Barge season still on track

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At this point, the NWT’s barge schedule has not been affected by wildfires that closed the NWT’s highway link to Alberta and destroyed part of the rail link to Hay River, according to the Department of Infrastructure.

The GNWT Department of Infrastructure is ensuring the barge schedule of the Marine Transportation Services remains in place despite wildfires that have impacted transportation in Northern Alberta and South Slave. 

All six barges for the first northbound tow are ready to be loaded and set to launch on June 14, Infrastructure Minister Wally Schumann told the NWT Legislative Assembly last Thursday

Fuel transportation was in question after wildfires destroyed the Steen River rail bridge last week. Schumann said there will be no foreseeable “significant delays” because of this damage.

At of the beginning of last week, Infrastructure Department spokesperson Greg Hanna said everything was still on schedule.

“At this time, we do not foresee any impact on our 2019 sailing schedule due to the closure of the rail line due to fire damage,” said Hanna.

Bulk fuel supplier Imperial Oil, which usually ships fuel north via rail, is trucking fuel to Hay River now that the line has been disrupted.

Schumann said Imperial Oil has told the GNWT that it will cover the extra costs for transporting the fuel, as well as managing logistics for its arrival.
The GNWT will only pay the agreed-upon rail rates for delivery this year.

“We owe a thanks of gratitude to Imperial Oil for stepping up to the plate for the residents,” said Schumann.

In the event that Alberta’s Highway 35, which becomes Highway 1 in the NWT, is closed again, fuel will be trucked to Hay River from Fort Nelson, B.C. via the NWT’s Highway 7 and the northern section of Highway 1.

In late May, the minister said his department was working out a long-term trucking solution to this supply chain interruption.

“I got a picture sent to me today of the trestle actually burning to the ground there,” said Schumann at the time. “Actually, the fire was so hot that it warped the railroad, so there’s going to be significant work that is going to have to go into this.”

This year’s Marine Transportation Services sailing schedule has been posted on the Department of Infrastructure’s website, with cargo acceptance deadlines for communities staggered throughout the summer.

The last arrival of the season is scheduled for Cambridge Bay, Nunavut on Aug. 25.
Fall shipments were cancelled last year after MTS was late getting barges to the Beaufort Sea, which froze up earlier than expected.

Last week, Schumann told MLAs a bad shipment of fuel from Imperial Oil that wasn’t discovered until it reached Norman Wells was partially to blame for the delay.

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