Lifeboats boost coast guard capacity along West Coast

The first two of four new, 19-metre-long Canadian Coast Guard lifeboats have arrived in B.C.

They will be stationed at Port Hardy and Prince Rupert.

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The vessels, costing $7 million each, will help implement Canada’s Oceans Protection Plan, federal Fisheries Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said at the Institute of Ocean Sciences on the Saanich Peninsula on Friday.

The $1.5-billion protection plan was announced in 2016 to focus on marine safety, responsible shipping and protection of the marine environment. It involves working with Indigenous and coastal communities.

“Our investment in these new Bay-class, search-and-rescue lifeboats is enhancing the essential marine search and rescue services we provide in Canada’s waters every day, while supporting and promoting Canada’s marine industry,” Wilkinson said.

“We are extremely proud of the work that the coast guard does every day.”

A Canadian Coast Guard search-and-rescue crew practises a rescue at Friday’s announcement.

The high-endurance lifeboats, being built in Ontario and Quebec, can reach a top speed of 25 knots (46.3 kilometres an hour) in calm waters and operate up to 100 nautical miles (185 kilometres) from shore, he said.

They can stay on the job in hurricane-force conditions and right themselves if they capsize.

The Pachena Bay will be stationed in Port Hardy, on northern Vancouver Island, in 2019. The McIntyre Bay will be based in Prince Rupert. Each will have a crew of four.

Two more similar lifeboats will be delivered to B.C. within four years.

The vessels will join the coast guard’s existing West Coast fleet, which includes 13 Victoria-built, 47-foot-long lifeboats.

The Pachena Bay and McIntyre Bay are among 20 similar vessels being built in Canada. They are the third and fourth to be built. The first two lifeboats are stationed in Eastern Canada.

Chantier Naval Forillon won a $45.8-million contract in July 2015 to build six new lifeboats. That contract created 25 new jobs for workers at the company’s operations in Gaspé, Quebec, while supporting 25 existing shipyard jobs.

Hike Metal Products was awarded a $43.4-million contract at the same time for six vessels. This contract created 45 jobs in Wheatley, Ont.

On Dec. 6 of this year, Chantier Naval Forillon and Hike Metal Products signed amended contracts that will see each shipyard build four additional lifeboats at a total cost of $61.7 million.

These boats are part of the small-vessel component of the national shipbuilding strategy.

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