This story is being bandied about some what, but little from the perspective of the North Labrador Coast.
The NLC has a long historical relationship with Lewisport and different owners of Atlantic wholesalers, so it is surprising that all stories to date revolve around effects on Lewisport and Cartwright [insert puzzled face here], not that there is anything wrong with that.
Since this was announced I have been in contact with all CBC NL programs by e mail, plus spoken to several people in town, the last one being the First Minister of NG. To date nothing of any substance has come out of it. Some may think that time is not of the essence, well it is!
This morning CBC St. John’s had a small piece on the issue, mainly directed to effects on Lewisport. They had a clip of Minister Hickey of WST. Hickey’s words only muddied the waters as to what really goes on with the marine service to Labrador. Mr. Hickey claimed that the ferry service between Lewisport and Cartwright [?] is safe for the next three years. He added that the people on the north coast want the ferry service to stay as is, so they should not worry either. [insert puzzled face here].
So let’s get a bit of perspective and history: First off; ferry in the Labrador service context means a vessel that carries passengers as well as freight. Two are on the runs, mv Sir Robert Bond and the mv Northern Ranger. The Bond does Goose Bay-Cartwright-Lewisport in different configurations. The Ranger does Goose Bay-Cartwright-Black Tickle-Cartwright-all points north to Nain on a weekly basis.
There is also a freight only vessel that does Cartwright –all points north Nain, or it’s supposed to.
The history is; them days all was fairly copasetic with the shipping, with the odd little exception. Then the Province took over the operation, so we are at where we are today.
The road from Cartwright to Blanc Sablon was completed; all hell broke loose with lobbying, political decisions taking precedence over common sense and economics.
First off the Ranger was moved from Lewisport as home port to St. Anthony. The freight still came out of Lewisport, but then with the road to Cartwright the decision was made to bring the freight into Cartwright from theIsland by road and have that local as the distribution point for the North Coast. As well the Ranger was being moved to Cartwright.
All this interference and ridicules decisions had a negative effect on the North Coast.
Retailers were getting shipping quotes up to 800% higher than the previous year.
The Ranger was not going to be operated efficiently out of Cartwright. There was no infrastructure in Cartwright to handle dry or freezer freight.
North Coast made representations to the then minister of WST, who was as stunned as a dead mullet.
As fortune had it the Minister changed, the new minister listened, came to the coast and met with concerned citizens, though reluctantly I heard later. Sanity was maintained to a degree.
What the North Coast asked for then, and still does today is a dedicated freight boat for the NC from Lewisport to Cartwright then all ports north. Better yet it could run out of St. John’s, as it did before being moved to Lewisport, but that was not pushed by NC.
The Ranger was not as important where it left from, but Goose Bay or Lewisport were the preference.
What happened then and what we have today is: Bond picks up freight in Lewisport, drops off NC freight in Cartwright. It then goes to Goose Bay and brings NC freight back to Cartwright. The mv Astron loads the freight for north and away it goes.
This has not been received very well by people in Goose Bay and Cartwright; it is a compromise that pleases none of the users of the marine service.
The Ranger has the configuration as mentioned above. It is under utilized most trips for freight to the NC.
Many things are wrong with the freight configuration. The Astron sites idle for days waiting for the Bond. Only one boat can be at the dock at once. Freight gets lost or stolen, pushed back with fresher freight in front, resulting in delays.
It is impossible for customers to get any tracking from the operators as to where their freight is. Most times you know where it is only when it arrives [hopefully].
The mv Astron runs on a regular schedule all summer, but in the early days of the season it comes in with little freight on board. NC has suggested less frequent runs in those months, nope.
Then in the busy freight months it is total chaos, with little to no rhyme nor reason as to how freight is loaded off loaded.
Granted not all the problems getting freight into the communities lays with WST and the operator. What has been asked for is a site down with the minister and try sort and identify the problems, have people take responsibility if things are not working as they should, who’s on third? That sort of thing.
No meeting to date even though the minister is on record stating that the NC was a priority when he took over the portfolio. Now minister is insisting that NC meet with his staff before meeting with him. Several meetings were scheduled but called off for various reasons. The next try is for the 13 of this month, it’s not a Friday.
It may turn out that the people of the NC will not be affected in an overly negative way, but if we don’t talk about it, and if it is not looked into, how the bloody hell will we know?
That’s it from me, and that’s it from him.