The Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) is responsible for the safe movement of ships through inland and coastal waters. Vital maritime services provided by the CCG include aids to navigation, waterways management, environmental response, icebreaking, search and rescue, and marine communications and traffic services. This article will explore how the CCG is responding to a changing sea of issues and expectations at an international, national and regional level.
Coping with increasing cargo, passenger traffic and vessel size, climate change, migration, over-fishing, terrorism, and piracy, as well as improving distress and disaster response are just some of the trends driving the need for robust coast guard capacity.
Photo above: Jesse Lawson, Superintendent of Maritime and Civil Infrastructure, atop the 990-metre-high Maitland Island mountain-top construction site. In the background, the Chinook heavy-lift helicopter can be seen approaching with a 15,000-lb sling load of new equipment.
In the global context, it is important to note that as a civilian body, the CCG cannot provide enforcement of international and national laws and regulations about the sea, the environment, and sovereignty. The CTA Review Panel observed, “Canada is unusual in having a civilian coast guard. In other northern jurisdictions, such as Denmark, Greenland, Norway, Iceland, Finland, Russia, and the United States, the coast guard is a military or security organization.”
Regardless of organizational structure, coast guards around the world are responding to several common challenges.
In mid-September 2017, Japan hosted the North Pacific Coast Guard Forum Summit which brought together the coast guards of Canada, China, Japan, Russia, South Korea, and the United States to discuss maritime safety and security in the North Pacific Ocean.
“Our co-ordinated efforts through the North Pacific Coast Guard Forum (NPCGF) will continue to keep the North Pacific Ocean safe and navigable, while supporting economic interests of forum member countries. We recently had an opportunity to feature this important collaboration through the NPCGF live exercise in Seattle in June 2017. This exercise successfully allowed us to share and learn best practices in how to manage response to large-scale incidents and oil spills, and emergency response operations,” said Commissioner Jeffery Hutchinson, Canadian Coast Guard.
On the margins of the NPCGF, Japan also hosted leaders from 35 nations, and three international organizations for the world’s first global coast guard summit. The event centred on three themes: Maritime safety and marine environment protection, maritime security, and capacity building.
Participating countries included the U.S., Canada, South Korea, China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, India, Australia, Turkey, Russia, and France.