Monday, February 22, 2010

Oil and troubled waters

The following letter to the editor appears
in today’s edition (Feb. 22nd) of
The Telegram

Which is worth more: the life of an offshore oil worker, or the life of a fisherman?

The answer may soon be obvious when measured by emergency response times — fishermen are expendable.

Commissioner Robert Wells, head of the Offshore Helicopter Safety Inquiry, recently recommended a full-time, dedicated and fully equipped response helicopter ready to go in 15 to 20 minutes for St. John's — advice the oil industry is expected to act upon within days.

And so it should.

Meanwhile, if a fishing vessel goes down off Newfoundland's northeast coast, the search and rescue response standards will remain as is.

A Gander-based Cormorant helicopter must be airborne within 30 minutes of an emergency call during weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and within two hours at other times.

So, up to 20 minutes response time for an offshore oil call versus up to two hours response time for a fishing emergency.

Anybody have a problem with that?

When the fishing boat Melina and Keith II went down off Bonavista in September 2005, it took almost four hours for a Cormorant to arrive from Gander.

The slow response was blamed for the loss of four fishermen.

I remember an interview I read with the mother of one of the survivors — a 17-year-old from Eastport.

The mother said how her son was prepared to lash himself to an overturned boat that he was clinging to if he felt himself letting go.

At least then his mother would have his body.

I wonder whether that mother would say the life of her fisherman son is less precious than any other?

Ryan Cleary,
St. John's

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