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Canada is a coastal nation with a strong maritime tradition and a reliance on maritime transportation and resource-based industries. It has one of the longest coastlines in the world; the world's largest archipelago; inland water systems that stretch 3,700 kilometres from the Gulf of St. Lawrence to Lake Superior; and a 3.7 million square-kilometres Canadian Exclusive Economic Zone with its incumbent management responsibilities. As such, the importance to Canada of having a federal maritime presence, and responsive and operationally ready services and capabilities, cannot be overstated.

The federal government is mandated to play a lead role in ensuring the sustainable use and development of the country's oceans and inland waterways. The Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) is the national institution by which Canada exerts its influence and presence in much of Canada's waterways.

On any given day the CCG Fleet operates in some of the most hostile maritime conditions on the planet. Challenges can include…

  • Air temperatures ranging from -40°Celsius to +40°Celsius
  • Water temperatures ranging from -2°Celsius to +30°Celsius
  • Freezing spray
  • Ice under pressure or multi-year ice
  • Gale or hurricane force winds
  • Waves that can, at times, exceed 20 metres in height; and
  • Operating in remote locations and uncharted areas.
Our Legislated Mandate

The Coast Guard's mandate is derived from the Constitution Act, 1867, which gives the federal government exclusive authority over navigation and shipping and over beacons, buoys, lighthouses and Sable Island. The Oceans Act and the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 give the CCG its specific mandate.

The Oceans Act confers on the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans responsibility for services for the safe, economical and efficient movement of ships in Canadian waters, through the provision of aids to navigation, marine communications and traffic management services, icebreaking and ice management services, and channel maintenance. It also gives the Minister responsibility for search and rescue, pollution response and support of other government departments, boards and agencies through the provision of ships, helicopters and other services.

The Canada Shipping Act, 2001 confers on the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans responsibilities, powers and obligations with respect to aids to navigation, Sable Island and St. Paul Island, search and rescue, pollution response and vessel traffic services.

On any given day, the CCG…

  • Saves 8 lives;
  • Assists 55 people in 19 search and rescue cases;
  • Handles 1,127 marine radio contacts;
  • Manages 2,346 commercial ship movements;
  • Services 55 aids to navigation;
  • Surveys 5 kilometers of navigation channel bottom;
  • Deals with 3 reported pollution events;
  • Escorts 4 commercial ships through ice;
  • Carries out 12 fisheries patrols;
  • Supports 8 scientific surveys;
  • Supports 3 hydrographic missions.

The fleet, a vital enabler of the Government's on-water needs, managed and operated by Fleet Headquarters and Regional Operational Services Directorates in the regions is also a visible symbol of Canadian identity. The presence of CCG vessels and helicopters, with their distinctive red and white hulls, and the uniformed officers and crew, provide Canadians with an immediate sense of security and safety on the scene, whether it is in the course of their regular duties and responsibilities, or when responding to a federal or other emergency. The civilian fleet serves as the on-water responder supporting all maritime priorities of the federal government.

1.1 Our Clients

As owner/operator of the Government of Canada's civilian fleet, Fleet supports Canada and Canadians on four equally important levels providing vessels and maritime professionals to:

  • Deliver CCG services related to aids to navigation, icebreaking, flood control, search and rescue (SAR), maritime security, environmental response, and marine communications and traffic services;
  • Support Fisheries and Oceans Canada science activities and the management and protection of fishery resources;
  • Support non-military activities of other government departments (OGD) and agencies; and
  • Respond to federal maritime priorities and natural or man-made emergencies.

The services dedicated to each client are further analyzed in Section 4.

Graph 1 illustrates the relative use of fleet assets by client. As in previous years, more than half (52.2%) of our services were devoted to SAR. Icebreaking services increased to 7.2% in 2007-2008 from 5.7% in 2006-07 due to more severe ice conditions.


In 2007-2008, while the graph shows a change in the distribution of services to Maritime Security from 5.9% (as reported in the 2006-2007 Fleet Annual Report) to 2.9% in 2007-2008, this does not represent a decline in service support. The change is due to the fact that the evolving Maritime Security program was redefined in 2007-2008. Maritime Security includes all services provided to the RCMP on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway under the Marine Security Enforcement Team program plus all law enforcement and customs and immigration support across the country.

Overall, service delivered by the fleet was 0.7% (213 operational days) less than planned. This gap was primarily due to the requirements of increased maintenance for an ageing fleet.

1.2 Our Operations

Fleet effectively manages its diverse and numerous responsibilities by being versatile and highly adaptable. Fleet operates out of five regions, with Regional Operations Centres (ROCs) tasking and deploying vessels and maritime professionals to meet service needs as required. A Coast Guard National Coordination Centre (NCC) facilitates national co-ordination of CCG issues, fleet management and an integrated national response when needed (figure 1).

Figure 1: Fleet Regional Operations Centres

In the event of a major emergency or a national security incident, centralized coordination helps ensure that Coast Guard senior management has prompt, accurate information upon which to base decisions, and support high-level Government of Canada direction.

Fleet has established national operating procedures and policies for all aspects of its operations, including the implementation of its Safety and Security Management System. On a daily basis, professionals ashore and at sea manage and operate within this national framework and perform on-the-scene analysis to make the most appropriate operational decisions in any given circumstances. At this level, the key is in balancing the needs of clients with safe operations and other factors, such as weather and risk.

Zonal Management

During 2007-2008, the Fleet improved operational coordination and efficiency by improving zonal management of its assets in the Atlantic and the Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Seaway zones. During the busy winter ice season, major vessels were deployed and redeployed to ensure demands such as icebreaking, SAR, maritime security and aids to navigation were being met. Decision makers considered changes in ice and weather conditions, client requests, unplanned incidents and both forecasted and unforecasted operational requirements, (maintenance, crew changes, refueling) across the entire zone. By operating in a more integrated manner, CCG met most client demands, and all priority demands in a highly competitive environment for fleet services.

Figure 2: An example of a daily report of ship positions

Maximizing the St. Lawrence Seaway Shipping Season

Every year, the Coast Guard assists with the opening and closing of the St. Lawrence Seaway to balance safety concerns with the economic well-being of commercial carriers.

Most seasons, the Seaway officially opens around March 25th. Prior to official opening, the Coast Guard employs two icebreakers and an air cushion vehicle, depending on conditions, to open a track in the fast ice, usually all the way from Montreal to Lake Ontario. The ice is broken up, a channel is maintained, and, when the first ships arrive, a daytime escort is provided to ensure safe passage.

Around April 10th, ice ceases to pose a problem. The Coast Guard then deploys lighted navigational buoys as quickly as possible so that night navigation can resume. When they are unable to move at night, commercial ships lose valuable time and sometimes require additional pilotage, incurring additional costs.

The shipping season typically ends between December 25th and 30th. CCG keeps the summer lighted buoys in the water as long as possible to ensure safe night navigation and so that commercial traffic has the maximum amount of time to exit before ice forms and the Seaway closes for the winter. Once again, an icebreaker serves as escort to ensure all vessels safely exit the Seaway so it can be closed for the season.

CCGS Griffon, High Endurance Multitasked Vessel - Light Icebreaker
CCGS Griffon, High Endurance Multitasked Vessel - Light Icebreaker
Photo: C & A Region

As Canada's only civilian fleet, the Coast Guard must always be ready to undertake marine missions in the service of the people and Government of Canada. In part, stemming from our support to Hurricane Katrina relief work in 2004-2005, last year, the Fleet finalized the concept of Fleet Mission Readiness to ensure that it is able to respond, in a more systematic way, to unpredictable events or unplanned requests for urgent support. The framework provides strategies and protocols to respond to changes in normal operating circumstances, whether environmental (storms, ice conditions, floods, etc.), hardware (technical breakdowns, accidents, etc.), unplanned increased demand or human factors (security threats, illnesses, etc.). Mission Readiness has now been adopted as formal doctrine and the Fleet will begin operationalizing the Mission Readiness framework in fiscal year 2008-2009.

Table 1: An example of Fleet Mission Readiness on a given day

In the case of search and rescue, CCG vessels are tasked directly from a Joint Rescue Coordination Centre or a Maritime Rescue Sub- Centre, in line with international practice. These situations are managed jointly by the Canadian Forces and CCG, which dictate the mission and response, resulting in tasking the most suitable vessel or helicopter available. In order to provide adequate SAR, effective coverage to non-SAR missions and a high degree of response preparedness in general, Coast Guard vessels are assigned areas of patrol by the ROCs. The ROCs and the NCC are connected to the operations centres of other government departments with similar responsibilities, such as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), the Canadian Forces, and national/regional/municipal emergency preparedness officials. Regular drills and exercises involving member organizations help ensure an effective, coordinated response when incidents do arise.

On the Radar…2010 Olympics

Contingency planning began in 2007 to ensure that CCG is able to adapt to changing conditions prior to and during the Games, which will be held in February 2010.

Because the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games involve venues and celebration sites along Vancouver's waterfront, Coast Guard is involved in collaborative planning with other government departments and works under the leadership of the RCMP, with regard to the safety and security of the sites.

CCG Sipu Muin, an air cushion vehicle, transporting RCMP and other police and security officers.

CCG Sipu Muin, an air cushion vehicle, transporting RCMP and other police and security officers.
Photo: QC Region

NAFTA Members Meet at Montebello

The Chateau Montebello, in Montebello, Quebec, was the site of an August 20-21, 2007 meeting of the three member countries of the North American Free Trade Agreement - Canada, the United States and Mexico.

The Fleet played an important role in ensuring the event went smoothly. The CCGS Ile Saint- Ours and CCG Sipu Muin, an air cushion vehicle, supported the needs of the RCMP and other police and security agencies in establishing a security perimeter around the property. CCG crews also maintained a marine command centre.With the perimeter and communications in place, police and security personnel were able to ensure an event free meeting from the security perspective.

Efforts to ensure maritime security continue to be of utmost importance. Since 2005, Fleet has been delivering a joint CCG/RCMP Marine Security Enforcement Teams (MSET) Program on the Great Lakes - St. Lawrence Seaway. Fleet crews work closely with armed onboard law enforcement personnel, exposing them to risks and hazards not experienced in traditional CCG programs. To mitigate the risks, Fleet employees assigned to MSET vessels are provided with additional personal protective equipment and with Law Enforcement Familiarization and Police Defensive Tactics training. The purpose of this training is to improve employee safety while maximizing CCG-police onboard integration, improving MSET on-water effectiveness.

International Coast Guard Fora

Canada, along with Russia, China, Japan, Korea and the United States, is a member country of the North Pacific Coast Guard Forum (NPCGF). Created in 2000, the forum shares information and best practices, identifies opportunities to improve cooperation on common fronts, and organizes joint training and exercises. CCG is Canada's team leader, with participation by the RCMP, Transport Canada, DFO and the Canada Border Services Agency. Recent highlights include development of joint fisheries surveillance patrols and work in developing common terminology and definitions that allow for clear and concise communications between member countries. In July 2008, Canada hosted a NPCGF exercise based on a natural disaster humanitarian assistance scenario.

The North Atlantic Coast Guard Forum, modeled after NPCGF, was formed in 2007 and has 18 member countries. CCG leads Canada's participation in this forum as well. In September 2008 a summit was held in Greenland, and the CCGS Pierre Radisson took part in a joint search and rescue/environmental response exercise with Denmark, the United States and Iceland.

CCGS Cape Hurd, Specialty Vessel
CCGS Cape Hurd, Specialty Vessel
Photo: C&A Region

1.3 Our Environment

The Fleet operates in a dynamic environment that is influenced by a variety of economic, environmental and social factors. Overall demand for CCG services continued to rise in 2007-08 due to:

  • Rising levels of global ship traffic, leading to greater demand for CCG services:

    • The cruise ship industry is increasingly active in Canadian waters. From 2003 to 2007, cruise passenger arrivals in Canada increased by 24%1;
    • Commercial shipping is also on the rise. An Export Development Canada study released in 2007 indicates that Canadian exports to Europe have grown 12% each year since 2002. Further growth is expected as the effects of opening a deepwater port in Prince Rupert, British Columbia and the efforts to enhance Canada's Asia-Pacific Gateway and Corridor increase capacity for container shipping to and from Asia;
  • Climate change, notably in the Arctic, is already extending the duration of the commercial shipping season, and may further intensify the demand for marine science and other activities:

    • Environment Canada's Canadian Ice Service has been keeping records of ice in the northern hemisphere for five decades. In 2007, scientists calculated that sea ice hit a new record low of just 4.2 million square kilometers, compared to the normal coverage of 7.5 to 8.5 million square kilometers with increased interseasonal variability.
  • Growing attention to maritime security activities and monitoring. While CCG does not have a direct legislated mandate for maritime security, the Fleet plays an increasingly important role in supporting on-water security patrols, interdictions and other activities.
  • Increased potential for migrant and other smuggling and the need for heightened border integrity; and
  • Enhanced awareness of environmental issues and growing concern for clean water and a clean environment.

    • Only 56% of Canadians rate the overall quality of the environment in their province as good or better. And, there is widespread perception that the quality of the environment is getting worse (47% worse, 44% same, 9% better)2.

In addition, Canadians expect the Government of Canada to be ready to respond, quickly and effectively, in the event of natural or manmade disaster, national emergency, maritime priority, or security or environmental threat.

The future is likely to place increasingly diverse demands on the CCG, thus increasing the need for a safe and secure, effective, efficient, adaptable, and operationally and mission ready fleet. This fleet requires maritime professionals capable of responding to incidents and crises, and providing services to a wide variety of clients and partners across government, as well as to public and other institutions.

CCG employees at work on CCGS Wilfred Templeman, Offshore Fisheries Science Vessel
CCG employees at work on CCGS Wilfred Templeman, Offshore Fisheries Science Vessel
Photo: HQ & NCC

1 The Economic Contribution of the International Cruise Industry in Canada 2007, Business Research & Economic Advisors, 2008
2 Getting Real - How Do Canadians View the Environment and Energy? An IPSOS survey: