Nunatsiavut, province meet over Labrador ferry dispute
Parties have different take on meeting's productivity, discussions to continue
As the Kamutik W remains stranded in Rigolet — and along with it, its cargo, crew and passengers — the provincial and Inuit governments are still trying to come to an agreement over solutions to frequent delays along the northern Labrador coast ferry route.
Transportation Minister Steve Crocker sat down with Nunatsiavut leaders Thursday afternoon to hash out a fix to the frequent weather-related delays, telling reporters it was a "productive meeting" and calling Nunatsiavut's concerns valid.
"We knew from Day 1 with the transition of service this year that there would be growing pains," he said. "We'll make sure that the necessary freight gets to the north coast."
Nunatsiavut First Minister Kate Mitchell had a different view of Thursday's discussions.
"Minister Crocker guaranteed us that all essential freight would be delivered to our communities by whatever means necessary. However, we are not optimistic this will be the case, given all of the problems we have had with the overall service this year," Mitchell said in a statement provided to CBC after the meeting.
Mitchell said weather conditions weren't such a frequent source of delay in previous years.
The Kamutik, which debuted in July, was purchased from Norway and was said to be built to withstand northern climates. It replaced two older ferries that serviced the route.
Critics say the ferry's flat bottom makes it unfit for high winds and large waves, disrupting its regular schedule among communities along the Labrador coast.
"We still maintain the Kamutik W is inadequate to meet our needs," Mitchell said in the statement.
Crocker said the ferry was purchased after consultation with independent bodies, and blamed the weather, not the vessel.
"Last year we had 10 delays to the end of September on the Northern Ranger," he said, on par with the number of schedule interruptions in the same time frame this year.
"These delays are normal when you're dealing with the Labrador coast."
Communities such as Nain, Rigolet and Makkovik depend on the ferry not just for transportation, but for delivering food and other freight.
Crocker agreed to meet with Nunatsiavut leaders later this month to continue the discussion, this time with the ferry's operator also at the table.