Western Nunavut’s last, late barge awaits Coast Guard assistance
CCGS Louis St. Laurent not available until after Oct. 16
Anyone who is still waiting for materials and supplies on the last Northern Transportation Company Ltd. barge, long overdue into Cambridge Bay, will have to wait a little longer.
The barge was originally due to arrive in the western Nunavut community at the end of September — then the arrival was pushed to early October and then later, to Oct. 14.
Now it’s not due to arrive until at least Oct. 16.
That’s according to the latest Canadian Coast Guard information.
NTCL contacted the Coast Guard on the evening of Oct. 9, said Carol Launderville, spokesperson for the Coast Guard.
The company requested assistance for its barge, the Nunakput, going to Cambridge Bay “sometime after” Oct. 16, Launderville said In an Oct. 10 email to Nunatsiaq News.
That date, Oct. 16, coincides with the availability of the CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent icebreaker, she said.
That’s not quite the schedule shared with customers in Cambridge Bay, in an email obtained by Nunatsiaq News.
NTCL said Oct. 9 that ice conditions have “become substantially more favorable in the past 48 hours.”
“If the conditions hold we expect that we should be able to have the barge into Cambridge Bay late on the 14th or early morning on the 15th,” NTCL’s Keven Wasylyshyn said in the email.
“Should the barge be unable to enter Cambridge Bay due to ice conditions, we are looking at alternative options such as an overland cat train from Hope Bay once it’s safe to transit the ice this winter. ”
NTCL has not yet responded to a request for more up-to-date information on the barge’s arrival.
“We’ll just have to see how this plays out,” Peter Laube, owner of a Cambridge Bay-based construction company, Kalvik Enterprises, said Oct. 10.
Laube remains angry over many construction materials and personal items that are stuck on the barge — many of which he says would not survive an overland journey from Hope Bay in the cold.
Other customers who have yet to see pallets of beer and water are also concerned about the fate of their cargo.
For a young couple in Cambridge Bay, even if the barge does finally arrive, it’s already too late: they made a decision after the last NTCL barge came in to postpone construction of a four-plex apartment building.
Amanda Doiron and Stuart Rostant, who work for Nunavut’s community and government services department, invested all their savings and took out a big mortgage to finance the building’s construction.
The idea behind their project, Doiron said, was to supply high-quality private housing in a community where there’s lack of public housing and any public housing that is freed up can help someone in need of a place to live.
But, although they did receive some materials on the NTCL’s third barge, they did not receive the beams, key to the construction, as well as appliances and other personal items.
Due to the decision to postpone the project, they have had to store some construction materials in their bedroom. Other building supplies sit on the lot they leased next door to their house, where Rostant says that he and Doiron “watch them freeze and thaw.”
The delay in the project means the two have huge carrying costs until next year, when the four-plex will be built and the local residents who said they wanted to buy units will finally be able to move ahead with their purchases.
Like Laube, Doiron and Rostant are watching what NTCL will do to assist them — and they are also likely to shop around with other sealift providers, such as Nunavut Sealink and Supply Inc. and Nunavut Eastern Arctic Shipping Inc.
Doiron and Rostant say NTCL had asked them to prioritize what they needed first — on the first barge, scheduled to arrive in August — so they don’t understand why the essential building elements that they said they needed never made it to Cambridge Bay earlier.
That’s despite earlier barge delays attributed to smoke from forest fires in the Northwest Territories and low water levels on the Mackenzie River.
Customers speculate that mistakes were made in picking and choosing which materials made it on the barges, or that the snafus reflect a capacity issue in resupplying Cambridge Bay, where many large building projects are underway — the Canadian High Arctic Research Station, a Nunavut Arctic College residence, a new hamlet office, a Nunavut Housing Corp. 10-plex, and a new tank farm, just to name a few projects.
In 2008, NTCL promised a more timely and cheaper sealift delivery to Cambridge Bay would result from its use of a new $14.6-million, 12,000-tonne barge to carry dry cargo north from Vancouver.
But that barge only arrived once in Cambridge Bay.
The latest date on which an NTCL barge has ever arrived — Oct. 31 — was a few years ago, and then the barge wintered over in Cambridge Bay, long-time NTCL customers recall.
However, when that happened, an open channel remained in the ice for the barge to get to the dock.
Now, the bay is frozen and two vessels — the Martin Bergmann research vessel and the Tandberg Polar, which will be used next year to tow the Maud back to Norway — block access to the dock.
So, the Nunakput, if and when it arrives, will likely be obliged to go to the new tank farm located across the bay from the community to unload because icebreakers are too large to come closer to shore.