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Sealift delivery in 2019 was generally smoother than in 2018, when ice conditions in some areas wreaked havoc on shipping schedules and prevented the final barge from arriving in the Kitikmeot.

Northwest Territories-based Marine Transportation Services (MTS) was responsible for that disrupted barge and the territorial government-owned operation is facing three lawsuits in federal court as part of the fallout.

MTS reported a similar volume of cargo destined for the Kitikmeot in 2019 compared to a year earlier. The biggest difference came in sailing conditions up the Mackenzie River, through the Beaufort Sea and into the Dease Strait.

“Throughout the 2019 sailing season, we encountered favourable ice and weather conditions. As a result, MTS did not encounter any delays in delivering cargo to communities in Nunavut. In fact, MTS was the first marine carrier to arrive in these communities this year,” reads a statement provided by Greg Hanna, communications officer with the NWT Department of Infrastructure.

NEAS delivered a higher volume of cargo to Nunavut this past season than in previous years due to securing a five-year Government of Nunavut contract in April involving 18 communities.
photo courtesy of NEAS

NEAS – a shipping firm owned by the Makivik Corporation and Transport Nunuk Inc. and partnered with the North West Company – delivered to its customers “no problem,” outside of delays in Rankin Inlet due to ice and a week-long holdup in Iqaluit in July because of a southeast wind, said Suzanne Paquin, president and CEO of NEAS.

The deep-sea port that is still under construction in Iqaluit may be in use by late in the 2020 shipping season. When the port is operational, it will boost efficiency in offloading cargo, Paquin predicted.

“I think it’s going to be a very big benefit for us because we’re not going to be impacted anymore by the tides, so we’ll be able to work all day and all night,” she explained, adding that cargo ships currently cannot unload during low tide, limiting them to about eight hours of work per day in the inlet.

Paquin noted that the Canadian Coast Guard did “very well” in providing escort service in 2019, having three icebreakers at the ready.

“We were very happy about that,” said Paquin.

NEAS delivered a higher volume of cargo this past season than in previous years due to securing a five-year Government of Nunavut contract in April involving 18 communities.

The shipping company provides employment for two Inuit employees per cargo ship and has two Inuit staff members based in its Iqaluit office, according to Paquin.

“Hopefully we’ll be able to get more training done given that we have better retention of our local Inuit crew members,” she said.

Another staffing priority for NEAS is finding navigational officers and shipping engineers, who are in short supply in Canada. The company would like to import these qualified professionals from other countries but the federal government has to be persuaded to recognize international certification, said Paquin.

Shipping company Nunavut Sealink and Supply Inc. (NSSI) – majority owned by Desgagnes Transarctik, with the Qikiqtaaluk Corporation and Sakku Investments Corp. having a share of ownership and aligned with Arctic Cooperatives – didn’t respond to Nunavut News’s queries prior to deadline.

Fact file
Coast Guard service calls during sealift 2019
-The Canadian Coast Guard escorted 43 cargo ships this past season.
-The Coast Guard’s standard is to respond to calls for service in the Arctic within 10 hours. That level of service was met 77 per cent of the time in 2019, up from 45 per cent in 2018.
-In the instances when responsiveness exceeded 10 hours, distance and weather were among the impeding factors.
Source: Canadian Coast Guard

Derek Neary

Derek Neary has been reporting on developments in the North for 18 years. When he's not writing for Nunavut News, he's working on Northern News Services' special publications such as Opportunities North,...

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