New Coast Guard Search and Rescue station in Kingston officially opens

The new Search and Rescue station of the Canadian Coast Guard in Kingston, located at Portsmouth Olympic Harbour, has officially opened.

While it’s been operational since September 2019, pandemic restrictions did not allow for an official opening of the new facility at the time. That long-awaited moment happened on the afternoon of Wednesday, Jun. 28, 2023, and brought together local and federal dignitaries, esteemed members of the local and federal Canadian Coast Guard (CCG), and members of the media.

Among those who spoke on Wednesday afternoon were MP Mark Gerretsen, the Honorable Joyce Murray, Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, Marc-André Meunier, Assistant Commissioner of the Canadian Coast Guard Central Region, and Patrick Alguire, Commanding Officer of the Kingston Search and Rescue station.

The CCG has Search and Rescue (SAR) stations on waterways across the country, nine of which are on the Great Lakes and open annually from the beginning of spring through the end of fall. Of course, to ensure they are able to quickly and efficiently respond to calls, proper facilities and tools are paramount for CCG crews. Here in Kingston, that meant that the aging SAR station – which had outdated infrastructure and did not comply with the latest operational standards – was replaced with a new, modern station, which the CCG relocated to an area of Portsmouth Olympic Harbour better suited to the station’s operational requirements, the CCG shared in a press release.

The new station is located in what the CCG referred to as “a key area” near the Thousand Islands Archipelago.

“A busy boating area during the warmer months, this station stands at the ready to assist recreational and commercial boaters alike in the northeastern corner of Lake Ontario, where it meets the St. Lawrence River,” the CCG said.

While the former SAR station was located on the western side of the harbour, according to the Coast Guard, harbour traffic made it “difficult to access the rescue boats and navigate through the marina in a timely manner.” The organization determined that the east side of the harbour would be preferrable for the new station “to meet operational standard,” the CCG said.

The new SAR station includes a large workshop area where equipment can be stored, and vessel maintenance and repairs can be carried out. Since SAR crews remain on site while on duty (unless out on a call), crew members more or less reside at the station. As such, the new facility also features new accommodations, including five bedrooms, a full kitchen, a laundry room, a common area, and an exercise area.

Minister Murray tours Kingston’s new Search and Rescue Station of the Canadian Coast Guard with Commanding Officer Alguire. Photo via the Canadian Coast Guard.

The station also includes a new fixed and floating dock, a Canadian Hydrographic Service gauge station, and storage space for Environmental Response equipment, as well as a space known as a “Ready Locker,” which is where crew members can easily access necessary equipment and can quickly prepare for deployment to the SAR vessel, the CCG shared.

In addition, a communication tower was erected alongside the new site, allowing the station to communicate with boats and receive distress calls. According to the CCG, the tower was fitted with a communications system that the Kingston SAR crew has already been trained on, which is similar to the systems used at several other CCG sites.

“The new Coast Guard facility brings welcomed change for the crews that occupy it,” Commanding Officer Alguire said in a statement. “Advances in location, radio communications and added space provide the opportunity for decreased response times, better communications, an onsite repair and maintenance facility for engineers, and overall crew wellness. Search and Rescue crews now have a wonderful platform to move us forward into the future so we can continue to deliver our critical services to the public.”

The project, which took several years to complete, came with a price tag of $5.5 million, and required a range of site studies, including a geotechnical survey, a bathymetric survey delineating the lake bottom elevations, and a topographic survey to determine the elevations of the replacement land parcel, as well as the demolition of the former SAR station site.

“Nationally, the Canadian Coast Guard responds to over 6,000 calls for marine assistance annually, and is grateful for the support of those who helped contribute to the new Kingston station, so it can continue to meet this important mandate,” the CCG said in an email to Kingstonist.

“We are happy that we can now introduce it to the community it serves.”

Minister Murray and MP Gerretsen flanked by members of the Canadian Coast Guard at Kingston’s Search and Rescue vessel, the CCGS Cape Lambton. Photo via the Canadian Coast Guard.

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