In February 2022, UFAWU-Unifor became aware of a marine safety crisis unfolding in British Columbia.
The Union learned that the Royal Canadian Air Force had recently retired its Buffalo search-and-rescue plane from service. Alarmingly, a botched plan to replace the aircraft meant B.C. would soon be without any fixed-wing SAR aircraft.
The replacement planes were delayed due to mechanical and technical issues that deemed them unfit for SAR missions. The government’s backup plan involved stationing Hercules aircraft in B.C. “during the high-tempo period in the summer” while holding “response posture from their home base at 17 Wing Base during periods of low-operational-tempo.”
This plan would have put the lives of B.C. fishermen, who operate well outside of said “high-tempo periods,” in jeopardy — along with all mariners travelling the West Coast.
In response to this deeply concerning news, UFAWU-Unifor raised its concerns with the Minister of Defence, Commissioner of Coast Guard, and DFO, asking for an immediate resolution that would see fixed-wing SAR capability returned to full-time stationing.
The letter from UFAWU highlighted not only the danger that a lack of proper SAR aircraft would pose to B.C. fishermen and mariners but the potential shortfall and neglect of adherence to an international agreement on SAR aircraft readiness.
The International Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue dictates that “Parties to the Convention are required to ensure that arrangements are made for the provision of adequate SAR services in their coastal waters.”
Now, following UFAWU-Unifor’s research, outreach, and follow-up on this matter, the Union has learned that a C-130 Search And Rescue Hercules Aircraft has been delivered to the Canadian Armed Forces Base in Comox.
UFAWU-Unifor is grateful to be able to share this news with fishermen and all B.C. mariners. The return of this SAR aircraft to Comox is a great relief and equates to lives saved and tragedies averted.