Sunday, August 11, 2019

Tugs at Ile-aux-Coudres - Part 2

The GFFM Leclerc shipyard on the eastern tip of Ile-aux-Coudres builds small powerful shallow draft tugs for sale or charter. Many of the tugs find work as lighterage tugs in northern supply work. Others are kept on hand at the home port of Ile-aux-Coudres for general duties or leased out to others.

A small tidal basin adjacent to the ferry dock is the base, and on August 10 there were four Leclerc tugs and a pair of similar tugs operated by Transport Desgagnés.

The Desgagnés tug Lumaaq is an early version of the type, whereas Rénard Polaire is one the newer triple screw versions.
Lumaaq, Siku and a pair of lighters will be loaded aboard an outbound Desgagnés Transarctik ship to land sealift cargo in the far north.

 
Siku is awaiting its next northern assignment with fleetmate Lumaaq, and Ours Polaire is standing by for other work.





Béluga Polaire and Eclipse Polaire return from an assignment moving a barge out into the stream.


Béluga Polaire prepares to land some barge workers.

Eclipse Polaire returns to the dock.


The tugs move JMC 185 away from its berth.

The tugs had moved the barge JMC 185 out to the stream. Built in 2007 by LAD Salvage of Louisiana in Stephensville, LA as an ABS classed spud barge, it was owned by Cashman Equipment in Boston. Groupe Océan then acquired the barge for transporting reinforcing steel to the Hebron gravity base construction in Newfoundland from 2015 to 2017.  They then used the barge to transport precast concrete components from Sorel for the new Champlain Bridge project. CRT Construction has now acquired the barge for work in north Quebec with their tug CRT Express (see yesterday's post).

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Tugs at Ile-aux-Coudres - Part 1

Ile-aux-Coudres, QC, home of the Industrie Océan shipyard, and headquarters for the GFFM Leclerc tug building and leasing company, has long been a busy spot for tugs. Saturday August 10 was no
exception.

The shipyard will become very busy soon as work will begin on four new tugs for the Royal Canadian Navy.  In the meantime the yard continues to refit Groupe Océan tugs and repair other ships.

Sometimes when more fit out space is needed shipyard activity spreads across the channel to the mainland.  On Thursday the Renard Polaire and Eclipse Polaire moved the tug Fjord Saguenay to the at St-Joseph-de-la-Rive wharf.

Fjord Saguenay has been on the slipway since the winter for repairs. It damaged a thruster January 26 while berthing the bulker  Nord Montreal at La Baie forcing its removal from service. In the meantime Océan Bravo has joined Fjord Eternité in ship docking at the Saguenay ports of La  Baie and Grande Anse.

 
It appears that the access hatches to the thrusters have been re-sealed. This would indicate that both thrusters were removed and repaired.


Work is obviously on going below deck with lots of noise emanating from the thruster room escape hatch.


Fjord Saguenay was built by East Isle Shipyard in Georgetown, PE in 2006 as Stevns Iceflower (i) and after working as Svitzer Njord from 2007 to 2009 it was acquired by Rio Tinto Alcan. It sailed to Halifax on its own arriving February 28, 2009 on one engine. After repairs at Halifax Shipyard it finally entered service March 29. Sister tug Fjord Eternité (ex Stevns Icecap (i), Svitzer Nanna) was brought to Canada on the heavy lift ship Fairlane in 2010.

On the island itself, there were two tugs on the slipway one for repairs and one for "parting out".

Although officially named Océan Brochu, that name has never been painted on the hull. Shortly before transfer of ownership from Arcelor Mittal in late 2017 to Groupe Océan a fire in Brochu's engine room resulted in the tug being declared a constructive total loss.



Built by Star Shipyard in New Westminster, BC in 1973, for Québec Cartier Mining, the 3600 bhp ice class tug V-S was stationed at Port Cartier, QC, for its entire working career. Groupe Océan took over operation at Port Cartier in 2017 and purchased the two tugs. Sister tug Vachon  was renamed Océan A. Gauthier and it is presently stationed in Hamilton,ON. Working in the fresh water of Lake Ontario, it serves the ports of Toronto, Oshawa, and occasional forays ino the Welland Canal.

 
Parts from the Brochu are to be kept in reserve for its sister, but so far the hull appears intact, so is there hope for a rebuild?

At the adjacent slip Océan Sept-Iles is also undergoing a major refit. Also an ice class vessel, built in 1980, it is the former Pointe Sept-Iles operated by Eastern Canada Towing, later Svitzer at its namesake port until 2013. With 5400 bhp and twin screws in nozzles, it was built to replace the 1973 built Pointe Margeurite lost in Sept-Iles Bay in 1978. I believe the replacement tug was built as a day boat with limited crew accommodation.


It is interesting to see two ice class hulls, with distinctly different hull shapes and propulsion systems.


continued part 2............

Saturday, August 10, 2019

CRT Express

CRT Express is the new name assigned to the former Dutch tug Meander when it was registered in Quebec City June 27. Built in 2006 by Gebr. Kooiman NV in Zwijndrecht it was acquired in May of this year by CRT Construction Inc of Lévis, QC and arrived in Quebec City under its own power on June 13.


With a pair of Mitsubishi main engines of 1278 bhp each, it is also fitted with a bow thruster, deck crane and towing winch with a bollard pull of 30.3 tonnes.

CRT Construction has a contract with Hydro-Québec and the tug will tow cargo barges between Chisasibi and Inukjuak on the east coast of Hudson's Bay. It sailed from Quebec City early in the morning of August 10 to pick up the barge JMC 185.



I was fortunate enough to get to Ile-aux-Coudres in time to see the pickup.




The barge was brought out to the waiting tug as soon as the tide had risen enough to free the barge from the muddy bottom where it was moored just west of the ferry dock.





The GFFM Leclerc tugs Beluga Polaire and Eclipse Polaire [see following post] shepherded the barge out to the stream. It was quickly connected and the tow was underway for Cacouna, QC, where it will be loaded for the trip north.



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Wednesday, July 31, 2019

New for Secunda

Secunda Canada has acquired a new vessel from Norwegian parent Siem Offshore. Siem Commander is not a new ship, but is certainly a high end DP2 anchor handling tug supplier.


The ship arrived this morning from Stavanger and will undergo a refit before entering service. It has been laid up for some time, probably since it was acquired in 2017 from previous owners, Simon Mokster  Shipping AS. Built in 2009 by Havyard Leirvik AS as Stril Commander it is a 2807 grt, 3,000 dwt unit of 12,000 kW=16,000 bhp. It also has two tunnel thrusters and a swing up type thruster. It is fully equipped with a variety of tankage, a monster winch and large open deck served by tracked cranes.


After clearing customs at pier 9B the ship will move to the The Cove, the former CCG base in Dartmouth where it will complete "Canadianization." Word on the street has it that it will replace Trinity Sea on Secunda's Exxon Mobil Sable contract.

Backing in to pier 9B, a crane has picked up the gangway to disembark linesmen.

Also on the refit agenda, Siem Commander will be repainted to Secunda colours like fleet mate Siem Hanne.


Siem Commander glides past fleet mate Siem Hanne loading at the Mobil dock in Dartmouth.

Siem Commander was registered in St.John's, NL July 15, before sailing from Stavanger July 22.
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Wednesday, July 24, 2019

VB Hispania makes another scrap tow

The big Spanish owned tug VB Hispania is en route from Montreal to Turkey with another scrap tow, its second this year.

The 1374 gt, 8,050 bhp tug is now a veteran of transatlantic tows with this its sixth tow since 2016. Typically the tows begin in Montreal where the tug connects to a retired Great Lakes ship and sets off down river with a local tug as tethered stern escort. Recent tows have used the Océan Echo II, which stays with the ship until the Escoumins pilot station.

With a short tow line VB Hispania wends its way through the narrow channel north of Ile-aux-Coudres, at a blistering 4.9 knots. Once into the wider river, the tow line is let out and speed increases by several knots. 

The current tow sailed from Montreal July 21 and is giving an arrival date of August 24 in Aliaga. The ship is the former Cedarglen, renamed Eda and reflagged for the trip. As with several lakers it is a sort of hybrid. Built as the bulker Ems Ore in Germany in 1959 it was a 546 ft, 20,000 tonner with island bridge, built to run from Venezuela to Europe. In 1976 Hall Corporation of Montreal acquired the ship and two sisters and had them rebuilt. A new forebody from Davie /Lauzon was grafted to the stern and a new engine installed. The bridge structure was moved aft and landed above the engine room. This resulted in 730ft' x 75ft Seaway size gearless bulker.

It sailed for Halco as Montcliffe Hall until 1988, then N.M.Paterson + Sons as Cartierdoc until 2002 when CSL bought the ship and renamed it Cedarglen. The ship apparently operated until last year when it was laid up in Toledo, OH. It sailed down the Seaway on its own power, arriving in Montreal on May 18 of this year.


VB Hispania flies the Malta flag for the large Spanish tug operator Boluda. It was built in 2011 by Damen Mangalia, Romania, as Triton Responder, but was delivered as Oceanus, and transferred to the parent company and renamed Fairplay 32. In 2015 Boluda acquired and renamed the tug.

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Monday, July 1, 2019

Navy makes a choice

The old saying that a camel is a horse designed by a committee has long been ascribed to the Royal Canadian Navy's decision making process. The old adage of course is largely based on aesthetics. The camel is a perfectly designed beast for desert caravans, but not for the Queen's Plate.

History will eventually be the judge on whether the RCN's choice of design for the new Naval Large Tug [NLT] project is a correct one. I for one have some doubts.

The navy's requirements, re-stated simply were for a vessel that could carry out ship berthing in the naval dockyards, provide firefighting capability, perform coastal towing, and be of a proven commercial-type design. The last of those requirements seems a strange one to me, since no two tug operations are so similar that a design can be "proven" from one to another. Many tug operators are able to make  a standard tug design work for them, but it can usually be shown that there could be improvements in one or more aspects of operation. As tug designs evolve progress is rarely made by standing still.

The four tug order will provide two tugs for HMC Dockyard in Halifax and two for HMCDY Esquimalt, in British Columbia. The difference in coastal towing alone from those two bases is so significant (open ocean from Halifax and sheltered inland waters of the Salish Sea in BC) certainly indicates to me that a "proven design" simply means a design that has already been built and used in a variety of operating conditions.

Over the forty plus years since the last RCN dockyard tugs were built most of the tug industry had settled on two engines driving stern mounted azimuthing thrusters (ASDs), with a small share of the market given over to true tractors - drives mounted forward, with azimuthing or cycloidal Voith Schneider (like the current Glen tugs) propulsors.

However in more recent times there have been an almost infinite variety of nuanced hull forms where azimuthing tugs can push, pull or tow with equal power from the same position. Enough of these have been built to justifiably make the claim for "proven."

Not only that but low emission engines have evolved too. In addition to the IMO Tier III standard,  there have been numerous varieties of hydrids built using generators, electric motors and batteries to improve efficiency and  reduce pollution. Several of these have passed the experimental stage and are arguably "proven". Dual fuel diesel / LNG ships have now become the norm for new vessel construction of tankers and ferries in Canada. They are still largely protoyypical for tugs.

According to a press release, the RCN has chosen a RAmparts 2400 design from Robert Allen Ltd of Vancouver. The pre-eminent tug designers in not just Canada, but the world, the Robert Allen firm has probably designed every variety of tug mentioned in the above paragraphs and more (including the three thruster ROTOR tugs) and even worked in concert with their prime competitor, Damen, the most prolific tug builder, on some of them. Certainly their portfolio of proven designs would be wide ranging. Why a shallow draft, harbour tug design, not normally fitted with a towing winch, was chosen in view of the above requirements is a mystery.

Not included in the press release was a detailed description of the propulsion system supplier. That the engines will be IMO Tier III goes without saying, but there is no mention of how the fire pumps will be powered, how the stern drives will be energized, etc., nor what company will provide the system. Since engines are at least as important as all the rest of the tug, this is a critical piece of information, currently lacking. The standard RAMparts 2400 has a strictly conventional diesel  / shaft / thruster arrangement.

Industrie Océan has built many tugs of different sizes - some simple and some complex - and has worked closely with Robert Allen, and Damen too.

What I am getting around too is that both designer and builder are capable of producing just about any kind of tug you could throw at them.


It is therefore puzzling that the RCN has chosen the RAmparts 2400 series. This is a basic, some would say traditional, budget tug, (48 have been built world wide, with more on the boards). They have been used in many different situations, including for the US Navy, but with no obvious suitability to the RCN's special requirements.

My opinion is that the RCN has several fairly unique requirements that need to be taken into account:

1. Tight spaces and light displacements. The Halifax dockyard features very narrow cambers between finger piers, where relatively light displacement warships tie up. This means that tugs do not have much room to manoeuvre. Once tethered to a ship they should be able to work without shifting position. While ASD tugs can do this to a degree they are not ideal. Tractor types are better. (The current Glens can often be seen working stern forward - living proof that the tractor is the answer, but that a better hull design is needed.).
The light displacement ships do not require high bollard pull tugs, but they also need precise control over power. Certainly the infinitely variable cycloidal systems are superior in these cases. However they have other limiations. True tractors with controllable pitch props, and/or ASDs with electric drives with various power options (main engine, auxiliary engine, battery and combination) would be the most efficient and effective.
A lot of the jobs Dockyard tugs do is shifting scows, placing fenders, and don't inlvove large ships. Again the  low power engine option is ideal in these situations.
At only 24m long the RAmparts 2400 is obviously designed for tight spaces, because it is short. That would certainly indicate limitations on sea keeping for coastal towing.
The standard propulsion package answers none of the efficiency or environmental issues.

2. Occasional larger ships. The new tugs will eventually be tasked with berthing heavy displacement supply ships and icebreakers, so sometimes will need more power. Again the propulsion system with a variety of power sources is the logical choice for operational cost and emission control. Short trips between piers or where no towing or pushing powers is required is common for most tugs and certainly true for these tugs. Again a propulsion system that allows for low power drive is called for, with full power needed for only short periods of time. Only then are the main engines needed, when  they can be run at peak efficiency.

3. Fire fighting. While required to provide fire protection in the Dockyards, this is so seldom needed that it can probably be accommodated by means of a PTO from one of the main engines, or from the central power sharing hub, rather than a dedicated auxiliary engine. The space (and cost) saved could certainly be utilized for battery space or even LNG fuel storage.

4. Ocean towing. Is this still a requirement for these tugs, not a just a 'nice to have'? Most ASD tugs that do both harbour berthing and towing are fitted with two (very expensive) winches - one forward and one aft - each equipped with different ropes/wires to suit the purpose. However there are now designs (that are proven) where a single double drum unit can be used. The hull design needed for such an installation is not the RAStar 2400. In fact I would say that the coastal towing requirement has been dropped, since only towing bits or hook are provided. This is a missed opportunity.
[There is a valid argument I suppose that coastal towing is not needed - the Kingston class MCDVs are on the way out and they have been the most often towed away for refits. Halifax tugs have towed these ships as far as St.John's. NL.]

5. Submarine berthing. RCN tugs in Halifax at least, are just as likely to have to berth US Navy subs as they are RCN subs, so underwater fendering will be a necessary feature of the new tugs. I do not know how this will be addressed. Protecting sub hulls from ASD thrusters could present a challenge.

6. Ice class. No mention has been made as to ice class for these tugs that I have heard. Although it is probably not a high priority (most of the RCN does not want to be anywhere near ice). A case can be made for this requirement, but within the tugs' life times there maybe no ice left. The Swedish navy has just taken delivery of some ice class tugs for example, but they are on the Baltic where it is essential.

7. Why navy tugs at all (a.) and why only four (b.) ? Part  a. of the question has been thrashed out, but I thought the reason the navy opted to buy their own rather than hire in, was that they had unique requirements that could only be met with their own design. To my mind the standard RA2400 spec could be met by most of the commercial tug operators in eastern Canada on a moment's notice.
The other, and more cogent argument is that the navy and its pilots do things differently from civilians, and that only dockyard based tugs (and crews) should be used. I buy this, but not on the basis of operating costs or tug design.

As to why only four - certainly a mistake. Halifax has three Glen class tugs now and no dedicated fire tug. Having only two NLT's does not allow for refits or extended times away from port while towing.
With the Halifax based navy fleet increasing by four (larger) ships over the next few years, having only two NLTs seems short sighted. For example what if a there is a fire on a ship in the Dockyard? One NLT is fighting the fire and there is not enough remaining tug capability to move other ships out of the way. Or what if one tug is away for refit? Commercial tugs will be brought in,and if they can do the job in a pinch, why can't they do it all time?
It also reflects poorly on part  a.  because the navy will have to hire commercial tugs either for the coastal towing or for harbour work or in case of emergency.

I grant I may be jumping the gun on several of the above issues for want of more detailed information. However I think the navy, using the same team of designers and builders, could have done better. If these tugs are expected to give 30 or 40 years of service they should be at the very least state of the art now. They should also be capable of adopting newer technologies later in their service lives, and should be as "green" as possible.

My particular concerns are certainly environmental, but cost and operaiotnal eeffectivenss are important too. I hope to hear better information that I have now.

Most of the world's RAmparts 2400s have been built in Turkey. They are constructed as day boats, but sleeping accommodation for crew can be added if desired.

https://www.sanmar.com.tr/portfolio-items/bakircay/

Some have been built with full crew quarters, but they do not have towing winches:

https://ral.ca/2016/12/16/robert-allan-ltd-ramparts-2400-w-class-tugs-bring-exceptional-performance-to-spanish-tug-operations/

I am certainly not implying that the RAmparts 2400 design is inferior. What I am saying is that either the RCN's requirements have changed (no coastal towing) or that they trying to use a proven design for a general purpose harbour tug when what they should be building is something quite different. Maybe they will a get a very nice horse when what they really need is a camel.

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Friday, June 14, 2019

Refits - all sizes

As spring moves into summer and warm weather arrives, it is not surprising that Halifax tug owners are joining home owners in getting out the scrapers and paint brushes.

Acquired in July 2018 from Tidewater, Horizon Enabler, the former Tidewater Enabler, continued to carry the colours of previous owners. The ship tied up at Pier 9B May 27 after returning from a large cable laying project in Greenland waters. After unloading the cable laying gear at IT International Telecom crews got busy on the starboard (sunny) side of the ship.

Starboard side new colours / Port Side old colours.

The ship's transom has been re-instated after the cable work, and will be readied for repainting.This afternoon the ship will move to The Cove in Dartmouth where it will berth to allow the workers to move to the port side.

Cable slides have been removed and the "tail gate" reinstalled.

Further along at Pier 9C the well known Gulf Spray is celebrating its sixtieth birthday with a serious shave and haircut. Built by Ferguson Industries Ltd in Pictou to its own account in 1959, the tug had
a major rebuild in about 2007. After severe damage in a storm in 2014, repairs were made, but they did not restore the tug to its previous yacht like appearance.

The tug's hull has acquired a large crop of marine growth over the winter.

Now up on the dock, the tug is being readied for another season of barge handling. The barges are used to remove waste and recyclables from cruise ships. The international garbage it is not allowed to enter the domestic "waste stream" and it thus landed ashore and transferred to a special incinerator at the international airport. 

Even at 60 years of age this tug still performs useful work, and certainly raises an admiring glance from tug aficionados when it is seen hard at work.

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