An idea is being considered to rename some of the vessels now operated by Marine Transportation Services of the territorial government.
Hay River North MLA R.J. Simpson raised the idea in the territorial legislature on Sept. 28.
Simpson noted that the government’s purchase late last year of the assets of Northern Transportation Company Limited provides a perfect chance to highlight the marine history of the NWT by celebrating people who helped shaped the territory, and to engage communities and youth in the process.
“When NorTerra purchased NTCL in the 1980s, the vessels were renamed in honour of individuals from the shareholders’ regions,” he said. “Now that the GNWT owns those assets, I propose that we rename the vessels to better reflect the entire Northwest Territories.”
The NorTerra area includes parts of the NWT and Nunavut.
Simpson noted the renaming idea originated with Kirk Vander Ploeg, the manager of the Hay River Heritage Centre.
The MLA asked Premier Bob McLeod if he would be onboard with helping solicit stories from communities and nominations for names so that they could better reflect the entire NWT.
“The renaming of MTS vessels to better reflect the Northwest Territories’ long history of marine shipping is a very good idea, worth pursuing,” the premier responded. “However, we have to be respectful of some of the existing names on existing vessels and the reasons behind them. Also, we have to confirm what vessels we will be keeping in the long term, and would only consider renaming vessels in our core fleet.”
McLeod said he has directed staff of the departments of the Executive and Indigenous Affairs and Infrastructure to start drafting guidelines about naming and a process for soliciting nominations.
The premier said he expects a process to be ready probably within a couple of months.
“We’re very open to looking at different ways, as long as we stick to the original intention of naming vessels to help recognize the long history of marine shipping,” he said. “One name that comes to mind when I look in the United Kingdom or in England where they had a competition to name a seagoing vessel and they came up with a name like Boaty McBoatface, or something like that. I think we want to make sure we have a process that we come up with names that recognize the long marine history in the Northwest Territories.”
Speaking to The Hub, Simpson said any new names would just be for the half-dozen tugs in the MTS fleet.
“Right now, only the tugs are named, I believe,” he said. “But in the future we could also name the barges to honour members of the community, if we see fit.”
Simpson said the process of renaming would be exciting because it would involve hearing stories from the different communities about prominent families or individuals involved in the shipping industry over the past 100 years.
The MLA noted many family names – for example, Beaulieu, Bouvier, Loutit and Lafferty – have been a part of marine history in the NWT.
“I think it’s exciting,” he said of the renaming possibilities. “I think it’s a great way to bring some of our history to light.”
Vander Ploeg noted, as a retired NTCL person, he has a personal interest – not in his role as manager of the Hay River Heritage Centre – in the possibility of renaming the vessels and what the process is for that to happen.
However, he stressed he has nothing against names that may come from Nunavut.
“That’s all fine and dandy if everybody wants to leave it all the same,” he said. “But if the government wanted to change the names, some of them, of the vessels to better reflect the new ownership under the GNWT and the MTS banner now, I was wondering what the process was.”
While noting that renaming the tugs is an obvious choice, Vender Ploeg noted barges are also vessels and they can also be named.
For example, he pointed out that a large barge that was transported by highway through Hay River on Sept. 20 had a name – Aurora Yukon.