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Barge lifeline for northern Canada

Ship & Boat International eNews: August 2020



A new flotilla of 90m cargo barges is being readied at a Chinese yard for service in the Northwest Territories of northern Canada, writes David Tinsley. The craft will play an important logistic role in support of industry and communities in Canada’s Arctic environs, having been purpose-designed by Vancouver naval architect Robert Allan Ltd (RAL) for operations in the Beaufort Sea and the shallow waters of the Mackenzie River. Canadian reports indicated that the total budget to design, build and deliver the four barges was CAD$20.7 million (US$15.7 million). 


Ordered by Marine Transportation Services (MTS), owned by the Government of the Northwest Territories, the four barges were constructed by Nanjing Jinling Shipyard (pictured). During early August, final work was being carried out in preparation for the 400km tow down the Yangtse River to Shanghai, where the newbuilds will be loaded aboard a semisubmersible heavy-lift vessel for shipment to Canada. 


At the loadline draught of 2.82m, each double-hulled barge has a total deadweight of 3,373tonnes, reduced to 1,126tonnes at the river draught of just 1.52m. Each has a liquid cargo intake volume of 3 million litres, allowing for some 2,500m3 of Arctic diesel, for instance. On the river draught, the payload can include about 550m3 of gasoline or aviation fuel.


MTS has been under the aegis of the Government of the Northwest Territories since late 2016, when it was purchased from the bankrupt Northern Transportation Company. The acquisition was made to protect supply chains for communities, business and the energy industry along the Mackenzie River and Arctic coast, for whom reliable barging services provide a lifeline. The assets transferred from Northern Transportation Company included eight tugs suited to Mackenzie River duties, all but one of which also offer sea-going capabilities, plus about 60 barges, three offshore supply vessels and the Hay River shipyard.   


Sealift of crucial materials, consumables and fuel products has to be planned for the summer period when the waterways and coast are not icebound. The company also delivers critical cargo supplies to isolated mining and oil and gas exploration / production sites.





MTS 3501


Length, oa 90m
Breadth, moulded 18.9m
Depth, moulded 4m
Draught, loadline 2.82m
Draught, river 1.52m
Deadweight (loadline draught) 3,373tonnes
Deadweight (river draught) 1,126tonnes
Liquid cargo capacity 3,000litres
Container capacity 112teu
Classification society Lloyd's Register