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No resolution on barge debacle

Marine Transportation Services says no further compensation is coming for customers of its cancelled barges last fall, and legal action is still being considered by Kitikmeot businesses.

All essential cargo has been delivered to Kugluktuk and Cambridge Bay, according to Kelley Ryder, spokesperson for the Government of the Northwest Territories’ Department of Infrastructure, which owns and operates MTS.

The Kitikmeot Chamber of Commerce posted on its website that it has retained law firm Cooper Regel to review the situation and help determine steps forward. Nunavut News was unable to schedule an interview with the chamber by press time.

Meanwhile, customers are saying they’ve been treated unfairly.

“There’s nothing I can do,” says Suzanne Maniyogina in Cambridge Bay.

Maniyogina’s vehicle was supposed to ship to Cambridge Bay last summer but was stored in Inuvik after MTS cancelled its barge service to Cambridge Bay and Kugluktuk when it couldn’t make it before the ice came in.

Marine Transportation Services maintains no further compensation is coming for customers of last year's cancelled barge service. photo courtesy of the Department of Infrastructure

While fuel and cargo were airlifted to communities in October and November, some items — such as vehicles — are being stored over winter in Inuvik. Nine Cambridge Bay residents, including Maniyogina, and one Kugluktuk resident were refunded shipping costs for vehicles, which will be barged in this summer.

Maniyogina got her vehicle so that she could manage a busy schedule, balancing work with childcare, and says MTS hasn’t offered any further help than refunding shipping costs.

“What can I do? I can’t make them treat me properly or help me,” she says.

Maniyogina says she doesn’t intend on getting anything shipped up in the near future, though she can’t foresee whether a situation will come up in which she would need to. If she does, she says she wouldn’t go to MTS.

Cambridge Bay-based Kalvik Enterprises had ordered supplies to the community for construction projects that were underway, and while supplies trickled in by airlift, further compensation has not been offered for costs caused to the business by delays.

Helen Koaha says MTS has not responded to Kalvik’s requests and that lawyers are reviewing the situation.

Ryder says MTS refunded shipping costs for vehicles as a “gesture of goodwill,” but isn’t liable.

“As with all common carriers, customers ship cargo at their own risk and insurance is available for purchase on our website at the time of cargo consignment,” she stated.

In the post, the Kitikmeot Chamber of Commerce granted that MTS, which is owned and run by the Government of the Northwest Territories, is new to the barging business. It says MTS’s services are likely going to be an important part of doing business in the region for years to come, but that it needs to amend its operating policies and figure our insurance coverage for customers that would clarify liability in situations like this.

Ryder says MTS is taking steps to prevent similar situations in the future.

“The plan will include staging tugs and barges, and cargo in Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk to facilitate earlier departure and delivery to each community,” she stated. “MTS will also collaborate with federal agencies and subject matter experts on matters of ice conditions, forecasting and climate change in order to determine our best approach to cargo delivery in the Western Arctic.”