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Whether it is to support Canada’s vital commercial fishing industry, maritime transportation, shipping, tourism, or the country’s millions of recreational boaters, the Canadian Coast Guard is always there and ready to serve. A nationally recognized symbol of sovereignty, the Canadian Coast Guard serves on three oceans, the St. Lawrence River and Great Lakes, and other major waterways. Often CCG is the only federal presence in many remote communities, particularly in the Arctic, operating along the longest coastline in the world and in some of its most difficult weather conditions. On duty 24 hours a day, every day of the year, the Canadian Coast Guard is expected to deliver services not only in line with our level of service, but safely at all times and under all circumstances.

The Canadian Coast Guard Fleet is at the heart of CCG’s on-water operations. CCG’s fleet of vessels and helicopters, managed and operated by Fleet Headquarters and Regional Fleet Directorates across Canada, plays a strong but evolving marine role along the world’s longest coastline and longest inland waterway, and in Canada’s 3.7-million-km2 exclusive economic zone. The Fleet consists of 116 vessels and 22 helicopters - from agile search and rescue lifeboats to icebreakers capable of breaking through several feet of ice. The Fleet has the Government of Canada’s only ice-capable vessels that can navigate the treacherous ice in the waters of the Arctic, the Newfoundland and Labrador coasts, the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and the Great Lakes. Some 2400 skilled seagoing uniformed officers and crew provide Canadians with a sense of security when they arrive on the scene, whether in the course of their regular duties or during an emergency. On land, another 2100 employees across Canada serve as the backbone of the CCG agency, and support our seagoing staff.

SAR Officers on a Fast Rescue Craft
SAR Officers on a Fast Rescue Craft

On any given day, CCG:

  • Saves 8 lives;
  • Assists 55 people in 19 search and rescue cases;
  • Services 55 aids to navigation;
  • Handles 1,547 marine radio contacts;
  • Manages 2,325 commercial ship movements;
  • Escorts 4 commercial ships through ice during ice season;
  • Carries out 11 fisheries patrols;
  • Supports 3 hydrographic missions.
  • Supports 8 scientific surveys;
  • Deals with 3 reported pollution events; and
  • Surveys 5 kilometres of navigation channel bottom.

The Canadian Coast Guard’s mandate is derived from the Constitution Act of 1867, which gives the federal government exclusive authority over navigation, shipping, beacons, buoys, lighthouses, and Sable Island. Although CCG has existed in some form for many decades, the Oceans Act, 1996, and the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 confirm its specific mandate. The Canada Shipping Act confers on the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans responsibilities, powers and obligations with respect to aids to navigation, Sable Island, Search and Rescue (SAR), Environmental Response (ER) and vessel traffic services. 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 SAR, ER and support of other federal government departments, boards and agencies through the provision of ships, helicopters, and other services.

Science in the North
Science in the North
Photo: Winnipeg Free Press


As owner and operator of the Government of Canada’s civilian fleet, the Canadian Coast Guard Fleet’s skilled and professional employees serve clients in all sectors of the Canadian economy: the general public, commercial carriers and shippers, ferry operators, fishers, recreational boaters, coastal communities, and other federal government departments and agencies. As CCG’s on-water delivery agent, the Fleet provides vessels and maritime professionals to:

  • Deliver on-water CCG services related to search and rescue, maritime security, enforcement, environmental response, icebreaking, aids to navigation, marine communications and traffic services, scientific research, and waterways management;

  • Respond to federal maritime priorities and natural or man-made emergencies as a key player in various activities mandated under the Federal Emergency Response Plan;

  • Participate in national and international planning and exercises related to ER and SAR;

  • Support DFO science activities and the conservation and protection of fishery resources;

  • Support the on-water needs of OGDs such as Natural Resources Canada and Environment Canada; and

  • Support the non-military activities of the Department of National Defence (DND), Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA), Public Safety Canada, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), and Transport Canada (TC).

Graph 1 illustrates the distribution of the Fleet’s clients in 2009−2010. It shows that 66% of our services were dedicated to CCG programs, the largest being Search and Rescue (SAR). Other programs in this category include Environmental Response (ER), Marine Communications and Traffic Services (MCTS), Aids to Navigation and Waterways Management, and Icebreaking. The other 34% of our services were dedicated to Ecosystems and Fisheries Management (EFM) - formerly known as Fisheries and Aquaculture Management - Science, other federal government departments and agencies (OGDs) and Maritime Security. These percentages of service delivery are generally consistent with those of previous years.

2010fleetreport-g1-eng.jpg (15150)


As our country’s only civilian fleet, the Canadian Coast Guard Fleet must always be ready to undertake marine missions in the service of the people and Government of Canada. The Fleet’s operations often occur in some of the most hostile weather conditions on the planet. Over the course of a year, our personnel face many physical risks including:

  • Air temperatures ranging from −40°C to +40°C;
  • Water temperatures ranging from −2°C to +30°C;
  • Changing ice formations due to climate change;
  • Gale- or hurricane-force winds;
  • Waves that can exceed 20 m in height; and
  • Operations in remote locations and uncharted areas.

The Fleet fulfills its diverse responsibilities by being versatile, proactive, and highly adaptable, with safety always top of mind. It operates out of five regions, with each Regional Operations Centre (ROC) tasking and deploying vessels in line with the Fleet Operations Plan to fulfill service commitments and mandated obligations. Graph 2 shows the distribution of vessels by region in 2009−2010.

Graph 2: Distribution of Vessels by Region, 2009–2010


The Canadian Coast Guard Fleet’s operations and services are influenced by ebbs and flows in our economy, our environment and our society as a whole. Our clients’ world is also in constant flux, requiring us to adapt service requirements and priorities to elements that are often outside anyone’s control.

Factors placing increased demands on the Fleet’s support to Icebreaking, Search and Rescue, Environmental Response, and Waterways Management services, for example, include increases in maritime traffic, technological advancements, and climate change-related events such as fluctuating water levels and extended shipping seasons. The Fleet must also ensure its capacity to respond to the Government of Canada’s evolving maritime priorities and to increased global interest and scrutiny regarding the protection of marine habitats. The increasing emphasis on Canada’s presence in the Arctic, for example, creates both challenges and opportunities. It is therefore paramount for the Fleet - and CCG as a whole - to find a way to balance the needs, demands, and expectations of Canadians, clients, and stakeholders with available resources.

A maritime nation such as ours has no choice but to rely on an effective, efficient, adaptable, and mission-ready fleet of vessels and helicopters. The initiatives outlined in this report have been undertaken to help ensure that the Fleet can address its challenges and continue to improve its performance. The Fleet’s priorities include providing further support to our maritime professionals to help them respond with confidence to incidents and crises, and provide increased quality services to our clients, partners, and all 8 Canadians.

CCGS Cape Mudge, SAR Lifeboat
CCGS Cape Mudge, SAR Lifeboat

Canadian Coast Guard Ship Heading Out to Sea
Canadian Coast Guard Ship Heading Out to Sea