The station was back up and running as of May 1st after the federal Liberals made good on an election promise to re-open, after the previous government closed it in 2013.
But Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Dominic Le Blanc, announced the site would become a “first of its kind” in Canada as of April 2017, with the capability to respond to oil spills and other environmental emergencies, as well as the mandate to provide training services for local communities who want to be part of a response network.
“This will be a unique facility in the country,” he said.
“The number of personnel is going up, the equipment is improving, the training is getting better. If there is the need to add additional resources, we will do exactly that as well.”
Coast Guard Assistant Commissioner Roger Gerard confirmed there will be at least five people, including environmental response specialists, working 24/7 at the Kitsilano base – two more than pre-closure staffing levels.
“We’re looking at a five person model that includes environmental response capability which means we can launch two vessels simultaneously if we had to,” he said.
The base will be home to three vessels, including an all-weather capability vessel, a fast-rescue craft, and a pollution-response vessel.
The Coast Guard at the Kitslano base has already responded to over 100 search-and-rescue calls and 13 environmental response calls since it re-opened in May, according to Le Blanc.
“It’s an essential service,” he said.
The government allocated $23.6 million over the next five years in the federal budget to expanding the base.
There are no details about what the training programs will look like yet but Coast Guard Commissioner Jody Thomas said it is reaching out to local groups, including indigenous communities, to ensure they will have access to the resources and equipment needed to help in the event of an oil spill or search and rescue incident.
“By working together, we can collectively provide more effective response than any one of us can on our own.”