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2019 barge season going 'very well'

So far, it's been full steam ahead for this year's barge season.

The GNWT is preparing for the 2019-2020 barge season. Last year the territorial government had to fly materials into Northern coastal communities after the barge sailing season was cut short due to heavy sea ice conditions. About $3.9 million was spent to airlift goods and petroleum into Northern remote areas.
NNSL file photo

"Things are progressing very well this sailing season,"says Derrick Briggs, director of the GNWT-owned Marine Transportation Services.

"We have planned our sailing schedule to ensure that all cargo for the coastal communities is in place in Tuktoyaktuk, loaded to barges and ready to sail as soon as is it safe to do so, with traditional service and sailings to the communities along the Mackenzie River and Lutsel K'e.”

Last year's barge season was cut short earlier than expected in the fall as heavy sea ice moved into the coastal areas serviced by MTS, leaving the Nunavut communities of Cambridge Bay and Kugluktuk without supplies such as fuel, construction materials, heavy equipment and vehicles.

It cost $3.9 million to airlift goods and petroleum to the communities, according to John Vandenberg, assistant deputy minister of programs and services for the Department of Infrastructure.

Of that, $2.74 million was spent delivering petroleum products, $2.15 million of which was paid for through the Petroleum Products Revolving Fund and $590,000 was covered by the Northwest Territories Power Corporation.

The final $1.16 million, paid for through the Marine Transportation Services Revolving Fund, was spent airlifting dry cargo.

Some goods deemed non-urgent, such as vehicles, were left in storage to be delivered at the start of this season.

The early end to the season wasn't the only trouble MTS ran into last year.

Approximately 1.14 million litres of fuel delivered to MTS by Imperial Oil for community resupply last year was found to be substandard due to a low flash point and sent back, delaying the resupply by 28 days.

Nahendeh MLA Shane Thompson questioned Infrastructure Minister Wally Schumann on May 29 about any costs to the GNWT this may have caused, and Schumann said all costs were covered by the supplier.

Imperial Oil public affairs advisor Jon Harding confirmed that his company absorbed the costs to recover and replace the bad fuel.

"Imperial would not seek to recover costs from customers for a supply, logistical or fuel quality issue that the company is responsible for,"stated Harding.

"We recognize that replacing the NWT fuel last summer may have led to some customer business disruptions.

"We apologize for those impacts and are committed to doing better.”