Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Groupe Océan goes north and south - with 4 updates

When Groupe Océan took over Svitzer's Montreal operation last year, they also got the two tugs Svitzer was using for the Baffinland Iron Mines operation in the far north. The tugs completed their 2017 season, returned to Quebec and were handed over to Océan in October.

Svitzer Njal was renamed Océan Clovis T. and Svitzer Nerthus became Océan Raynald T and I expected both tugs would resume  their roles again this year, but apparently Océan Clovis T. has found a niche in Quebec City.

 Océan Clovis T.  off Quebec with several Desgagnés ships in the background, including their most recent, the former Jan which was in the process of renaming Miena Desgagnés.
 Tucked in to its berth at Quebec, behind Océan Arctique and Océan Tundra.
Océan Raynald T. has sailed for the north, but it will be the turn of Océan K. Rusby to work with it this year. Built to essentially the same spec, Océan K. Rusby is a 5000 bhp ASD, but is four years older, built in 2005. It also has a high ice spec and is equipped with fire fighting gear.

The reason the Rusby was given the task this year may be apparent from a close look at the photos. Note the yellow tipped pilot boarding gangways fitted on Rusby, Arctique and Tundra. Working from the top of the deck house allows pilots to board well clear of any ice that may be built up closer to water level  - a useful feature in heavy conditions.

Océan K.Rusby returning to its berth in Bassin Louise.

However Océan Clovis T.  did make a strange trip toward Sept-Iles in mid-June and returned to Quebec, so perhaps there was some other reason for it to remain in the Quebec.

Meanwhile the second tug assigned to their new Jamaica operation (there are supposed to be three according to press releases) will arrive in Halifax later this evening - in thick fog and likely after dusk.
Océan Stevns has had a strange six months or more, spending some of the time idle in Port Hawksbury under foreign flag on "bareboat" charter. However it then moved to St.John's NL for drydocking. This was apparently the only nearby available drydock, since Océan's own shipyard is full up.

Océan Stevns was built in 2002 as Stevns Océan for Nordane Shipping of Denmark. Builders were the Industrie Océan shipyard in Ile-aux-Coudres, but the yard became financially over extended and was closed. Ownership was reformed and the yard re-opened later under Groupe Océan ownership. Stevns Arctic lay partially built at the time and in 2004 it was launched then Atlantic Teak towed it to Halifax where it was completed by Halifax Shipyard in 2005 - the only ship to be "unlaunched" by the yard - it was hauled up the slipway into the old building hall, then re-launched after completion.

In 2013 Groupe Océan brought Stevns Océan and sister tug Stevns Arctic back to Canada  under a charter with purchase option. The tugs were re-registered and re-named becoming the current Océan Stevns and Océan Arctique and the purchase option taken up.

The morning after its return from Denmark, Stevns Océan waits its turn at Ile-aux-Coudres while its sister tug undergoes drydocking and survey at the yard where they were built.

If the pattern of the past two Groupe Océan calls in Halifax is followed, Océan Stevns will spend a few days storing and fueling before heading south. I will add any photos I am lucky enough to get as Updates to this post.

Looking at Kingston Harbour Jamaica on AIS, Océan Taiga is tied up adjacent to two Columbia flag tugs from Intertug. Both appear to be Rob Allen design ASDs. One, called Capidahl is a 5,432 bhp, 75 tonne BP ASD built in 2009 by Sanmar. The other, named Sirocco is a Chinese built ASD dating from 2013 likely around 4500 bhp to 5,000 bhp. Océan is unlikely to find an idle tug of equal capability in its existing fleet, so perhaps they will service the three tug contract using one of the Intertug boats. 

To my mind it would be a shame to lose Océan Taiga to a long term Jamaica bareboat contract, since it is built for work in the Canadian arctic, and except for its great power, it is wasted in the tropics. I didn't think Océan had a surplus of operational tugs, but apparently they do since they are keeping some of their old dogs working. - see a subsequent post.  

Groupe Océan has a acquired a nearly new tug to service the Kingston contract. The Robert Allen designed RAmparts 2400SX was built in Turkey by Sanmar in 2015 as Bogacay IX. Sanmar builds tugs to own account but sells them on to meet short delivery requirements of clients. The 80 tonne BP ASD is powered by a pair of Cats totaling 6300 bhp, and is equipped for firefighting. Renamed Ocean Kingston Pride, the tug is currently in Istanbul, fyling the Jamaica flag.

Some alongside views of Océan Stevns turn  up a few points of interest.

 A number of fenders and tires are lashed down on deck and the towing winch is tarped.

 While the St.Vincent and the Grenadines registry is often considered an interim one,  someone made certain this was a more long term arrangement, by making up cast metal "Kingstown". This may not have to be changed to "Kingston" when it arrives in Jamaica.

  There did not appear to be much activity on board, but some servicing was underway, since a technician van was parked at the foot of the gangway. Just above that gangway is the pilot boarding gangway, similar to that on other tugs, as noted above.

Update #3
2018-07-14 This afternoon Océan Stevns made a one hour trials trip to Bedford Basin and returned to pier 9B.

Whatever adjustments were made must have been acceptable as the tug has ordered a pilot for 1800 departure tomorrow.  

It was goodbye to Océan Stevns at 12800 this afternoon as the tug got away from pier 9B for Kingston, Jamaica, giving an ETA of July 25.

The Jamaica contract is for ten years, and it will be interesting to see if this tug ever returns to Canada. My opinion? Despite its seakeeping ability and extra accommodations for a larger crew, in a very few years 5,000 bhp will not be enough for the larger ships now coming in to service and 85 to 100t BP will be demanded. Therefore the  tug will be back within 5 years or less. 
Note the Quebec City type pilot boarding gangways are still fitted, and Quebec has only been painted out not burned off under the ship's name.


Friday, July 6, 2018


The annual sealift supply of northern Canadian settlements takes place during a short navigation season from July to October. One of the major operators is Groupe Desgagnés through their Desgagnés Transartik subsidiary. Ships load at various ports on the St.Lwrence River and head to ports in northern Quebec, Nunavik and Nunavut.

Many of the outports do not have piers or other port infrastructure due to the severe winter ice conditions, and thus ships going north frequently carry small tugs and scows to transship cargo from offshore anchorage to the beach.

On June 30 I was fortunate enough to catch some of the preparations for that work.
The ship Sedna Desgagnés had loaded most of its cargo upriver, then proceeded down to an anchorage off Ile-aux-Coudres. There it was met by a small flotilla of tugs, both company owned and those chartered from GFFM Leclerc, an Ile-aux-Coudres based builder and fleet owner of rental tugs.

Sedna Desgagnés came to anchor off the pier at St-Bernard, Ile-aux-Coudres.

Lead by the Eclipse Polaire four tugs get underway from the small marina.
Eclipse Polaire is typical of the latest generation of GFFM Leclerc tugs. It is a triple screw, shallow draft vessel of about 1130 bhp.
Lumaaq is a Desgagnés owned tug, of similar design, but twin screw and only about 319 bhp.

Vent Polaire is of an earlier generation Leclerc tug, 2 screw, 420 bhp. Getting away at the dock is Béluga Polaire another triple screw 1200 bhp tug.

Three other Desgagnés tugs and a large scow remain to be picked up by another ship.
Pivut, Ullakut and Ulluriaq are all twin screw, 620 bhp.
Eclipse Polaire picks up a scow from its mooring and heads out to the ship. On the scow's deck are some landing ramps.
Béluga Polaire pushes a larger scow out to the anchorage.

Tugs shepherd the larger scow alongside for the ship to hoist aboard using its heavy lift cranes.
It only takes one crane to lift the smaller scow.
While the lifting takes place, the tugs stand well off. A speed boat is also present - I assume taking photos or videos of the operation.

The small tugs remind me of ducklings.

 Once the barges are on board, it is time to lift the tugs:

The tugs takes their place among the various pick-up trucks, boats and even an ambulance heading north.
With three tugs on board (Lumaaq, Eclipse Poliare and Béluga Polaire), the ship cradles its cranes and weighs anchor. Its next port will be Rimouski where it will top off with more deck cargo.

Vent Polaire heads back to Ile-aux-Coudres with the deck crews.

When the annual sealift winds up for another season, the operation will be reversed and the tugs and scows will be returned to Ile-aux-Coudres for the winter.


Friday, June 22, 2018

Southwestern (Nova Scotia) tugs

A couple of loops around southwestern Nova Scotia in the past few weeks turned up a bit of tug activity.

June 2 Lunenburg 

At Lunenburg Theodore Too was in port for a tune up before heading to its new summer base at Saint John, NB. It arrived there June 7.

 That looks like a new hard hat on the dock.

Also at the Lunenburg Foundry and Engineering's dock the basic tug  Mascot. It has an aluminum deckhouse, complete with an oar mounted on the cabin - not sure how much bollard pull they would achieve using that.

June 21 Shelburne

Shelburne Shipyard had two tugs alongside in addition to its own workboat.

 In the background the Canadian naval tug Glenbrook which arrived June 19 for refit. And alongside is SSR2 the former Stenpro III , which was transferred from Liverpool when Irving Shipbuilding Inc moved its operation to Shelburne.

 Undergoing a refit for Canadian service, the former Dutch naval tug Regge. At this time the  interior is being gutted to remove combustible material and fitting out new accommodations.

June 21 Meteghan River 

At the A.F. Thériault + Sons shipyard the much traveled Hudson Bay Explorer appears to be getting another makeover

The shallow draft tug/supplier was pre-fabbed by Vito Steel Boat + Barge Construction in Delta, BC in 1971 and was assembled in Hay River, NWT by Alberta Equipment Centre as Beaufort Sea Explorer for Arctic Transportation Ltd. After arctic service with several owners it was sold to Klynne Tugs (Lowestoft) Ltd and renamed Anglian Sea Explorer inn1992 and worked in the UK until returning to Canada in 1995 for Moosonee Transportation Ltd.

In 2003 it suffered a serious fire while on a slip in Wemindji, QC and was towed to St.John's where it was rebuilt from the main deck up. All new deckhouse and funnels changed the profile dramatically from its original Robert Allen design. Its original V-16 Cats, delivering 2250 bhp through two screws in nozzles, survived the fire and remained unchanged.

It then worked in Hudsons Bay, James Bay, and Voisey's Bay and on the St.Lawrence until 2006. It was then acquired by Peter Kiewit + Sons Ltd, along withe the barge The Pugwash and managed by their Marystown Shipyard. It also worked in Saint John, NB on the LNG terminal.

In 2017 Kelly's Cove Salmon Ltd, part of Cooke Aquaculture, bought the tug. I believe they had chartered it for some time prior. Now cocooned at Thériault's it will be interesting to see what it looks like when it is unveiled.

Ghosting through fog off Saint John, NB in 20007, the tug appeared to be carrying a payload of portable toilets.

Alongside and dried out at the tidal pier, Atlantic Tamarack was getting some TLC.
Built in Saint John in 1969 as Irving Tamarack the tug was originally assigned to the monobuoy serving Irving Oil's refinery. It has been working for Harbour Development Ltd for many years and usually attends the crane barge / dredge Cranemaster. That rig is in Shelburne for refit, so the tug is currently idled. Alongside it is what appears to be a modified seine skiff, which may be Thériault's own yard tug.

June 21 Digby

McNally Marine is carrying out some work at the ferry terminal and clearing away before the 5pm arrival of the Fundy Rose, the tug J.F. Whalen is hauling the crane barge Beaver Kay toward Digby harbour.

The tug was built in 2014 in Gaspé and is a 540 bhp twin screw vessel with push knees. It has a removable wheelhouse to make it truckable. 

The barge is former HMC Dockyard steam crane barge YD251 built in 1953 in Saint John and purchased by Beaver Marine and rebuilt in 1996. McNally purchased Beaver Marine but did not rename the barge. 

Visitors to Ship Central Eastern (home of Shipfax and Tugfax) may be treated to the sight of the barge's original name board, among other artefacts. It was rescued - with permission - from a dumpster, causing much amusement for the demolition crew.

This is the steam crane shortly before I retrieved the name board. (October 10, 1995)

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Pups at Work

The Queen's Harbour Master directs a fleet of six tugs in Halifax harbour. Of these, three are small tugs of the Ville class. They range the length and width of the harbour doing various jobs of work for the Navy. Known as "pups" because they are small and tireless, they are most useful in small corners.

One of their tasks today was unberthing the Portuguese naval training vessel Sagres from pier 24. After assisting the barque out into the stream they returned to pier 24 to recover three fenders and return them to HMC Dockyard. They were still wearing their canvas bibs to ensure that they did not mar the white paint of the ship.

It isn't often that I get to see them working up close:

Granville comes in to pick up a fender.

 Merrickville backs away with a fender on its hip.

 Merrickville gets underway.

Granville turns smartly with its two fenders.

Both tugs underway back to HMC Dockyard.

Despite the white water caused by the fenders, the tugs leave surprisingly little wake as the pass west of George's Island. (Note the Coast Guard helicopter next to the lighthouse.).

Sagres did a turn in the harbour before heading for sea. Not a scratch on her hull from her visit.

The three Halifax based pups were built in 1974 in Georgetown, PE and are powered with a 365 bhp Cat engine driving a single screw in a steerable Kort nozzle. They are 45 tons displacement and 64 feet long. Despite their age the tugs are in pristine condition.


Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Océan Taiga and other Groupe Océan news bits - plus Addenda

The "super tug" Océan Taiga put in a surprise appearance in Halifax today. The second of two tugs of the TundRA 3600 class built at Industrie Océan for parent company Groupe Océan, it is an 8,000 bhp, 110 tonne bollard pull Lloyd's Ice Class 1A Super F.S. What that means is that it and near sister tug Océan Tundra are the most powerful conventional tugs in eastern Canada, and that they could  work in the high arctic, year round without icebreaker assistance.

The two were envisioned to serve the Baffinland Iron mine but as things turned out that project was delayed, and development plans changed, and so the tugs were not needed - at least on the original schedule.

Océan Tundra was completed in 2013 and construction of Océan Taiga was intentionally slowed down and it was not completed until 2016. Although there is some tanker escort work on the St.Lawrence where their 14 knot free running speed might be of use, there is little demand for tugs of their power and capability in the area.

Océan Taiga has a pair of small containers lashed down on deck.

That is why Océan Taiga is arriving in Halifax. It has been chartered out bareboat to undisclosed owners, who apparently need the tugs power, but not likely its arctic capabilities. The tug is flying the Jamaica flag.

Addendum #1: Océan decided to announce - after I made this post- that they had signed a ten year contract for three tugs for Kingston, Jamaica, in the New Port West section of the harbour. The contract is to start the end of June. The press release does not name the tugs. It also mentions "personnell" will also be sent, but that 40 jobs will be created locally in Jamaica. It also states that the contract is with the Port of Kingston.
Had I known all this before the tug arrived in Halifax I would have reported it.
All I had to go on was The Department of Transport web site, which says that the tug Océan Taiga is bareboat chartered out. It has certainly been reflagged to Jamaica, and therefore I stand by my previous statement that the tug(s) are chartered to an unknown Jamaican entity. According to other sources this is "Ocean J Towing Ltd".  The tug remains owned by Océan Remorquage Québec Inc.

The same* Jamaican owners of the Hercule, formerly Océan Hercule completed delivery of their tug last month. However there has been no movement on Océan Delta, believed to be bought by the same owners, and still lying in Sorel-tracy, QC.

*Addendum #2: The listed owner of the Hercule is West Indies Petroleum Ltd, as previously reported, with managers listed as "Blue Ocean Marine Ltd". Do you detect a similarity?

After acquiring the Cargill owned, Svitzer-managed Pointe Comeau, Océan has renamed it Océan Comeau. It has now left for Quebec City as its replacement has gone to work in the port of Baie-Comeau. That tug, the former Océan Cartier has been renamed l'Anse du Moulin [translated: mill cove] and ownership transferred to Cargill Limited. Océan Remorquage Baie-Comeau Inc manages the tug for Cargill.

Océan Stevns is bareboat chartered out under St.Vincent and the Grenadines flag. It spent the winter in Port Hawksbury, then sailed for St.John's, NL at the end of May. Its intentions are something of a mystery.


Saturday, June 9, 2018

Lois M picks up a tow

The McKeil Marine's tug Lois M arrived in Halifax June 8 to pick up a tow, and sailed this morning.

Lois M alongside its tow at the Valéro dock in Eastern Passage.

Built in 1991 by Matsuura Iron Shipbuilding (Tekko Zosen) in Higashino the 60 tonne BP tug is powered by two Niigata engines delivering 4800 bhp to ASD drives. It started life as Lambert for Robe River Mining Co in Australia, with Westug as operators. McKeil acquired the tug in 2014 and it traveled from Singapore 16,500 miles via Mauritius and Walvis Bay to Tampico. MX, delivering a pair of dump scows Marmac 250 and Marmac 251.  It then sailed light to Mulgrave, NS where the Redwise delivery crew handed it over to McKeil. The crew had entertained themselves on the long trip by making repairs and upgrades and painting.
It was registered in St. John's as Lois M September 23, 2014.

Leaving Eastern Passage this morning.
On this trip to Halifax it picked up the 1352 grt oil spill response barge John P.Oxley for a tow to North Sydney and drydocking. The barge was built by les chantiers Verreault, Méchins for Eastern Canada Response Corp and was delivered to Halifax in December 2001 by Océan Foxtrot. The only time it has left Halifax since then was in 2011 when it went for a refit in Shelburne, NS in tow of McKeil's Salvor.

With its tow on a short wire, Lois M is outbound past the Shearwater Yacht Club moorings.


Monday, May 28, 2018

Theodore Too takes a trip

Ambassatours, the parent company of Murphy Sailing Tours Ltd, owners of Theodore Too, will be moving the iconic tug boat replica from The Big Harbour (a.k.a. Halifax) to Saint John, NB in June. The operators made the announcement last week.

Theodore Too spent the winter at Mill Cove in Bedford and appears to be in need of a little freshening before he moves to Saint John.

This is certainly not the first time Theodore Too has left the confines of Halifax. In fact the boat is probably more travelled than many of its full size counterparts. It has sailed all along the eastern seaboard as far south as Miami and into the Great Lakes as far as Chicago. The move to Saint John coincides with the cruise ship season and is likely brought about by the disruption along the Halifax waterfront due to construction of new piers for the Queen's Marque project.

Ambassatours is hoping to appeal to nostalgic millennials who grew up with the TV series Theodore Tugboat and now want to revisit their childhood or perhaps introduce the cute fellow to their own children. 

When the boat was built by Snyder's Shipyard in Dayspring, NS in 2000 it only carried the name Theodore but this was soon changed to Theodore Too because someone had already grabbed the Theodore name for their own vessel - a real tug at that.

That Theodore was built by Canadian Vickers, Montreal,  in 1932 as an oil-fired steam vessel of about 64 tons for Mont Louis Seignory Ltd, a subsidiary of the Hall Corporation.Named Vigilant it was used to tend pulpwood booms. It later passed into the hands of Marine Industries Ltd in Sorel and took the name Roseanne Simard. It was converted to a motor vessel in 1952 with 440 bhp engine. It passed through several other owners including Gaston Elie of Montreal, Coastlake Tankers Ltd of Montreal, and JW+J Anderson of Burnt Church, NB. In 1973 Techno-Maritime of Quebec City bought the tug and in 1976 renamed it Techno Manic. New owners Dufresne Construction Ltd renamed it simply Manic in 1989 and Les Constructions Ger-Con Ltée kept the name after they took it over. In about 1995 it passed into private ownership, and is believed to have sunk at its berth in St-Joseph-de-la-Rive, QC.


However it was salvaged and given a major upgrade including a new larger wheelhouse, and renamed Heritage 1932.

However it soon became Theodore, pre-empting the name for the full size replica. Now based in Montreal it still does sea time seasonally. Although it bears little resemblance to the TV character, it does wear the same colours as the "real" Theodore.

The cruise season usually ends about the end of October. Let's hope Theodore Too is back home by then, when it will be time to start a Movember moustache.