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Shippers press coast guard over fees

Chris Windeyer
Northern News Services

Iqaluit (Nov 13/06) - The House of Commons has called for an end to coast guard service fees levied against shipping companies hauling freight North of 60.

The coast guard charges shipping companies to defray the cost of providing services like marine buoys and icebreaking.

Both the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans and the House of Commons have passed motions urging the coast guard to stop collecting the fees.

The final decision is up to Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn.

"We hope... Minister Hearn will finally implement the 1997 marine service fee exemption for the Eastern Arctic," Suzanne Paquin, vice-president of sealift company Nunavut Eastern Arctic Shipping, said in a statement. "Nunavut has been waiting for 10 years now."

Claudine Gagnon, the coast guard's executive director of economic initiatives, said Arctic-bound ships account for around $100,000 of more than $65 million generated through cost recovery fees annually.

Who pays what is determined through a complex formula based on a ship's country of ownership, point of origin and method of cargo loading.

Nunavut MP Nancy Karetak-Lindell said the coast guard is misreading the 1997 directive. The marine agency's interpretation is that the service fees exemption doesn't apply to sealift shipments because the originate south of 60, she said.

Gagnon said the coast guard has no plans to change its practice, but the Department of Fisheries and Oceans will soon be consulting with the shipping industry to develop a new fee system. That could include changes to fees for Northern shippers, she said.