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John Vandenberg, assistant deputy minister of infrastructure, says much of the cargo is things that could freeze, like soda pop, so it’s kept indoors. (Mackenzie Scott/CBC) People in Kugluktuk, Cambridge Bay and Paulatuk are starting to see the much needed cargo they’ve been waiting for.

Earlier this month, Marine Transport Services — the N.W.T government-owned barge company that normally supplies these communities — cancelled the last delivery of the season. The barges had to turn back because ice suddenly moved into the area.

John Vandenberg, assistant deputy minister with the Department of Infrastructure, said as of Wednesday, Buffalo Airways and Summit Air have flown more than a dozen loads to the communities, carrying about 125,000 kilograms of goods.

He said his department is storing products at the former RCMP hanger at the Inuvik Mike Zubko Airport.

"Much of it is perishable cargo," he said.

"Things that could freeze, jars of pickles, pop, that sort of thing."

Other items that will be sent out later, or products where the customers have asked to not receive them until next year’s barge, are in other storage containers. Vehicles will be staying in Inuvik over the winter. (Mackenzie Scott/CBC) Although the government is trying to get snowmobiles and ATVs delivered, cars and trucks will remain in Inuvik over winter.

"It’s just not going to be feasible to move vehicles," said Vandenberg.

"People tend to ship stuff up here and they stuff their trucks full of material … in all cases, people want that stuff … So our staff took everything out of all the personal vehicles."

Vandenberg said the vehicles will stay inside a secure indoor storage facility until next summer’s barge, and mechanics have checked each vehicle and disconnected the batteries.

Vandenberg didn’t give an exact number of the transportation costs, but did say "it’s going to be in the millions of dollars" to move about a million pounds of cargo. Solution to cancelled barges ‘comes a bit late,’ says N.W.T. MLA

The N.W.T. government got into the shipping business when it bought the Northern Transportation Company Limited (NTCL) assets for $7.5 million in December 2016.

Vandenberg said the situation has been a learning experience.

"We recognize that we needed to have better communications. We need to have a better plan," he said.

"We recognize that it’s a people issue. People don’t have their stuff and the government is stepping up."

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