MTS airlifts tonnes of barge cargo

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The communities of Paulatuk, Cambridge Bay and Kugluktuk are finally receiving – by air – cargo and fuel from cancelled delivery barges.

Marine Transport Services (MTS) usually supplies these communities with barge services, but the last deliveries of the season were cancelled due to unexpected ice conditions.

John Vandenberg, assistant deputy minister of infrastructure, stands in front of the goods that have been packed onto pallets to be sent to Paulatuk, Kugluktuk and Cambridge Bay Oct. 24.
Samantha McKay/NNSL photo

Now, hundreds of thousands of pounds of cargo and fuel have been dropped off in Inuvik, where most of it is being stored in a heated warehouse near the airport before being flown into the communities.

John Vandenberg, assistant deputy minister with the Department of Infrastructure said all of the cargo – except for vehicles, which will remain in a secure warehouse in Inuvik over the winter – will be shipped to the communities in the coming weeks by Buffalo Airways and Summit Air.

Vandenberg said the Department of Infrastructure is unable to move the vehicles due to a lack of capacity, but they will be shipped on next year’s barges.

Personal items were removed from the vehicles and shipped to their owners, and the cars were checked by mechanics who disconnected their batteries in order to make sure they are not damaged over the winter.

Vandenberg said they will attempt to deliver snowmobiles and ATVs by air with other cargo.

Approximately 650,000 litres of gasoline and diesel fuel are being moved to Paulatuk, Vandenberg said.

“We want to assure people that Paulatuk is not in danger of running out of fuel,” he said. “We have enough diesel fuel and gasoline there to last well after Christmas … these deliveries will bring enough fuel to make sure they last through the winter.”

Deliveries began Oct. 18 and will wrap up when all cargo and fuel has been delivered.

He estimates the effort will require approximately 60 trips.

People in the communities expecting a delivery will not have to cover the cost of the airlift, as the government will foot the bill, Vandenberg said.

While he didn’t know how much extra the air transport would be, he said it would be in the millions of dollars.

“It’s a people issue. People don’t have their stuff, so the government is stepping up to this and covering the cost,” he said. “The government has an obligation to see that people are taken care of. These are things that people need … it’s important that we step up the plate for this.”