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Bamfield training centre to simulate rescues at sea

Oct 28 2012

A new Canadian Coast Guard training facility in Bamfield will provide trainees with state-of-the-art simulators, allowing them to deal with dangerous situations before heading out onto the sometimes wild West Coast waters.

The $1.25-million National Advanced Boat Operator facility, officially opened Saturday by acting Fisheries Minister Gail Shea, will provide training for experienced Zodiac operators, who will practise marine rescues in the worst possible conditions.

In addition to on-the-water training, which will take advantage of the proximity of open ocean in an area where winter storms can be bitter, participants will train on a small boat simulator that will mimic situations such as a high-speed rescue in dense fog.

The Coast Guard's Rigid Hull Inflatable Operator Training facility has offered courses for 27 years, but the new building will allow operators from across Canada to train during the winter. That will also bring a welcome boost to the local economy at a time when tourists are scarce, said Kevin Tomsett, deputy marine superintendent, who manages the program.

"Students stay at one of the fishing lodges. We did that on purpose so the community will benefit," he said.

Previously, there were training facilities in different regions, but all students will now come to Bamfield, Tomsett said. "This is the best site because we're close to open water and there's protected water."

Nine students at a time will take part in 18 courses between September and May, when the weather is at its worst. Each course is seven days, offering 80 hours of instruction in areas such as the intricacies of slow-speed operations or scrambling back into a rigid-hull inflatable after it capsizes.

Training will also be offered to representatives from organizations such as the Department of National Defence, U.S. Coast Guard, Fisheries and Oceans and RCMP. jlavoie@timescolonist.com

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