Marine Transportation Services (MTS) is your solution to move deck cargo and bulk petroleum products to communities along the Mackenzie River and Western Arctic coastal communities.
Operated by the Government of the Northwest Territories since 2017, MTS operates a fleet of eight high-powered shallow draft tugboats that sail through Canada’s Northwest Territories and Nunavut’s Kitikmeot region. MTS provides essential marine resupply for residents and businesses in the North and offers annual scheduled services to the communities of Łutselk’e, Tulita, Norman Wells, Kasho Got’ine (Fort Good Hope), Inuvik, Aklavik, Tuktoyaktuk, Sachs Harbour, Paulatuk, Ulukhaktok and Kugluktuk. MTS also serves other locations by charter.
The communities and customers MTS serves rely on the cost-effective resupply of cargo and fuel and we continue to improve our capacity to operate a reliable and professional marine shipping service in a challenging Arctic environment and remain committed to providing the best service possible to all our customers.
Along with transporting deck cargo and petroleum products, MTS operations provides employment to many northerners, which allows jobs to positively impact families and communities, and support the long-term sustainability of the marine industry in the North. MTS is also committed to operating an environmentally responsible and sustainable business, and is compliant with territorial, federal and international safety and environmental regulations.
The GNWT purchased the marine assets of the previous operator in 2016. These assets included shallow-draft high horsepower tugboats, barges, land-based loading and storage equipment, a loading terminal, shipyard, Syncrolift and maintenance facility.
The GNWT’s goal in purchasing these assets was to ensure they remained in the North and to secure the specialized equipment needed to ship freight and fuel so the supply of essential goods to communities on the Mackenzie River, Great Slave Lake and Arctic Coast would continue.
After this purchase, MTS was formed as a division under the GNWT’s Department of Infrastructure. MTS’ first sailing season took place in 2017.
The head office, main terminal and shipyards for MTS are located in Hay River, NWT on the shore of Great Slave Lake. MTS’ main terminal in Hay River is connected to southern Canada by the country’s northern-most railhead and by a paved highway from Alberta.
MTS also has freight handling terminals in Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk – located in the Beaufort-Delta region of the NWT.
Sailing season and sailing decisions
The window to ship essential fuel and freight to communities and through charters is short in Canada’s North – typically lasting from June until October.
MTS’ 2023 sailing season is scheduled to start in late June when the first tugs and barges leave the Port of Hay River. You can find the 2023 cargo cut-off and departure dates here. Any changes made to the MTS sailing schedule will be posted on this page.
The hard-working staff and crews for MTS make every effort to complete deliveries during the sailing season. However, this is heavily dependent on weather and sailing conditions. Once under sail, the captains of these vessels are responsible for the safety of the crew, cargo and vessel. It’s the decision of the captain as to whether to continue a voyage or halt it. MTS management and GNWT officials cannot overrule or influence captains in this decision.
Cargo rates are adjusted annually by MTS and based on changes to the Consumer Price Index. The 2023 cargo rates have increased by 5.7 percent compared to 2022. The fuel surcharge applied to individual shipments has decreased by six percent compared to 2022.
While the impact of these adjustments on the price customers pay to ship cargo will vary by community, the result on average is a slight 0.57 percent increase in cargo rates for 2023.
You can find the 2023 cargo rates here.