4 new barges bound for Tuktoyaktuk from China

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The COVID-19 pandemic may be delaying deliveries across Canada, but it is not preventing four new barges from traveling from China to Tuktoyaktuk, NWT, this summer.Marine Transportation Services (MTS) awaits the new fleet in August, arriving on a heavy lift vessel.

Steve Hagerman, director of MTS, the NWT government-owned barge company, said the intercontinental delivery would have been remarkable, even if the country was not already in the midst of a pandemic.

“It’s going to be one of the-[a-kind] for sure. I don’t think it will be repeated again, ”Hagerman said.

Barges bring essential fuel and other dry cargo to coastal communities across the Arctic and Mackenzie River in the NWT every summer. And in Nunavut.

Hagermen said these four barges from the China Merchants Jinling shipyard are part of a new series specially designed to handle large volumes of petroleum products. With the increase in capacity, this will allow MTS to reduce the number of deliveries in some communities.

An infrastructure spokesperson said the total budget for the design, construction and delivery of the four barges was $ 20.7 million; the federal government paid 75 percent and the territorial government covered the remaining 25 percent.

Steve Hagerman, director of shipping services, said despite the pandemic, four barges will continue to sail north from China this summer. (Submitted by Steve Hagerman)

Hagerman said that, so far, the organization of the delivery has gone better than expected – despite the closure of the shipyard in China “for more than a month” since the summit. the pandemic in March.

Another concern has been that, like the NWT, China has experienced high water levels and the country is deal with severe flooding.

“We were really worried, of course, that we might not be able to get the barges at all this year,” he said. “I don’t know how they did it, but they sped up and got us back on time. “

Restrictions COVID-19

With the arrival of ships during the COVID-19 pandemic, restrictions will be in place, an Infrastructure spokesperson said in an email on Tuesday.

Interactions between crew and residents are already limited for regular deliveries of community cargo, with designated drop zones.

“For the delivery of barges from China, the barges will be unloaded by another vessel between 30 and 60 kilometers offshore, depending on the weather. There will be no physical interactions or contact between ships or ship crews, ”the email said.

The Chinese crew will not leave their ship, with communications between the crews only by radio. The email says MTS personnel who are physically involved in securing the new barges went through 14 days of self-isolation, as did Chinese crew members.

Nunakput MP Jackie Jacobson, pictured in this file photo, says the new barges are going to be a big deal for his riding and other Arctic coastal communities. (Mario De Ciccio / Radio-Canada)

Nunakput MP Jackie Jacobson said the new barges are going to be a big problem for his riding and other Arctic coastal communities.

“It’s just reassuring to have new barges in place that are able to carry as much fuel as needed for these communities. Instead of taking two trips a year, they are able to do it all in one, ”Jacobson said.

“I look forward to making sure all of my coastal communities are served and I think this is a big step forward for our government working with coastal communities.

“We haven’t seen any big boats since last year so it will be good to see,” said Jacobson.

Hagerman, of MTS, said the heavy lift vessel is expected to head overseas with the barges on July 28.

It should arrive around 14 days later, depending on the weather.

Hagerman said the new ships won’t replace the current barges, and while these ships are typically used on the ocean, they can also be used on rivers.

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