North

Only half of NTCL's vessels expected to sell: report

Only half of the vessels owned by Northern Transportation Company Ltd. appear to have value as the company tries to sell off its assets to stave off bankruptcy.

77 of company's 158 vessels either 'scrap, abandoned or out of class,' report says

NTCL has 158 vessels spread out across the country, but the company is only expecting about half of those to find buyers. (NTCL)

Only half of the vessels owned by Northern Transportation Company Ltd. appear to have value as the company tries to sell off its assets to stave off bankruptcy.

In a report filed in Alberta court last week, the company's court-appointed monitor, PricewaterhouseCoopers, said that of the company's 158 vessels — mainly tugs and barges — 77 are either "scrap, abandoned or out of class."

Mark Fleming, the vice president of NorTerra, NTCL's parent company, said many of NTCL's assets date back decades to when NTCL was a Crown corporation.

"The terms 'scrap, abandoned or out of class vessels' were used to be all-encompassing due to the broad nature of NTCL's operations and asset base throughout the last century," he said when asked to elaborate.

"NTCL continues to work with potential purchasers for all assets."

The company's 81 other vessels are "likely" to be sold after this summer's shipping season or already have offers pending, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers.

NTCL began an inventory of all its vessels, including abandoned ones, in late June, about two months after the company filed for bankruptcy protection.

At that time, the company cited the value of its assets as $44 million — well below the $130 million it owes to a trio of banks, to say nothing of what it owes to dozens of other creditors.

So far the company has sold nine assets not needed for this year's sealift season in the N.W.T., the latest being a barge to Fort Chip Marine Transport.  

The sale prices are being kept confidential at the request of NTCL, which argues that disclosing them could jeopardize future sales.

NTCL accused of 'negligence' with its vessels

The inventory of "abandoned" vessels has surfaced at the same time as a lawsuit filed against NTCL by the owner of a wharf in Mount Carmel, Newfoundland, charging NTCL with not taking care of its equipment.

The owner of the wharf — who goes unnamed in the monitor's report — is seeking $186,000, plus HST and interest, "for alleged negligence by [NTCL] in failing to properly secure and moor a number of vessels at the wharf."

The monitor says lawyers for NTCL are dealing with the matter.

Fleming declined to comment, saying it's before the courts.

Next court date

On Tuesday, NTCL's court protection from its creditors was extended to Oct. 31.

Five days before that, on Oct. 26, lawyers for NTCL pensioners will argue that the pensioners should get first dibs on the money made from selling off the company's assets  — ahead of the banks owed $130 million.

The pension fund, which covers over 600 current and former NTCL workers, is short $20 million.