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Oceanex is warning of disruptions to the province’s food supply as it bleeds $2 million a week during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Capt. Sid Hynes, the executive chairman of Oceanex, confirmed for NTV News that the company is considering cutting one of its weekly shipments from Montreal and laying off employees. He says the company is losing money because of a major drop in shipments of cars and construction materials.

Hynes says Oceanex approached the province and Ottawa for financial help about three weeks ago, but hasn’t gotten an answer, so now it has no choice but to take action. He adds that could mean service disruptions for things like food and medication.

Hynes describes Oceanex as a major part of the province’s food security supply line. He says there is no warehousing in the province and he’s not sure that Marine Atlantic can pick up all the slack.

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Federal cabinet minister Seamus O’Regan released a statement Monday in response.

“Food supply chains and essential goods are vital to everyone living on the island, so shipping companies are critical,” he said.” In addition to measures already introduced – including billions of dollars in unprecedented direct support to Canadian workers and businesses – we’re exploring all options.”

Premier Dwight Ball also released a statement.

“We recognize that Oceanex supplies 75 per cent of the goods to Newfoundland and Labrador,” he said. “This includes groceries, medications and essential goods. They ship goods to our province through big cargo containers in mass amounts, whereas Marine Atlantic brings it in through tractor-trailers. For businesses, like grocery stores, their outlets depend on having delivery by Oceanex upwards to two to three times a week. Any disruption on that service would seriously jeopardize the amount of groceries, medications and essential goods we would have for this province.”

A day later, the premier offered a correction on Twitter, stating that Oceanex supplies “75% of the freight to the Northeast Avalon and 50% of freight for the rest of the province.”

“From last night to this morning, we’ve had numerous calls with Marine Atlantic, the trucking industry, and local wholesalers as we are exploring every single option,” the premier wrote. “I want to ensure the residents of this province that there is capacity in the system. … What we need to remember is that although Oceanex is a big supplier and mover of goods and services, we also have Marine Atlantic. They have a fair amount of capacity in their system and two ships that are currently tied up, but ready to respond if required.”
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