Cut Search and Rescue Response Times, FFAW Urges

February 25, 2010, 2:45 PM EST

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FFAW/CAW President Earle McCurdy says an Inquiry Commissioner's decision to reduce response times for rescue helicopters in Newfoundland's offshore oil industry highlight the inadequacy of federal government search and rescue services.

McCurdy praised Commissioner Robert Wells recent recommendation that response times for rescue helicopters in the offshore oil industry be reduced from the current one hour to 15-to-20 minutes to get in the air.

The federal government must adopt the same response time for its search and rescue service covering fishermen and others in the North Atlantic, he said.

The current search and rescue response standard is 30 minutes from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays, which increases to two hours response time in other hours.

"Every minute counts during an emergency at sea," McCurdy said. "The North Atlantic is a harsh environment and our members who work in that environment deserve emergency response times that are second to none. Surely the lives of fish harvesters are worth no less than those of offshore oil workers," McCurdy said.

Since the offshore oil industry began off Newfoundland, more fish harvesters have lost their lives at sea than the combined total of the Ocean Ranger disaster in 1982 and the Cougar helicopter tragedy in 2009.

McCurdy said he fully supports Commissioner Wells recommendation and the efforts of offshore oil workers, their union and families to improve response times. He said offshore oil workers deserve the best service that can be provided and that fish harvesters deserve no less.

The FFAW/CAW has about 15,000 members in Newfoundland and Labrador of which about 8,000 are fish harvesters.

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