The Modernization of the Canadian Coast Guard MCTS Program
The Canadian Coast Guard is a federal government marine organization providing marine search and rescue, communication, navigation and safety on Canadian waters. The MCTS program assists with safety of life and property on water, as well as vessel traffic services (VTS).
The Canadian Coast Guard Marine Communications and Traffic Services (MCTS) centers provide distress and safety call monitoring, coordinate responses, broadcast maritime safety information (weather and navigational warnings), screen vessels entering Canadian waters, deliver information and advice to regulate marine traffic movement and take appropriate action to ensure the safe and efficient movement of vessels in Canadian waters.
Due to the public service nature of this service, a reliable and durable radio system is required. There are 12 MCTS radio centers in three regions across Canada: Western Region, Central and Arctic Region, and Atlantic Region. Each MCTS center controls numerous remote sites within their region. Details of the MCTS centres and their associated remote sites are published in a digest called Radio Aids to Marine Navigation (RAMN).
Following a tragic accident between a BC ferry and a Russian freighter in 1970, the need for communications sites to deliver vessel traffic and safety services to the boating public was recognized. While other regions have different requirements (high-power radios on low towers), the western region has different operational requirements and technical specifications for their remote sites because of the mountainous areas of the Pacific coast. Mountain top sites were used at 3,500 feet to provide maximum coverage in the rugged and varied pacific coastal waterways. Due to the remote, difficult terrain, these low-power mountain top sites are only accessible by helicopter, making low-maintenance equipment a priority. In the 1970s, Western Radio (WR) repeaters were installed to provide VHF communications to mariners. An expansion project in the mid-80’s saw the communications network extended through the central coast and in to Haida Gwaii, formerly called the Queen Charlotte Islands. Most of these remote sites are off-grid, running 24/7, year-round and have been continuously operating with only brief outages since they were installed.
In the early 2000s, the original WR equipment had reached the end of its operational life and replacement was required. Accordingly, under the Government of Canada’s procurement process, the Coast Guard solicited bids to replace the equipment and Daniels Electronics (later Codan) was the successful bidder.
A Canadian company that offered Canadian support was required as part of the contracting process. Codan met all the technical and ruggedized specifications for these sites and was selected to replace the approximate 200 radios.
The original WR radios were replaced by Daniels Electronics MT-3 radios. The first round of replacements started in 2000. The Codan MT-3 were installed along the western central and north coast sites and several years later the next generation MT-4 was installed into western south coast, Vancouver Island, and Strait of Georgia sites. This created a further advantage for the Coast Guard as Codan is committed to supporting backwards compatibility with the MT series of repeaters.