Minister hoping for smooth sailing this weekend
It’s been a rough summer so far for residents of Labrador’s north coast.
With bare shelves in local grocery stores in many communities, yet another unexpected delay has resulted in those shelves staying bare bones for at least a few more days.
© Derek Montague/The Labradorian
While the Astron was offloading in Hopedale late last week, an issue with the crane resulted in the ship having to sail back to Lewisporte to await new parts and repairs.
“Unfortunately, there is no mechanical or technical expertise, nor parts, to handle this situation on the north coast,” Labrador West MHA Nick McGrath, Minister of Transportation and Works, said in an interview with The Labradorian on Monday, July 7.
“However, 90 per cent of the freight she had on board was offloaded into Nain, Natuashish and Hopedale.”
Once the ship is back in service, hopefully by this weekend, said McGrath, she will head for ports to Black Tickle, Postville and Makkovik with the rest of the cargo.
“This was a very unfortunate situation and I certainly understand the confusion and frustration of the north coast residents,” added McGrath.
“Rest assured, we are holding the contractor’s toes to the fire with regards to fulfilling all their obligations to the province as efficiently and effectively as possible.”
McGrath also noted his department has been in touch with several community leaders on the north coast, as well as some retailers and service providers.
“We’ve been dealing with everyone to try to get this situation mitigated as soon as possible,” he said.
McGrath noted he also expects the Northern Ranger — the only other vessel servicing the north coast — to be back in operation by this weekend as well.
“We were waiting on some new life preservers for that vessel, so hopefully, after this weekend, we will be back on track.”
‘Not good enough’
Brenda Dyson is the owner/operator of Dyson’s Enterprises, the local grocery store in Black Tickle.
She said her store shelves have been steadily decreasing in stock since the spring, with the last boatload of supplies having come through last November.
As of July 8th, she was even out of essential staple items such as canned milk, tea bags and toilet paper.
“It’s frustrating,” she said. “Customers are frustrated, but they know it’s beyond my control. We still get stuff like fresh fruits and vegetables flown in (because its subsidized), but items like canned goods are not subsidized; you would never be able to afford to fly that stuff in.”
She noted last season, new supplies were offloaded by June 15. “But here it is (almost a month later than last year), and we still have nothing.”
Dyson feels coastal residents have been getting nothing but the runaround from the province as it relates to this year’s shipping challenges.
“I’ve been in this business for five years and this is worst I have ever seen,” she said.
“It’s a racket every year, waiting on supplies. It’s just not good enough. (The province) just comes up with excuses, that’s all I can call it.”