Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Fisheries and Oceans Canada

November 09, 2005 13:00 ET

DFO: Regan Thanks Crew of Sir William Alexander

DARTMOUTH, NOVA SCOTIA--(CCNMatthews - Nov. 9, 2005) - Geoff Regan, Canada's Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, today officially thanked the crew of the Sir William Alexander for its work in the southern United States following hurricane Katrina.

"I am very proud to be here today to formally mark the return of the Canadian Coast Guard Ship (CCGS) Sir William Alexander and to congratulate the Commanding Officers and crew for a job very well done," said Minister Regan. "This spirit of collaboration, and of compassion for others in need, is a value that is not only important to the men and women of the Canadian Coast Guard, but one that is important to all Canadians."

"I can't think of a more fitting name than Operation UNISON for a mission like this one," added Minister Regan. "Not only does it represent the collaboration between the Canadian Coast Guard and the Canadian Navy in response to a particular challenge, it embodies the strong relationship between Canada and the United States. The vessel and her crew quickly became an invaluable resource to our partners in the relief effort."

Minister Regan presented the crew with a letter from Prime Minister Paul Martin thanking them for their extensive efforts as well as a letter from Admiral Timothy J. Keating, of the United States Navy, commending them for their excellent work.

The excellent cooperation between the Canadian Coast Guard and the Canadian Forces demonstrated during Operation UNISON has also been praised by Vice Admiral Bruce MacLean, Chief of Maritime Staff of the Canadian Forces, who described the partnership of the two organizations as a hugely significant and welcomed interagency undertaking.

The 83-metre Canadian Coast Guard Ship (CCGS) Sir William Alexander, together with three Canadian Navy vessels, all loaded with supplies, set sail from Halifax on September 6, 2005. The Sir William Alexander carried out relief work in US waters until October 22, 2005.


CCGS Sir William Alexander and OPERATION UNISON

It was a Labour Day weekend filled with work for the captain, crew and supporting staff of the Canadian Coast Guard Ship (CCGS) Sir William Alexander, after the 83-metre light-duty icebreaker/major navigational aids tender was recruited to join OPERATION UNISON, the Canadian Government's response to a crisis affecting the southern US states. This unprecedented mission of assistance from Canada to the United States saw Prime Minister Paul Martin, as well as Geoff Regan, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, sending four Canadian vessels steaming south to help our neighbours after the devastation inflicted on the Gulf Coast states by Hurricane Katrina.

The Sir William Alexander joined Her Majesty's Canadian ships Ville de Quebec, Athabaskan and Toronto September 6 as they steamed out of Halifax harbour in convoy on a bright and sunny Tuesday after the Labour Day weekend. The Sir William Alexander was originally recruited to the mission to serve as a supply and cargo vessel for the first leg of the operation, as crew and shore-support staff loaded the ample holds with crates of water bottles, tents and sleeping bags to help out those affected by Katrina. The Sir William Alexander was the last of the four vessels to return, having been asked to stay behind because of its operational capabilities, to aid the US Coast Guard and the National Atmospheric and Oceans Administration (NOAA) as they repaired, re-positioned and replaced valuable weather and navigational buoys that had been damaged or blown out of position by hurricane-force winds and heavy seas. Some of these vital buoys, needed to warn authorities of severe weather in ocean areas, were so large that the Sir William Alexander, even with a 22-tonne crane lift capacity, had to tow them to where they could be serviced, rather than putting them on deck. In total, the Sir William Alexander handled 14 buoys during its mission.

These buoys covered a large geographic area, as our ship worked its way as far south as the coast of Honduras, and as far north as the coast of Maine on the voyage home.

As a light-duty icebreaker, the Sir William Alexander faced challenges for both machinery and crew aboard because the engines are designed to be cooled by sea water off our coasts, which is a lot cooler than the waters found in southern waters. As a result, the captain and engineers had to "baby" the engines to make sure they didn't overheat while working, and engine-room staff had their exposure shortened to take into account temperatures as high as 51 degrees Celsius.

Even after all that work and dodging of other storm systems in southerly waters during her time in those climes, the ship had to return to its base in Dartmouth, N.S. a day earlier (October 24) than scheduled in order to avoid the rough seas stirred up by Hurricane Wilma. At dockside in Dartmouth, there were proud colleagues and family to welcome the red and white vessel back home.

The Sir William Alexander's participation in OPERATION UNISON was a challenge, but a resounding success for both captains and their crews, as well as for those who stayed ashore to ensure the mission was fully supported and ran smoothly. The vessel's captains and crews, as well as support staff for the operation, were recognized for their extraordinary and successful efforts in carrying out a mission that underlines the important role the Canadian Coast Guard plays in our society, not only on our shores, but wherever they're needed.

Contact Information

  • Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Ottawa
    Steve Outhouse
    A/Manager Media Relations
    (613) 998-1530
    Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Ottawa
    Sujata Raisinghani
    Press Secretary, Office of the Minister
    (613) 992-3474