The roar of a chinook helicopter could be heard over Seal Cove on Oct. 4 and 5 as the Canadian Coast Guard installed two important new pieces of communications infrastructure.
The helicopter helped to deliver two radio repeater sites on Porcher Island and Maitland Island, which are 43 kilometres and 110 kilometres south of Prince Rupert respectively. The two repeater sites provide radio coverage in the areas they are installed, enabling the coast guard’s marine communications traffic services officers to direct marine traffic more effectively.
The service officers are the eyes and ears of the coast guard on the water that communicate with marine vessels traveling along the shoreline.
“It will provide our operators with increased coverage area, and a more robust system for monitoring marine activity,” said Jess Lawson, superintendent of MCI, Canadian Coast Guard Western Region. “When vessels are transitioning in waters, or in trouble or calling maydays, all that traffic goes through MCTS operators and they’re the ones that coordinate dispatch.”
Each site consisted of two buildings containing the power generation systems and radio equipment necessary to facilitate communications traffic in the area. Lawson said the site on Porcher Island will provide increased coverage for the north end of the Greenwald Channel while the site on Maitland Island will provide coverage for the Douglas Channel and the south end of the Greenwald Channel.
“Both sites will now be more reliable,” he added.
A chinook from Columbia Helicopters was used to do the heavy lifting, as a larger helicopter is required to lift such large loads. Lawson said the sites had to be lifted from a barge just off the coast of both islands to the location where they would be installed. Karen Trimmer, the chinook pilot, said the lifts went smoothly.
“We were expecting to be battling the normal October sideways rain, Prince Rupert weather, but we lucked out,” she said.
Now that the sites are in place, Lawson said the equipment will be tested throughout the winter and will likely be brought online in early 2017.
“There’s a break-in period for these things so we don’t initially just put traffic on them,” he said. “…once those tests come back, if everything comes back working the way it should…then we’ll commission them in the spring.”