Nfld. & Labrador

Coast guard hauling freight to Labrador a 1st, says owner of truck company

"This is the short-term solution to the problem … whatever it takes."

'This is the short-term solution to the problem … whatever it takes,' says Cliff Rowe

A view of the ice in the Strait of Belle Isle from aboard a Canadian Coast Guard ship, shared March 8. (Canadian Coast Guard/Twitter)

In an unusual move, the Canadian Coast Guard is now moving freight to Labrador, while the ferry servicing the Strait of Belle Isle remains in port because of severe ice conditions.

Cliff Rowe, who runs Fogo Island Freight, says Transportation and Works has asked the coast guard to bring some freight to coastal communities experiencing shortages.

Those shortages are due to the Qajaq W ferry being unable to do its usual run on the Strait of Belle Isle because of the ice conditions this season, which have even caused one of the coast guard's icebreakers to get stuck.

This is the short-term solution to the problem … whatever it takes.- Cliff Rowe

"Well, I've been at this now for quite a number of years and I've never known the coast guard to actually move freight," Rowe said.

"They move ferries through ice and stuff, but this is a first. I had a job to believe it."

As of Wednesday morning, Rowe is on his way to Corner Brook to put another two 53-foot trailers filled with grocery items on a boat, all to be taken to Labrador in the afternoon.

"Everything. Eggs, fresh fruit, vegetables. It's 100 per cent grocery," Rowe told CBC Newfoundland Morning.

This winter is 'one of the worst'

Rowe said his company will have trucks ready at the dock if the ferry does make it through the ice.

"This is the short-term solution to the problem … whatever it takes," he said. "Unusual. I'm impressed. It's good. And it works."

The Qajaq W makes her first trip to Blanc Sablon from St. Barbe. (Submitted by Jason Joncas)

But these ice conditions are a first for him.

"I've been trucking down to Labrador for about the last 15 years and this is like the old-time winters. It's right up there with one of the worst."

'It's ridiculous'

Rowe said he's lost a week of runs to Fogo Island, as well, but the trucks on that route are on the move Wednesday morning.

Meanwhile, a woman who lives in Mary's Harbour says she's been waiting for weeks to cross on the ferry to get to a post-operation medical appointment that she's now booked to do in June.

Jessie Rumbolt was due for a six-week checkup on Feb. 7 following surgery, but ice conditions and ferry delays mean she's been cancelled week after week after week.

"It's not an option for me to fly from Mary's Harbour to St. Anthony to Gander, because it's just too much money for me," she said.

"It's ridiculous."

Rumbolt said the six-week checkup was meant to clear her to return to work.

"I know it's frustrating for a lot of people and, I mean, it's frustrating for me, too," she said.

"[We] have to play the waiting game. Have patience, will travel."

But Rumbolt said she realizes there isn't much Labrador Marine can do about the situation, aside from wait.

"It's just a factor of how bad the ice is."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from CBC Newfoundland Morning


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