GNWT examining ways to lengthen Abraham Francis ferry

Last modified: March 4, 2022 at 8:26am

The NWT government is trying to find the money to lengthen the Abraham Francis ferry, which operates outside Fort McPherson.

The Abraham Francis is a vehicle and passenger cable ferry that carries Dempster Highway traffic across the Peel River from June to November each year. Extending the vessel would improve its cargo capacity but isn’t a straightforward exercise.

Rocky Simpson, the MLA for Hay River South, asked about the ferry’s future in the NWT legislature this week.


“My understanding is the vessel is only rated at 40,000 kg, so this limits the number of loads coming across, whereas you’ve got the Louis Cardinal, which is closer to Inuvik, rated for 64,000 kg,” Simpson said, referring to a separate ferry that crosses the Mackenzie River near Tsiigehtchic.

Simpson said he believed lengthening the Abraham Francis would allow it to achieve the same 64,000-kg rating, simplifying the movement of freight along the Dempster Highway.

Gary Brennan, the Department of Infrastructure’s assistant deputy minister of regional operations, confirmed the department is looking at lengthening the ferry.

“We want to extend the ferry by 20 to 30 feet,” Brennan said.

“Unfortunately, right now we don’t have any funding so we are seeking funding. We’re trying to come up with creative ways to extend that ferry.”


Brennan said lengthening the ferry would allow twin-trailer fuel tankers to cross the Peel River without the trailers being decoupled and transported one at a time.

“There are some challenges with that ferry,” he continued. “We do want to extend it. We think we can extend it by X number of feet and get 25 more years out of that ferry as well. So if we can identify the funding, we will proceed with that project as soon as we can.”

The Abraham Francis was built in 1981. When the day comes to replace it, the GNWT will examine the possibility of an electric replacement.

Again responding to a question on the matter from Simpson, Brennan said: “We have looked at the electrification of the Abraham Francis ferry. Some of the challenges we have are a lack of electricity and power hookups at our sites, but we have looked at the electrification of that one. We continue to look at that.


“A lot of the federal funding coming out is green funding and in replacing a ferry, that might be the way we’ll have to go. That’s where the funding seems to sit, these days.”