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Marine rescue station site to be chosen soon

The Canadian Coast Guard will reveal the site of its first Arctic in-shore marine rescue station within weeks, says Peter Garapick, its superintendent of Arctic search and rescue.

Search-and-rescue officer Stephen Thompson of the Canadian Coast Guard's Central and Arctic Region was in Cambridge Bay on Oct. 10 to give a presentation on the set up of an in-shore marine rescue station. Navalik Tologanak/NNSL photo

Iqaluit, Cambridge Bay, Rankin Inlet, Pond Inlet and Cape Dorset were locations that Garapick mentioned as possibly fitting the criteria.

The Coast Guard studied the level of risk in 45 Northern communities based on population, the volume of marine traffic, the amount of fishing and hunting and tourism activity, Garapick explained, noting that staff accommodations and a place for boat storage during the winter also have to be considered.

"We'll crunch the numbers and come up with a location in the coming weeks," he said.

The selected community will host a fast rescue craft and a Zodiac vessel. The site will have up to eight workers splitting two-week shifts. The Coast Guard will fly the workers to site and home again, Garapick said.

The station, which has a budget of up to $5 million, should be operational by June and in use until September.

"This is a test run," Garapick said. "There's more boats, more activity (in Arctic waters) and we can't rely on icebreakers to be diverted for hours and days. We can't wait for the Hercs (airplanes) and the Cormorants (helicopters) to come from the south when an effective local resource could solve the problem and save the lives in a much shorter period of time. So we'll see how it works."

Evaluations of the Arctic marine rescue station will help determine if and when other sites are added in the future, said Garapick.

Some Arctic communities have long relied on volunteer Coast Guard auxiliary members who use a local boat and receive training through the Coast Guard.

Although the primary purpose of the station will be rescue-related, staff could also be called upon to respond to environmental emergencies, such as fuel spills, said Garapick.

Students will be hired

A recruitment drive is underway to fill the Arctic marine rescue station positions, and students – particularly those with boating experience – are being targeted. The jobs will pay close to $25 an hour, and even more for night calls, Garapick noted. Funding for the initiative originated from a federal student work employment program.

Those hired will fly to Ontario for two weeks of in-shore rescue boat training and that will be followed by more training in the North. After two years as a crew member, there's potential to take over as supervisor of the station, Garapick said. Furthermore, there's an opportunity to turn the experience into a career, either with the Coast Guard or commercial shipping outfits, he added.

Coast Guard representatives are spending part of October visiting Cambridge Bay, Iqaluit, Rankin Inlet, Inuvik, NWT, and Kuujjuaq, Que. to explain the purpose of the station and to drum up interest in the jobs.