The sealift that turned into an airlift in the Kitikmeot remains a fluid situation with some customers choosing to be refunded for cargo that won’t be delivered this year or taking free shipping on next year’s barge.

Stuart Rostant, left, and Amanda Doiron, seen in their CHOU Consulting office in Cambridge Bay, are among the Marine Transportation Services customers who have agreed to have their barge shipping costs waived next year as compensation for not receiving their materials this summer.
photo courtesy of Stuart Rostant

Stuart Rostant and his wife Amanda Doiron, who run CHOU Consulting, were planning to start work on a fourplex in Cambridge Bay but some framing panels won’t fit in the available cargo planes, he said.

“We’ve been able to reach an agreement with MTS (Marine Transportation Services) that all of our shipping costs will be waived in 2019,” Rostant said on Oct. 22, adding that he’s heard others are opting for similar terms. “It’s all sort of evolving. I guess the pocket of people or customers that are not happy has maybe decreased even a bit more. I think some people are OK with what MTS might be offering now… there’s definitely some headway.”

For those who ordered pickup trucks, having shipping costs waived on the next barge would represent a savings in the range of $4,000 to $5,000.

Others, like contractor Peter Laube of Kalvik Enterprises, remain uncertain of how they will handle their predicament.

“We’ve explained to them that we’re out of pocket on a lot of money right now just trying to stay supplied with materials and get jobs done because we’re losing clients,” Laube said. “Most of this (construction) is done on funding and if deadlines aren’t met, they pull the funding.”

On Oct. 25, Laube said he was still negotiating with MTS and he expected to hear from them in a few days, adding that he has a lawyer involved with some of his communication with the barge operator.

“That’s why they’re starting to talk,” he said of MTS’s response to his legal representative.

Cynthia Ene, executive director of the Kitikmeot Chamber of Commerce, said her sense is that more MTS customers are feeling satisfied as cargo streams in by air or as they accept arrangements for free shipping next year.

“Generally speaking, folks seem to be quite content,” Ene said, adding that contact between the company and its customers has improved.

She said there was strength in the collective effort of those affected by the barge, a month behind schedule, not being able to reach Kugluktuk or Cambridge Bay due to increasing ice.

“When you have enough people up in arms, they’ll form a collective or come to an organization like the KCC (Kitikmeot Chamber of Commerce),” Ene said, adding that the chamber’s board members believe the media has also played a critical role by “asking the tough questions.”

The GNWT Department of Infrastructure, which runs MTS, did not respond to Nunavut News’ questions on Oct. 24 or Oct. 25.

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