Nfld. & Labrador

Nain residents take to dock to demand freight delivered before winter sets in

A group of about a dozen protesters rallied at Nain's dock on Monday night, concerned about delays and cancellations that have struck the new ferry serving coastal Labrador.

Group of dozen protesters rally at dock to voice displeasure with ferry service

Protesters headed to the Labrador Marine wharf in Nain on Monday night to complain about the ferry service and its impact on food security. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

A group of about a dozen protesters took to the town's dock on Monday night because of a slew of delays and cancellations that have struck the new coastal Labrador ferry.

Several of the residents told CBC News they are worried they won't get cargo they ordered months ago before the winter sets in and the ferry stops running.

The Woodward Group of Companies won the contract to replace the Northern Ranger — which had served the coast of Labrador since 1986 — but has faced delays and cancellations since taking over the route this year.

"It not like they're brand new to shipping," said Nain resident Jenny Oliver. 

"There was probably going to be some delay in the beginning but now, all those delays and how she cannot travel in just basic weather — it's fall now and it's just going to get worse and I don't know how they're going to get our supplies here."

Jenny Oliver is worried she won't get essential freight she ordered months ago before the winter sets in and the ferry stops running. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

People are concerned about essential cargo arriving on time, including food for the long winter season. There are no other shipping options until the ice clears in the spring. 

In a written statement to CBC News, Woodward Group CEO Peter Woodward said things are in hand. 

"We have a schedule that will complete all freight shipped by the cutoff date will be delivered within the next two weeks," he said.

"This is significantly better than completion of shipping in the 2018 season."

Transportation and Works Minister Steve Crocker told the House of Assembly last week that there are three loads of freight left to be delivered to the north coast of Labrador before winter comes.

He said this time last year, the Northern Ranger had five loads left to deliver, putting the new vessel ahead of schedule.

'Not fit' for the route, resident says

Local residents don't see it that way.

"I came to protest because the Kamuktik W is not fit to be on the Labrador seas," said Rosina Holwell.

"It's unnerving when you see it down here to the dock [for] two or three days, when it's supposed to be travelling to Goose Bay and the other coastal communities to get the supplies we need."

The Kamutik W moored for the first time at the dock in Rigolet. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

Holvell suggested they should get another ship to service the route to finish the freight runs, or have government pay the cost to fly everything into Nain.

Without their winter freight, people will be forced to pay high prices for food.

Food security and costs are major issues for the residents of Nain. At a local grocery store, a five-kilogram ham was selling Friday for $63.

Holvell said the boat is tied up more than the Northern Ranger was, and more than the boats that preceded the Ranger.

Residents in Makkovik voiced similar concerns last month after the ferry was tied up for a week straight due to high winds.

Strong winds have challenged the Kamutik W since it started on the route. The ship can handle four-metre waves, but while that's fine for shipping freight, it's not safe for the passenger service.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Jacob Barker