Kits Coast Guard Station

Published: November 15, 2015

Kits Coast Guard Station, The new federal minister in charge of the Canadian Coast Guard has been given his marching orders: reopen the Kitsilano Coast Guard base.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau published his official mandate letters to his ministers on Friday. Among the directives for Fisheries and Oceans Minister Hunter Tootoo is to reopen the base, which was closed by the previous Conservative government in 2013. It makes good on a campaign promise Trudeau made during a visit to North Vancouver in May. Former Kitsilano base commander and

North Vancouverite Fred Moxey joined Trudeau in the campaign, to spread the word that the Coast Guard would have been far more responsive to April’s M/V Marathassa bunker fuel spill if the Kits base was still open.

Moxey warmly greeted the news of its reopening on Friday. “I’m just so happy. I can’t tell you how happy I am,” he said. Moxey said he spent two years of his retirement trying to persuade the former Conservative government to reopen the station. “It took an oil spill to reopen the station,” he said. “I thought it would have been a loss of life that would have done it.”

Now the former commander is offering his services in getting the base rebooted.

“(Trudeau) did ask me if I would be available to them for any advice. I did say that I would come out of retirement to assist in reopening the station,” he said.

Moxey has experience in reopening a base. The same one was destroyed by fire in 1991 and Moxey oversaw its rebuild. After the closure of the Kits base, the Conservatives did set up a temporary station in Stanley Park with a fast-response zodiac but not the primary search and rescue or environmental response vessel the old base had. “They quickly realized there were too many SAR incidents to handle so they put in a portable,” he said. “They get about 160 calls a year.”

Since its closure, the tidal floats needed for the docks have been removed and the building has had all its electronics stripped out. Moxey said he would advise bringing the $300,000 portable building around on a barge and using it as a temporary station until the old one is refurbished.

“Right away, within a week, we could have it up and running,” he said Moxey said he’d like to see the base not just reopened but expanded to accommodate the Vancouver Police Department’s marine unit, the Port Metro Vancouver fire boats, and marine section of Canada Customs, allowing it to function as a command centre for any large-scale disasters.”We’d all be at one location. There’d be just one cost for housing everyone,” he added.

West Vancouver Mayor Michael Smith, who was forced to close several of his community’s beaches when bunker fuel washed ashore, said he too was pleased with the news.

Smith called the Marathassa spill a “classic example of Murphy’s Law.”

“The reality is, the spill was five minutes from the Coast Guard station and the response from the Coast Guard and other government officials was clearly inadequate. It took hours to get there. It took a boater out having his drink on his aft deck to report the spill in the first place,” he said.

“My original impression was that the cost saving of closing it was not going to be huge and it seemed to be perfectly located to (respond) to the distress calls when they were needed. … Being a boater, I know that things happen very quickly on the water. If you have something happen, you want somebody there quickly.”

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