Barge company cancels this year’s Cambridge Bay sealift service

Marine Transportation Services says the move is due to ‘consistently low customer demand’

The Henry Christoffersen, a barge owned by Marine Transportation Services, ties up at the Cambridge Bay dock in August 2019. On board were many vehicles and other cargo on their way to clients in the hamlet who waited nearly a year to receive them. Now the company says it won’t be coming to Cambridge Bay at all in 2021 due to “low customer demand.” (File photo)

By Jane George

Marine Transportation Services barges are not making regularly scheduled deliveries to Cambridge Bay this summer, and it’s not clear whether that service will return.

The company, owned by the N.W.T. government, confirmed the news after posts started circulating around Facebook this week.

The cancellation comes as a surprise to the Municipality of Cambridge Bay, said chief administrative officer Marla Limousin. The hamlet had just placed a booking for two trucks to be shipped with the company.

According to MTS, the decision is “in response to consistently low customer demand.”

Stephanie King, terminal supervisor for the GNWT and MTS, said in an email to Nunatsiaq News that MTS will continue to provide regularly scheduled cargo deliveries to all N.W.T. coastal communities and to Kugluktuk in Nunavut.

“MTS will also continue to offer charter services to destinations outside of the N.W.T. — including Cambridge Bay — for commercial customers,” she said.

She did not say whether it would return to service Cambridge Bay in future years.

The N.W.T. government has been running the barge service, which does summer deliveries to Mackenzie River and Arctic coastal communities, since 2016, when it purchased the assets of the nearly bankrupt Northern Transportation Co. Ltd. for $7.5 million.

After that, the company became known as Marine Transportation Services.

Debbie Gray, who lives in Cambridge Bay, expressed disappointment about MTS’s decision.

“It’s a loss for their company, the people who work for them and for our northern communities as well,” she said.

MTS, and its forerunner NTCL, have a history of service problems in Cambridge Bay.

In 2018, Gray was among many who saw their cargo deliveries postponed several times and then abruptly cancelled in October 2018.

At the time, MTS said sea ice conditions prevented the barge from making its way to western Nunavut.

The cancellation left the barge’s load of fuel, construction supplies, heavy equipment and vehicles stranded in the N.W.T. until 2019, although smaller items, such as groceries, were sent on to Cambridge Bay by charters.

Many clients were angry about the cancelled barge and wanted to be compensated for their losses, which for some included having to make monthly payments for vehicles that they wouldn’t see for a year.

Peter Laube, owner of Kalvik Enterprises Ltd., was also affected by the 2018 barge cancellation, but says he had still been planning to use the company this year because he wanted to send trucks up to Cambridge Bay from Alberta via the MTS shipyard in Hay River.

“MTS was convenient because you do a lot of business in Yellowknife and Edmonton, and it’s easy to get to Hay River,” he said.

Laube said he would now be looking to buy his new vehicles from Quebec.

Former MTS clients in Cambridge Bay now have two Quebec-based options for their sealift needs: Nunavut Eastern Arctic Shipping Inc. and Nunavut Sealink and Supply Inc., which both offer service to Cambridge Bay and Kugluktuk.

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(7) Comments:

  1. Posted by Go Figure on

    After failing to meet the commitments multiple times It’s no wonder there’s low demand.

    Why would you go back to the company that failed miserably to deliver the promised service and failed to properly compensate those impacted by that poor service when there are other options.

    MTS’s response is to just stop severing and not actually try to do a good job and re-build its customer base. I get it’s a business, and it likely does not make financial sense if there’s low demand but if you’re hoping demand will pick up in the future this is not the way to go about it.

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  2. Posted by Sue them on

    I bought a truck in Hay River to send on MTS to Cambay now I need to drive it to Montreal for Cargo I will sue them to the fullest extent of the law anyone else want to sue them with me? Also now I called Aurora Ford and they will not refund me my truck maybe I well sue them as well

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    • Posted by Plan Ahead,Never Assume on

      All it would’ve taken was one phone call. “Hello, are you servicing XX community this year?” Before making a big item purchase. Who does that without guarantee of it being shipped to your community? And as for the getting it to Quebec. Now it will have to be driven there, or ask Aurora ford for the shipping company that they get their vehicles delivered to Yellowknife/Hay River as truck trailer will be heading south empty.

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  3. Posted by Northern Inuit on

    Fool me once, shame on me.

    Fool me twice…. well maybe not.

    it was only a matter of time. the writing was on the wall. so it is buyer beware of ever since they didn’t arrive as expected in 2018.

    they blamed ice conditions but that didn’t seem bother them when they serviced the Mine 3 or 4 times that season instead of Cambridge Bay.

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    • Posted by Charles on

      Proof that government cannot and should not be in business, especially in competition with private Inuit-owned companies like NSSI and others.

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  4. Posted by Oscare on

    NTCL/MTS is only as good as the people behind it. Back in the day, NTCL cared about its customer base, then after a while different management came in and that customer care disappeared. I am so glad that I used MTS when I did at the right time.

    • Posted by Oovanga inuk on

      I bought a truck from icon ice road trucker Alex Debogorski and was planning on shipping it to Nunavut but had no choice but to get rid of it. That was the year NTCL still owned the company. The shipping company tried to make easy money by trying to supply Hopebay and not deal with their regular Sealift customers up north all the communities they once served. After that they went downhill.

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