High Arctic Haulers·Video

The extreme challenge of unloading cargo in the High Arctic

Each cargo ship in the Desgagnés fleet is self-sufficient, prepared to craft their own loading dock in each port along Canada’s most remote shorelines.

Cargo ships in the Desgagnés fleet craft their own loading docks along Canada’s most remote shorelines

Unloading cargo ships in isolated Arctic communities

3 years ago
Duration 1:41
Faced with the lack of port infrastructure and a schedule that's set by the tides, unloading cargo ships in remote Arctic communities is a challenging job.

The Desgagnés fleet who travel to the Far North each summer are delivering much-needed supplies that communities depend on to survive—anything from food to furnaces to fire trucks. 

  • Watch the new documentary series, High Arctic Haulers, as it follows the sealift on its journey north.

And accounting for each and every item being delivered to hundreds of individuals across multiple communities isn't their only challenge. Most of their destinations in the Arctic do not have loading docks, which means the cargo ships need to be totally self-sufficient to get the goods directly onto the beach. The ships are equipped with cranes and the rest of the heavy equipment is brought along onboard to be assembled as soon as the ship drops anchor and the Chief Mate gives the green light. It's a precise process. 

Heavy equipment for unloading cargo is secured aboard a Desgagnés ship, headed north. (CBC | High Arctic Haulers )

"We start unloading the tugboat first, after that, the small barge. After that, we'll put the big loaders with the ramps and the tug will push the barge up to the beach with the high tide," explains Olivier Nault, Captain of the Taïga Desgagnés. 

A tugboat pushes an empty barge from the shore back toward its cargo ship to load more cargo. (CBC | High Arctic Haulers )

The crew must unload all of the cargo, disassemble the ramps and get all of the equipment back to the ship before low tide. If there's even one crate remaining when the tide drops, they've got to be patient and wait until the next high tide. Otherwise, the barge and tug could get trapped in the mud.