Newfoundland and Labrador's intergovernmental affairs minister says recent confusion in the rescue of crew members aboard a container ship highlights the need for St. John's to have its own maritime rescue sub-centre.
On Sunday, Joint Task Force (JTF) Atlantic responded to a distress call from MSC Monterey, 34 nautical miles off Portugal Cove South, which reported a problem with its hull and was in danger of breaking apart. Four non-essential crew were airlifted from the vessel, which anchored 9:30 p.m. Sunday.
During the rescue, JTF Atlantic's Twitter account noted the operation in progress "South of Portugal Cove." Portugal Cove and Portugal Cove South are 140 kilometres apart, at opposite ends of the eastern edge of the Avalon Peninsula.
Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Steve Kent said Monday the mixup - which did not affect the rescue operation - highlights the necessity of reopening the St. John's maritime rescue sub-centre, which was closed by the federal government in May 2012.
"What's most important here is that everybody is safe and that the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre out of Halifax successfully co-ordinated efforts of search and rescue responders," said Kent. "Protocols were certainly followed, and I'm pleased that everything went well. However, there was certainly a communications issue that was discovered on Twitter, as whoever was managing the account referred to 'Portugal Cove' instead of 'Portugal Cove South.'"
Kent said it's similar to an early 2013 incident in which a co-ordination centre employee voice recording said a search was underway for a missing Newfoundland hunter in the Port-au-Prince peninsula area. The hunter was actually missing near Port au Port. Port-au-Prince is in Haiti.
"I think these issues speak to the complexities in Newfoundland and Labrador with our geography, and it speaks to the importance of having local presence and local knowledge in terms of our search and rescue efforts," said Kent. "It's absolutely critical that the marine rescue sub-centre in St. John's and the communications centre in St. Anthony be reinstated, and this is a good example as to why."
Kent said he's requested a meeting with Defence Minister Rob Nicholson to press the issue further.
"We know that we need more resources in terms of training and personnel in Newfoundland and Labrador," he said.
"We need more fixed-wing aircraft for search and rescue, and we need the centres, the communications centres in St. John's and St. Anthony as well as the marine rescue sub-centre in St. John's reinstated."