North coast residents seeing long delays for arrival of winter supplies
People concerned they won't get supplies before ferry service stops for the winter, Makkovik resident says
A Makkovik resident says people on Labrador's north coast have been waiting a month or more for their winter supplies to arrive.
The wait is concerning because as the end of the year gets closer, the window for freight service by sea to the coast gets smaller and smaller, says Toby Andersen, who says service to the area was better decades ago.
"It's very frustrating when you see smaller vessels moving back and forth but this one with our freight can't move," Andersen, who said he has been waiting for his shipment of winter supplies for four weeks, told CBC's Labrador Morning.
Peter Woodward, CEO of the Woodward Group of Companies, acknowledged that there have been issues since the Kamutik W first set sail in July.
"Obviously, we had some problems and we made some mistakes," Woodward said. Those mistakes have included cargo being dropped in the wrong locations, he said — something Andersen said happened to his daughter's shipment, which was mistakenly delivered to Postville and left there without notification.
The north coast ferry service is operated by Labrador Marine, which is part of the Woodward Group, in partnership with Nunatsiavut Marine. Woodward said the company has been talking with Nunatsiavut Marine over the past few days about the issues with the service so far, and what can be done to resolve them.
"All I can tell you is that we're working on that, and in the last few days I think we've made some significant plans that will resolve it for the balance of the season," he told Labrador Morning.
On Oct. 16, Woodward Group guaranteed in a media release that all commercial and residential freight received at the Goose Bay terminal by Nov. 8 would be delivered to recipients on the north coast before the end of the shipping season in December.
Some of the problems with transport so far have come from a stretch of bad weather including high winds, said the company — but not all residents are buying it.
"The conditions have not been bad enough to hold up other vessels," Andersen said, mentioning large fishing vessels that have been able to dock and unload catches, and a barge that came in with materials for contractors.
The Kamutik W can handle waves that are three or four metres high, Woodward said, and that's fine for freight transport but not safe for passenger travel.
"We're adhering to the same wind conditions that Marine Atlantic would do," he said.
Some of the theories being shared on social media — for example, that the Kamutik W is a flat-bottomed boat like a barge, or that one of its doors is non-operational — simply aren't true, said Woodward, who added that he's confident the vessel is the right one to service the north coast.
"There are issues — we're not saying that there aren't issues — and we're working to resolve them," he said.
"I'm confident that the service will be one that's going to improve the lives of people on the coast."
There's real concern that she's not going to be able to handle it.- Toby Andersen
But Andersen pointed to the way freight and passenger service once was on the north coast, decades earlier, and said things appear to be worse now than they were then. The solution, Andersen said, could be to have two boats serving the coast.
Despite the guarantee from Woodward Group, north coast residents are worried that supplies ordered for the winter won't arrive in time, or that they will have frozen after sitting in Happy Valley-Goose Bay for too long, he said.
"There's real concern that she's not going to be able to handle it," Andersen said.
With files from Labrador Morning