“O God, your sea is so great and my boat is so small.”
Long ago, the Breton fishers articulated this prayer that has since resonated with anyone who has encountered violent seas, strong winds and very cold water. The dangers inherent in operating a boat in the waters off Vancouver Island are obvious to anyone who has even briefly thought about the issue of safety on the ocean.
Why is it then, that the Harper Conservative government is building five new 47-foot cutters (300B model) at the Victoria Shipyards for a cost of $19.6 million to replace the 70-foot Point Race in Campbell River and its sister ship, the Point Henry in Prince Rupert?
Reliable sources attest to the seaworthiness of the Point Race and the Point Henry; both ships have been well-maintained and modified over their lifetime.
Both of the present ships have more space for equipment, crews and the injured than the much smaller 300B cutters currently under construction. The slightly higher speed (26 knots) that can be obtained from the new cutters will be offset by the necessity for these much smaller vessels to reduce their speed in heavy seas.
By comparison, both the Cape Race and the Point Henry have a commendable track record in operating with speed in heavy weather. Experts indicate that both of the present vessels have much life left in them and that they are serving the people of the West Coast very well indeed.
The only operational advantage of the cutters under construction is their capacity for self-righting in heavy-surf areas off the west coast and the northeast areas off the Queen Charlotte Islands. The Point class ships have a range of 250 miles and can operate at sea for up to 23 hours.
By comparison, the motor lifeboats can travel only 100 miles and stay at sea for only eight hours.
The new cutters, by virtue of having been being built in Victoria, will create jobs, boost the local economy and cost less to operate than the present vessels. But if the new cutters (motor lifeboats) are less effective, where is the advantage in boosting the economy and creating jobs?
Using the new cutters as replacement vessels will put lives at risk. Aren’t lives more important?
When is the Harper Conservative government going to make decisions that enhance the safety and well-being of hundreds of West Coast fishers and others and their families who depend upon the sea for their livelihood?
Where is the caring and the integrity of MP John Duncan who mumbles that “He does not have a mandate”?
It’s time for a change. A Liberal government would keep the Point Race and the Point Henry in service. Lives matter!
Editor’s note: Mike Holland is the Liberal candidate for the federal riding of Vancouver Island North.