NNSL Photo/Graphic

Home page text size buttonsbigger textsmall textText size Email this articleE-mail this page

Weird ice flips sealift schedule
High Arctic is clear while southern destinations start clearing almost a month late

Casey Lessard
Northern News Services
Saturday, August 8, 2015

It's been a year of "weird ice," one sealift operator says. But the season is starting to get back on schedule after major delays in southern Nunavut.

NNSL photo/graphic

The ice in Iqaluit started clearing Aug. 5, giving sealift companies a chance to bring cargo ashore just in time to meet drop-dead deadlines. - Casey Lessard/NNSL photo

"We have this year a very weird ice situation in the Arctic," said Waguih Rayes, general manager at Desgagnes Transarctik Inc., which operates Nunavut Sealift and Supply Inc. (NSSI). He noted the first sealift is usually delivered to Iqaluit no later than July 12 or 13. Instead, the ice in Iqaluit started clearing Aug. 5, giving sealift companies a chance to bring cargo ashore just in time to meet drop-dead deadlines. That puts the first eastern sealift more than three weeks delayed.

"Usually when we start our operations, we start with the southern part of the Canadian Arctic," Rayes said. "This year, the ice in the western side of the Hudson Strait and the north of Hudson Bay was particularly bad. This situation persevered long enough to cause serious delays for the ships.

"The Kivalliq is not affected as much," he said, other than Coral Harbour. For that hamlet, NSSI had to leave the hamlet's cargo in Rankin Inlet until the next sealift.

Nunavut Eastern Arctic Shipping (NEAS) is facing similar problems, especially in Iqaluit.

"The ice is exceptionally bad this year," said Mark Bray, vice-president of sales and marketing. "Normally, we would have a northwest wind blow that ice out of the bay."

"We keep getting delays," said Qikiqtarjuaq senior administrative officer Geela Kooneeliusie, one of three hamlets awaiting a water truck. "We also received one last year, so we're getting another one this year. The other one we're using right now is almost run down, but it works OK. It's not that we need it urgently, but we still need it. The last I heard we're due to receive it Sept. 12. Aug. 21 was the date we first had."

Clyde River is always awaiting a water truck.

"That gives us three," chief administrative officer John Ivey said. "Watching Pond Inlet (where all of the hamlet's water trucks failed this winter), we don't want to be put in that position, so we're making sure we always have a backup. The wear and tear is tough."

Supplies for two 10-plex buildings are coming on the sealift for Clyde River, Ivey said.

Arctic Bay Adventures, the hamlet's new tour corporation, is awaiting a new tour boat, the Kakivak. The 28-foot boat is set to arrive Aug. 20, close to the originally-expected date, economic development officer Clare Kines said.

"The High Arctic is open water," Rayes said. "I've seen pictures of Grise Fiord and it looks like the Mediterranean."

NSSI's ship the Anna Desgagnes is one of the worst affected since it was stuck in Frobisher Bay until last week.

"We're back on track, except that the Anna Desgagnes, our flagship, is right now finishing up in Iqaluit, and it was very, very tough," Rayes said.

The ship's offloading was expected, thanks to the clearing of most ice in Koojesse Inlet Aug. 6, to be finished just at the drop-dead deadline of the second tide on Aug. 7, after which the ship was set to return full or empty to reload in the south. The ship will be carrying the cargo for the High Arctic - where the window for sailing and offloading is very narrow - and has to do a third lift this year.

NSSI has rejigged its schedule to minimize the effects of the delays. For example, Pangnirtung will have to wait until the second sealift because of the need for the Anna Desgagnes to head south. The hamlet's load will be bumped to the front of the second ship's schedule to arrive about the same time as expected, Rayes said.

To mitigate the delays, NSSI was able to offload vehicles and some cargo onto the beach at Apex, a location not prepared to receive crates and bundles of building materials.

Like NSSI, NEAS is recovering from the delays, Bray said.

"We already have one ship that's back on schedule in Valleyfield loading for a second sailing to the High Arctic," he said. "The three ships up North are experiencing delays, but they're all on course to return to Valleyfield in adequate time for the second and third sailings."

E-mailWe welcome your opinions. Click here to e-mail a letter to the editor.