canadian Coast Guard spokesperson in St. John’s confirmed Friday that one offshore vessel, the CCG Ann Harvey, is on primary SAR standby south of Fogo Island — “strategically placed in order to respond to any call on either the East Coast or Northeast Coast of NL.”

The spokesperson noted there are SAR lifeboat stations positioned throughout the province capable of operating up to 100 nautical miles offshore “within certain weather conditions.”

As well, three vessels from DFO’s science fleet are currently completing the fall trawl survey, and can be tasked to SAR operations. Further, an additional SAR lifeboat has been based in St. John’s “temporarily to increase our inshore capacity.”

“With these resources combined, we are confident in a timely and fulsome response to any search and rescue calls the Coast Guard may receive,” the spokesperson said.

Wiseman sees that more as rolling the dice in hopes that nothing happens,.

“A single primary offshore SAR vessel for that much area is below the acceptable standard to cover domestic waters alone — let alone our SAR obligations outside Canada's 200-mile limit.”

The offshore SAR vessel Leonard J. Cowley is currently in dry dock in St. John’s, while the Cygnus is tied up at the Coast guard wharf.


Contact Merv Wiseman 709 689 5735

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