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Sea shipping needed for Labrador's north coast: Evans

Torngat Mountains MHA Lela Evans says the cancelled ferry was the biggest issue during the election campaign.
Torngat Mountains MHA Lela Evans says the cancelled ferry was the biggest issue during the election campaign. - David Maher

Cancelled ferry shipments out of Lewisporte carry ‘hidden costs’ for northern Labrador, Torngat Mountains MHA says

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

Torngat Mountains MHA Lela Evans says the cancellation of a freight ship from Lewisporte to the north coast of Labrador is the only reason she was elected as an MHA.

Evans used her inaugural questions in the first question period of the new minority government to call attention to the cancellation of the shipping, and the “hidden” consequences of the decision.

The freight service to the north coast was halted in September 2018. The Woodward Group and Labrador Marine were contracted to start a new ferry run with a drive-on ship to Happy Valley-Goose Bay, so the shipments from Lewisporte were halted. Now, goods will be shipped to Happy Valley-Goose Bay and sent to communities like Nain, Postville and Hopedale. The goods will be shipped by sea at certain times of the year and by air at other times.

Evans says the people of northern Labrador need the shipments from Lewisporte, as it’s less expensive to ship goods from Lewisporte than to transport them by air or by sea into the remote communities from Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

The freight service for shipping goods and supplies to coastal Labrador stood as a staple service of Lewisporte for generations.
The freight service for shipping goods and supplies to coastal Labrador stood as a staple service of Lewisporte for generations.

“Everybody that I campaigned door-to-door in my district said they need — it’s not a want, it’s not a preference — they actually need the Lewisporte ferry, the freight boat from Lewisporte to go to the north coast,” said Evans.

“Marine shipping is much cheaper, not only for the cost, but there’s a lot of smaller businesses on the north coast that provide a vital service to the communities and they’re having a lot of hardship arranging for the trucking. Basically, they’ve been shipping for over 30 years. Now they have to establish this new trucking service. The Liberal government has said to them, ‘You can always go to Quebec.’"

Evans says the Quebec suggestion is about finding new shipping partners to allow more than one way to ship goods into northern communities.

Transportation and Works Minister Steve Crocker says the changes are about lowering the cost of shipping to the north coast.

“If you were to take the snowmobile and ship it out of Lewisporte a year ago, it would cost $140 to ship that snowmobile to Makkovik. Under the new arrangement, to ship that snowmobile from Goose Bay to Makkovik is around $40. We’ve actually adjusted the freight rates to reflect the change in distance,” he said.

But Evans says changing the shipping routes will actually end up costing more, as it’s cheaper to buy goods on the island and have them shipped over sea than over land. Evans says it can be $1,500 cheaper to buy a snowmobile on the island and have it shipped over water.

“Everything has to be trucked to Goose Bay, either from Quebec or from the island. That extra trucking is adding hidden costs to food and materials that end up being in northern Labrador,” she said.

The new ferry to service the run, the MV Kamutik W, is currently 10 days overdue for delivery to the island. It’s still in drydock in Norway. The ferry is expected to be delivered by the end of the month. Crocker says after that, it will be up to the company to provide the services until the ferry can be delivered.

Another issue is the ice conditions in the area, which prevent ferry shipping. Crocker says he can’t say for sure when the ferry shipments will start this year.

“Last year it started on June 20. Previous years, it’s been in July. It depends on weather and ice conditions. We’ve seen severe ice this winter. Right now, we can’t determine that until Mother Nature moves the ice off the coast.”

Twitter: @DavidMaherNL


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