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[b]NTCL aims to restructure and return in 2012[/b]
Darrell Greer Northern News Services Published Wednesday, February 23, 2011
KIVALLIQ - The sealift season will have a different look in most Kivalliq communities this year.
The Northern Transportation Company Ltd. (NTCL) has announced it has dropped the extension year of its contract with the Government of Nunavut (GN) and will not provide services to the Kivalliq in 2011 after losing more than $500,000 in the region this past season.
NTCL president Bill Duffy said economics played a major role in the decision.
He said NTCL has lost a significant amount of money out of Churchill, Man., due mainly to the number of times the cargo has to be handled.
"The stevedoring in Churchill made it a losing proposition," said Duffy.
"We also had a number of issues in deliveries in 2010.
"I started with NTCL on Sept. 7, 2010, and I met with the Kivalliq mayors in Rankin Inlet and promised we would improve our service. We're in the final stages of changing our senior-management team, and we've hired a number of new people at senior levels who are coming with years and years of marine experience."
Duffy said NTCL couldn't be in position this year to make the changes necessary to provide the level of service people expect.
He said the company didn't want to go back and fail in the Kivalliq again.
"We're, basically, in the process of changing our entire business plan with new people and a new strategy.
"We'll come back in 2012 as the best out there. And I say that with a great deal of confidence."
Duffy said the freight rates NTCL had with the GN made the company very uncompetitive, from a profit standpoint.
He said NTCL's rates were $40 a ton lower than its competitors and it simply can't make money like that.
"So, our decision was based on a combination of economics and not being 100 per cent prepared to provide the service people in the region deserve.
"But that will not be the case in 2012, when we will try to earn our credibility back and provide the best service you can get."
A new GN contract will go out for bid in 2012 and Duffy said NTCL will have a strong presence in that process.
He said it would be very difficult for NTCL to be active in the Kivalliq without the GN contract.
"The individuals who order new vehicles, boats, and so on, are a smaller percentage of the business.
"It's my job to fix the problems NTCL had and, when we make decisions from this point on, they're going to be the right decisions.
"When we come back to the Kivalliq, or go to another region, we're going to be prepared, have operational excellence and be there for the long term.
"With all the new people coming in, we didn't have time to put the best program in place, but we will have the best program in place for 2012."
Coral Harbour and Chesterfield Inlet MLA Johnny Ningeongan wasn't sad to see NTCL go.
Ningeongan had raised the issue of NTCL's lack of performance numerous times in Nunavut's legislative assembly, as well as in front of the standing committee.
Ningeongan said the lack of service reached the point where he had to say something.
He said he expects a much better performance from Nunavut Sealink and Supply Inc. (NSSI) in servicing the Kivalliq this year.
"There was a lot of frustration being felt by Inuit over NTCL's performance, but many people felt they couldn't say anything because NTCL is supposed to be an Inuit-owned company here to serve us for the long run," said Ningeongan.
"It's gone steadily downhill since NTCL returned and I can only hope the change will be for the better.
"I'm not omitting NTCL from ever servicing the Kivalliq again, but everyone knows during the past two years goods were coming in long after they should have arrived or not coming in at all.
"If something is not functioning the way it should be, even if it's an Inuit-owned company, I can't stay quiet and pretend nothing is happening."
Ningeongan said he hopes this will be a lesson for other Inuit companies to think twice about getting into big contractual obligations.
He said they have to honour their commitments or Kivalliqmiut will look elsewhere.
"We had GN projects delayed because of late delivery, businesses suffered, and some people had to wait until the following summer to get their personal orders, so the impact of this was being felt at many different levels.
"NTCL had to rely on NSSI to deliver its goods to Coral Harbour, and that's simply not acceptable.
"Even Sakku School suffered the consequence of not having the proper supplies because of the delays.
"As a beneficiary, I'm supposed to say good words about our so-called Inuit-owned companies, but you can only go so far when they're not able to deliver on their commitments."