Sachs Harbour’s resupply barge won’t make it, GNWT says

Last modified: October 14, 2022 at 6:39pm


This year’s resupply barge to Sachs Harbour has been cancelled, the NWT government says, because of weather-related delays and a late start to the season.

Barge cancellation has significant consequences, both for residents and the territorial government. The shipments are relied upon for bulk supplies of fuel and other goods, ranging from food to vehicles.

In past years, the inability of a barge to reach a community has led to the territory paying millions of dollars to ship the most vital goods by air.

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By email, Nunakput MLA Jackie Jacobson – who represents Sachs Harbour – said he was working with infrastructure minister Diane Archie to ensure that Marine Transportation Services, the territorially owned barge operator, “will make alternate arrangements to get the needed supplies, goods and fuel into the community.”

“I understand there will be no associated costs with the alternate arrangements passed on to residents,” Jacobson wrote on Friday afternoon.

“The Department of Infrastructure has advised that there is enough fuel on hand in the community for the immediate future. I understand that this may be frustrating news for constituents, but I want people to know that this is a top priority for myself and the minister.”

Archie, in an emailed statement of her own, stated that “contingency plans are in place and the GNWT is committed to ensuring all necessary fuel and freight arrive in a timely manner.”

After this article was first published, Archie’s department stated by email that Marine Transportation Services will begin contacting customers to discuss their shipments on Saturday morning.

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The NWT government said recent bad weather had complicated what was already a delayed shipping season. According to the GNWT, the season started late because of “climate change, delayed buoy placement, and flooding in both Inuvik and Hay River.”

“It is no longer safe to attempt crossing the Amundsen Gulf,” the territory stated on Friday.

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The 2022 summer sailing schedule for the barges had been updated on Friday to reflect the Sachs Harbour cancellation. Previously, in late September, the schedule had estimated an October 1 arrival that never came to pass.

The only other community with no barge arrival date shown on that page is Aklavik, which is listed as “TBD.” After this article was first published the Department of Infrastructure said no cargo or fuel had been booked for shipment to Aklavik this summer so no barge had been scheduled.

The department said one tug and barges will spend the winter in Paulatuk. Conditions now mean they cannot safely return down the Mackenzie River to Hay River in time.