The Marine Transport Services (MTS) barge deliveries to communities in the Arctic are on schedule for this summer, as Katrina Nokleby, minister of Infrastructure told MLAs in the Legislative Assembly on Wednesday.
“We are looking for new ways to provide community resupply. We will have the four double-hulled barges delivered to Tuktoyaktuk on Aug. 12 and 15,” she said, adding that she commits to communicating news of any delays in the delivery schedule.
Her announcement on the cargo deliveries was in response to questions from Nunakput MLA Jackie Jacobson, who wanted assurance the barge sailings were on schedule.
“The sealift is a vital lifeline in my riding,” he said. “It’s more cost effective (to deliver) by sealift than by air. It’s even more important with the economic impact of Covid-19. The barges can only reach our communities when the ice is gone. Start getting the boats ready now. We can’t have delays this year.”
Jacobson said the communities in Nunakput had “not forgotten” the disastrous 2018 sailing season, when high water levels and ice blockages held up the barges.
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Nokleby explained that MTS has eight vessels that will deliver cargo in the summer according to the online schedule that will be updated regularly. The vessels include the four barges heading to Tuktoyaktuk, plus two double-hulled pre-owned barges the GNWT purchased in 2017 and two new 1500 series barges.
The MTS barge sailings depart from Hay River and during July and August go to 12 Northern communities such as Aklavik, Cambridge Bay, Kugluktuk, Paulatuk, Tulita and Ulukhaktok.
Jacobson also raised the issue of reliable and affordable fuel supplies in Northern communities.
“With our government purchasing bulk fuel from Edmonton (by) rack price…the prices only change once a year when the barge comes in. Right now at the pumps here it’s 97 cents. Back home it’s $1.51 and it only gets higher. (We should) try to get cheaper fuel into the communities,” he said.
The Infrastructure Minister responded that the GNWT is evaluating its fuel supply model to ensure it provides efficient and reliable supply for communities.