Archived - Government's Response - First Report of the Standing Committee on Canadian Coast Guard Marine Communications and Traffic Services - Response

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The Government of Canada would like to thank the members of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans (SCOFO) for their Report and for their interest in marine safety and the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG). The Government has carefully considered the Standing Committee's Report and recommendations on the Marine Communications and Traffic Services (MCTS) program and is pleased to respond to the recommendations.

The Committee has put forward six recommendations, which the Government believes are best examined in the context of ongoing efforts by the CCG to modernize MCTS. These efforts, to deal with issues related to MCTS, were begun in advance of the SCOFO Report. As part of a larger strategic initiative, the CCG identified MCTS as one of its prominent programs in need of review. The Government believes that the two phase MCTS Strategic Review Project and the implementation of Life Cycle Materiel Management (LCMM) already underway will adequately address most of the findings and recommendations of the Committee.

Overview

MCTS, like other CCG programs, benefit the marine community and the public at large. MCTS provides important marine services through its Vessel Traffic Services centres, such as distress-safety communications and coordination, the monitoring and direction of vessel movements through radio and radar, and the provision of marine radio public communications service. As well, MCTS ensures that vessels intending to enter Canadian waters provide MCTS certain information concerning their compliance with applicable Canadian Acts and regulations before receiving the required clearance.

The CCG's MCTS program is recognized as one of the best in the world with Canada playing a leading role in introducing and using innovative technologies for program delivery. The Government believes that by implementing the current initiatives to modernize MCTS, we will be providing the marine community and the public the benefit of improved efficiencies and innovative technologies, while ensuring that the level of service for marine safety is maintained.

Background

CCG had begun efforts to deal with issues related to MCTS in advance of the SCOFO Report. These efforts are part of a larger strategic initiative that recognized that, as an organization, CCG needed to make significant changes to the way it had been doing business and most importantly, how it had delivered its services to Canadians. Without a modernization, CCG's financial pressures would continue to grow and impact its ability to provide mandated services.

The initiative to modernize the CCG identified MCTS as one of the prominent CCG programs in need of review and modernization. Two initiatives were engaged to this end. The first was a two phase MCTS Strategic Review Project. The second initiative was the start of the implementation in 2000 of Life Cycle Materiel Management (LCMM) by the then newly created CCG Integrated Technical Support (ITS) to deal with the maintenance and replacement of program assets. It is the second phase of the MCTS Strategic, and LCMM that will address five of the six recommendations identified in the Report.

Phase I of the MCTS Strategic Review Project was an examination of what services MCTS is currently mandated to provide, and whether those services will be required in the future. Phase I concluded that MCTS services are relevant and would be required for at least the next decade, and that there existed opportunities for benefiting from new and changing technologies. Based on the findings of this first phase, Phase II would examine in detail the organizational and operational structure required to deliver the MCTS program.

The CCG commenced Phase II of the MCTS Strategic Review Project in February 2003. Three principles will guide the work under Phase II:

Greater operational flexibility and the introduction of new technology are key considerations and work is proceeding to develop detailed options for an efficient, effective and economical MCTS program. The development and implementation of a new MCTS delivery concept will also consider clients' needs, evolving technology, international trends, legal obligations and the best interest of the employees.

Accordingly, the CCG believes that the strategy it has engaged will adequately address the recommendations. The following is a detailed response to each recommendation.

Recommendation 1

That CCG MCTS Pacific Region receive an immediate increase in funding of at least $2 million in the 2003-2004 federal budget specifically targeted to:

That MCTS budgets for the other four regions receive similar consideration.

Government Response

The Government appreciates the Committee's interest and concerns with respect to the CCG's MCTS staff and accepts the intent of this recommendation. The Government does not agree however that an increase in funding should be provided to CCG regions. The Government believes that already initiated changes, along with improvements from the Strategic Review will fully address the Committee's concerns in regard to this recommendation.

The Federal Budget 2003 allocation of $94.6 million to the CCG over the next two years for major repairs to the CCG fleet and shore-based infrastructure and for capital replacement purchases for that infrastructure will greatly benefit MCTS. The CCG is currently in the process of preparing the detailed spending plan for these monies. While a final decision has not been made on how much will be invested in the MCTS infrastructure, the aim is to return that infrastructure to its baseline condition.

The CCG believes that the MCTS Strategic Review and LCMM initiatives it already has underway adequately address most of the findings and recommendations of the Report with regard to resource allocations and human resources. LCMM is addressed at Recommendations 3, 4 and 5. Phase II of the Strategic Review Project will examine in more detail how the MCTS program will be delivered in the future. Human resources issues are addressed at Recommendation 2.

The CCG reviews and evaluates its programs and services on a regular basis to ensure they are delivered efficiently and effectively within allocated resources. Addressing bigger challenges such as large capital investments and the age of some of the equipment requires that the CCG Headquarters and the CCG Regions work collaboratively to find long-term solutions including managing the MCTS program within current funding allocations.

Some of these solutions include ongoing investments in MCTS for projects such as the refurbishment of the North Coast microwave system scheduled for completion in 2004/2005, the West Coast Very High Frequency Network currently in progress and expected to be completed in the 2003/2004 fiscal year and the completion of the Very High Frequency Global Marine Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) on both Coasts in 2003/2004.

On the East Coast, initiatives include the Newfoundland Tower Replacement Project at a cost of $1.7 million due to be completed this year. The Halifax Improvement Project was completed at a cost of $4 million.

Recommendation 2

That action be initiated without delay to bring staffing levels up to a minimum of 7 officers per position.

Government Response

The Government agrees that adequate staffing levels are essential to maintaining MCTS centres, but does not agree to an increase in staffing levels as recommended. The CCG is already taking steps to ensure that MCTS centres are appropriately staffed with trained and qualified personnel.

MCTS Officers recognized and respected for their professionalism. In ensuring that MCTS Officers continue to provide high level vessel traffic management, the Department is taking steps to address the issues of staffing and training.

In 2001, CCG addressed the issue of the staffing standard for MCTS. The review concluded, through a validation exercise that the standard of 5.5 MCTS Officers per workstation is adequate. Further, training of new MCTS Officers is provided through one additional course offered during 2002/2003. For 2003/2004, three more courses are scheduled. The training is in addition to specific technical and refresher training such as Global Marine Distress and Safety Systems, traffic procedures, and distress communications.

Addressing some MCTS human resources issues will also be included in Phase II of the MCTS Strategic Review Project. Phase II will conduct analysis of MCTS workload, review the national staffing standard for use by MCTS based on workload methodology and information gathered during the workload analysis.

Recommendations 3 and 4

Recommendation 3: That a high priority be placed on upgrading and modernizing equipment without delay.

Recommendation 4: That, where equipment is located at remote or poorly accessible sites, it be duplicated so as to provide backup to reduce the risk of service blackouts.

Government Response

The Government recognizes that the upgrading and modernizing of equipment is necessary and accepts the Committee's recommendation. However, with respect to remote sites and the duplication of equipment, the Government accepts this recommendation on the basis that it already duplicates some, albeit not all, of its equipment.

The CCG has introduced LCMM for the management of CCG assets to ensure that assets continue to provide the required levels of service at practical cost over the life of the equipment. Policies, procedures and tools are being developed to ensure that LCMM is implemented consistently throughout all of the CCG's technical community.

Investments from within departmental allocations have also been made to address the aging and technological obsolescence of certain MCTS infrastructure. The CCG embarked on several initiatives to help, in particular, ameliorate the situation on the West Coast where the situation was deemed more urgent.

In fact, the West Coast now has some of the most modern equipment in the country. The Victoria and Vancouver MCTS centres were completely refurbished last year with the latest technology at a cost of $7.2 million. In addition, the replacement of microwave equipment on Vancouver Island was completed during the 1999/2000 fiscal year at a cost of $1 million.

Recommendation 5

That the Technical Services staffing levels be increased to a level at which equipment can be maintained on a routine schedule of preventative maintenance rather than waiting until it fails.

Government Response

The Government accepts the Committee's recommendation for the preventative maintenance of equipment but has adopted a different strategy to the Committee's recommendation of an increase in staffing levels.

With the introduction of LCMM, to manage assets from conception to disposal, the planning for the resources needed to keep the equipment operational for its entire life expectancy will be done up front. The equipment repair and/or modification costs will also be monitored on a continuous basis. This will allow for decisions to be made to either upgrade or replace the equipment as required. In introducing LCMM, Technical Services staffing levels needed to conduct required maintenance will be identified as part of the introduction of systems.

Recommendation 6

That the mandate of CCG MCTS be enhanced to include a formal role in national security.

Government Response

Following September 11, 2001, the Federal Government developed a response to the need for an enhanced level of marine security in Canada. This decision designated the Minister of Transport as the responsible minister for the co-ordination of marine security within Canada. This decision also maintained the CCG's current role of supporting the security community.

The CCG is neither an enforcement nor a security agency. The CCG's mandate continues to be marine safety, environmental protection and the facilitation of marine commerce. The CCG does however have a role in supporting the security community by assisting other government departments through the collection and dissemination of marine information and the provision of infrastructure and expertise. In support of this role, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans will receive up to $37.5 million in new resources, over five years, as part of the Minister of Transport's recent announcement of up to $172.5 million for the enhancement of marine security in Canada. The Department will use this funding to enhance its security support role through the expansion of its air surveillance program, and the implementation of an improved short and long-range vessel identification and tracking capability.

In the new security environment, the provision of these services make a significant contribution to the enhancement of marine security in Canada. In this context, DFO continues to work with Transport Canada, the lead federal department for marine security, and the larger security community through a number of interdepartmental groups and partnerships focusing on marine security.

To date, the MCTS role in marine security has been very effective. MCTS personnel and systems have been recognized as valuable front line contributors to the enhancement of marine security. The federal government has not identified a need for MCTS to be given a mandate for national security surveillance as part of the government's national security mandate. As such, MCTS will continue to actively pursue and refine its partnerships with the security community to enhance marine security in Canada.

Conclusion

The safety of the public, the protection of the marine environment, facilitating marine commerce and the well-being of employees remain CCG priorities. The CCG strategic initiatives create an opportunity for MCTS that ensures that progress and innovation will facilitate the task of responding to these priorities.