After Arctic Co-operatives Ltd. ditched Canadian North for First Air last year, the airline had to go back to the drawing board, and they came up with an internet-based service called Fetchable.
“We have available space on our aircraft and we’re looking for ways to fill it,” said Canadian North president Steve Hankirk.
“One of the things we’ve talked about for quite some time is having a delivery model, both north and south, that’s robust and timely, and that we’re going to use latest technology in.”
The partnership with BBE Expediting promises to deliver product to the Nunavut communities on its flight plans from anywhere in the world. It also promises one-day service for perishables from the south.
The service is available in Nunavut wherever Canadian North flies: Pond Inlet, Qikiqtarjuaq, Pangnirtung, Iqaluit, Cape Dorset, Hall Beach, Iglulik, Rankin Inlet, Kugaaruk, Taloyoak, Gjoa Haven, Kugluktuk and Cambridge Bay.
Fetchable was developed over the course of the last six months and launched in early February.
“Any number of individuals and retailers can use Fetchable on-line. It’s very simple to use. Any individual or retailer can use it to ship cargo in a cost-effective manner to the North, or, quite frankly, if you’ve got goods to ship to the south, you can connect to a network and basically get it anywhere,” said Hankirk.
Any perishables transported via Fetchable will be treated like luggage, meaning it will get to the community on the same day it’s shipped. The company is even looking to use special German boxes, Fetchable-branded, that will help keep perishables fresh and easily identifiable.
“So we can get it there at even higher quality,” he said.
Meanwhile, First Air, which won the Arctic Co-op Ltd. contract, has applied to build up its cargo infrastructure in Iqaluit and Ottawa, and is asking the federal government to cover half of the $17.5 million needed to enlarge its warehousing and refrigeration storage.
“The increase (in infrastructure) is due to overall growth in cargo demand and use. It isn’t associated to any particular contract, simply overall growth that we have seen over the last few years and that we expected going forward,” said manager for marketing and communications for First Air Dan Valin.
“With cargo demands expected to increase by 28 per cent over the next five years, First Air needs to ensure capacity exists at both ends of the process to support this growth.”
Valin attributes the growth of cargo to strong demand as economies and methods of doing business change with time.
“We certainly see a very strong increase due to the advent and popularity of e-commerce, for example. The cargo trends have been increasing steadily year over year and are stable in doing so.”
Air cargo a mystery
Statistics Canada suppresses all numbers for the territory related to air cargo, though the Canadian figure was 1,216,108 tonnes in 2016.
“The data is suppressed for reasons of confidentiality, as per the Statistics Act,” said communications officer France Gagne.
Nobody seems to know just how much air cargo makes its way into the territory, though First Air has stated it shipped 19.4 million kilos of cargo out of Ottawa to Canada’s Arctic. First Air calls itself the largest freight service provider to Arctic communities, but Valin would not say how much of that volume might be for Arctic Co-operatives, for example, or how winning or losing those contracts would affect its plans. The infrastructure expansion, he said, “isn’t associated to any particular contract.”
Arctic Co-operatives Ltd. would not say how much cargo it ships to Nunavut, only that in its operations across the North it uses multiple carriers with multiple confidential contracts.
“If you just look at the broad array of communities that have member co-ops, we need to rely on about 10 airlines on a weekly basis just to get the goods to the communities,” said vice-president of stakeholder relations for Arctic Co-operatives Ltd. Duane Wilson.
“Suffice it to say that air cargo is a critical service to operating a retail outlet in the North, whether a Northern Store, a Co-op or anyone with a reliance on air cargo service.”
Wilson does say that member co-ops need certainty, so contracts don’t get switched on a whim.
“It’s disruptive and sometime error-prone, and a large effort. So it’s not the sort of thing that’s done lightly or flippantly. As a result, we always look to have multi-year arrangements for the critical pieces of air cargo,” said Wilson.
“And needless to say, it would be a multi-million dollar annual contract.”
Wilson says Canadian North had the lion’s share of Co-op contracts since 2009.
But that’s the past, and Canadian North has its eyes on the future.
“We are looking to find retail partners that need a delivery service,” said Canadian North’s vice-president of scheduled services and cargo Andrew Pope.
“Are we, Canadian North and BBE under this Fetchable brand, looking to replace Amazon? We don’t think so, but what we do think is people are already using Amazon but Amazon needs a logistics and delivery partner to be able to complete the service they are providing.”
Pope says his company believes Amazon is working with Canada Post, and Canadian North sees itself as a legitimate rival.
“Quite frankly, we don’t think people in the North who are using Amazon are getting the best delivery service possible with Canada Post,” he said, adding the national postal service is not as focused on the North as Fetchable would be.
Canada Post has, in the past, told Nunavut News it uses all carriers to get its cargo to Nunavut, and has also stayed mum on contracts and volumes. Similarly, Amazon won’t divulge its Nunavut-specific numbers.
Hankirk estimates Canadian North has so far invested about $500,000 for what he calls phase one. Phase two will involve developing the partnerships and streamlining an app, possibly to merge with retailers’ systems.