Nfld. & Labrador

Northern Ranger to sail again on Labrador coast

The Mushuau Innu First Nation bought the vessel to provide freight, and possibly passenger service, to Natuashish.

Mushuau Innu First Nation bought vessel to provide freight service to Natuashish

The Northern Ranger is coming back to serve the Labrador coast once again as the Mushuau Innu First Nation has bought the vessel. (John Gaudi/CBC)

People on the north coast of Labrador could be seeing a familiar ship docking this summer. 

Less than two years after the ship was retired, the Mushuau Innu First Nation has bought the MV Northern Ranger to serve Natuashish, and possibly other communities on the Labrador coast.

It will initially be used as a freighter to deliver cargo, but the MIFN hopes eventually to bring passengers on board as well.

John Nui, chief of Natuashish, says the short shipping season contributed to the purchasing of the ship, which previously sailed on Labrador waters for over three decades.

"It's a very short season in summer and we have a lot of things to do in our communities," Nui told CBC Radio's Labrador Morning on Friday. "Purchasing this boat will give us this chance to deliver our goods and all the stuff we need for our community."

The Northern Ranger made its final voyage in 2018 and was replaced by the Kamutik W in 2019.

Owned by Woodward's Group of Companies, the Kamutik has faced sustained criticism from residents along the coast over the summer.

Nui disagrees the service offered by Woodward's was inadequate.

The Kamutik W came under a lot of criticism from residents along the coast of Labrador this summer. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

"The services … [have] been very challenging over the past few months, and we're certainly not trying to take away the services that was provided by Woodward's. But we're just taking the opportunity that we have and [trying] to make it more useful for, and beneficial for, all the coastal communities," Nui said.

The chief didn't want to discuss how much the Northern Ranger cost the MIFN, saying that there was a "significant amount put into this," but he hopes that people in Natuashish and along the coast take advantage of the service.

The vessel is owned by the MIFN and will be operated by the company Canship Innu Marine LP.

The company told CBC News in a statement it plans to "make maximum use" of the ferry during the shipping window following a refit, and "pursue other alternatives during the rest of the year to encourage economic development and tourism."

Woodward's confident in new ferry

Woodward's CEO Peter Woodward says the Northern Ranger is old technology that will cost a lot of money in maintenance.

"Because the vessel is 33, 34 years old this year, it's very difficult to maintain. I know that the last year it went into overhaul for the provincial government, they spent in excess of five million dollars overhauling the ship," Woodward said.

"It doesn't have any vehicle capacity. It has a very limited cargo capacity, so I suspect [passengers will] continue to be using our service," Woodward said of the Kamutik. "I'm very confident that we bought the right vessel."

If everything goes smoothly, the Northern Ranger could be docking in Natuashish this summer.

Tentative plans call for the ferry to depart from Natuashish, Happy Valley Goose-Bay and potentially Lewisporte.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Labrador Morning