Thursday, October 17, 2019

New Home for well known tug (with revision)

Carrying the name Florence M a well known tug may be starting a new career. It has recently arrived in Thunder Bay, ON in tow of an equally well known fleet mate Molly M 1. (ex  Point Vigour ex Foundation Vigour). New owners have not been identified and no name change has been indicated.

Former Foundation fleet mates, Molly M 1 and Florence M  both went to McKeil.

Florence M is a one of a kind tug, built originally as Foundation Vibert in 1961, similar to two other Foundation "triple deckers", but unlike the original Foundation Victor of 1956 and Foundation Valour of 1958, the Vibert had a shorter hull, was twin screw, and was built in England.  P.K.Harris of Appledore, North Devon  followed the  hydroconic hull section invented by Burnett Corliss partners.
Unusual for a British built tug of the era it received a pair of small block Fairbanks Morse engines, shipped in from North America. Totaling 1332 bhp, they give a bollard pull of a reputed 20 tons.

The tug was built to serve at Baie-Comeau and Sept-Iles, QC and operated by Foundation Maritime for parent Foundation Corporation of Canada, builders of the port facilities. The shorter hull length and twin screws were needed to work within the tighter confines of the Baie Comeau terminals.

During the transition from Foundation through MIL to Eastern Canada Towing (Ectug), Cargill Grain ordered a new tug for Baie Comeau, the Voith-Schneider Pointe Comeau to be operated by Ectug. When it was delivered the word "Foundation" had been replaced by "Point". New owners Eastern Canada Towing Ltd (a Smit+Cory partnership) had renamed all Foundation tugs in 1973 and Point Vibert was transferred to Halifax in 1977.

Suitable for winter operation Point Vibert breaks through a skim of ice in Halifax's Bedford Basin.

When new ASD tugs were built Point Vibert was seldom used in Halifax, and worked in Point Tupper for a time. When Svitzer took over Ectug they soon put it up for sale.

Point Vibert carried Svitzer colours for a very short time.

Sold to McKeil in 2006 and renamed Florence M. the tug was equipped with a towing winch and used for barge work, but ran into trouble in November 2010 off Pictou, NS,  see:
In recent years it has been idle in Hamilton, ON.

In McKeil service, the tug got a towing winch.

On October 1 it was upbound in the Welland Canal in tow of Vigilant I. The tow was handed over to Molly M 1 (ex Point Vigour, ex Foundation Vigour of 1962) in Sarnia and made its way up Lakes arriving in Thunder Bay October 10.

Thunder Bay Tug Services Ltd operates former fleet mate Point Valour (ex Foundation Valour) of 1958, a big single screw tug with 1280 bhp, and seem to be the logical choice for a new owner. The company also operates the single screw Glenada built in 1944 for the wartime naval service. Although rebuilt in 1977, it is one of only four remaining Glen class tugs still in commercial operation in eastern Canada. One of those is Vigilant I (ex Glenlivet II mentioned above.) The other two, Robert John (ex Bansturdy, ex Glenlea) and George N. Carleton (ex Bansturdy, ex Gleneagle) are owned by competitor Lakehead Tugboats Inc (and coincidentally also former Foundation tugs).
[Two Glens are working in British Columbia at last report.]

Thunder Bay Tug Services operates the 1915 built ex steam tug Miseford and several smaller craft. However they are likely seeking slightly more power since competitors Lakehead Tugboats  acquired the 2,000 bhp ex USNavy tug Teclutsa in 2016. See:

Thunder Bay Tug Services operates Point Valour (1958) and Glenada (1944, rebuilt 1977).

If the Florence M goes to work in Thunder Bay, it should be very useful working between the long finger piers of the grain terminals. Lake Superior's fresh water should keep the hull in good condition almost indefinitely, and the largest ships to use the facilities do not exceed 35,000 dwt, because of St. Lawrence Seaway size restrictions.

Old style ship work with a towing line and quick release hook. 
Point Vibert in Smit +Cory colours.

A note about the use of the letter "V" in the Foundation, and later Ectug names. The first tug to have a V name was Foundation Vera built in 1945 as Rockhill, a Warrior class 1,000 ihp steam tug. It was completed by Midland Shipyards too late for war service with the British government and was declared surplus and sold. Briefly renamed Maritime Guardian in 1947, it was acquired by Foundation in 1948. Foundation's marine superintendent named the vessel after his wife.

Foundation Vera was the first another one [see note below] of Foundation's "triple decker" tugs. Skippers liked the elevated conning position, but only if it was enclosed and made weather tight. The Warriors were built with an open flying bridge which was still a feature of  British tugs. Canadian owners quickly added a wheelhouse to ensure survivability in winter conditions. Foundation Vera was laid up in Halifax in the mid 1960s and scuttled at sea in 1968.

It is believed that the next new tugs used the letter V in their names to mark the Allied victory in World War II. The names Foundation Victor and Foundation Valour certainly fit with this theory.
Foundation Vibert took another tack as it was named for the late Vibert G. Young, a recently deceased Foundation Company of Canada executive. His widow sponsored the tug when it was commissioned in Halifax.

After this the V names seemed to have been selected more or less randomly, but some were particularly appropriate for tugs such as the memorable Vim and Vigour . The last V name was the second Point Valiant. That tug is now operating on the west coast for Davies Tugboat Ltd of Burnaby, BC.

It was named after the first Foundation Valiant (of 1963) (later Point Valiant) now Groupe Océan's André H. It has been laid up in Quebec City and is unlikely to see service again.

André H  and the 1960 built Jerry G. laid up in Quebec City.

Point Vim and Point Viking (both 1962, 1000 bhp) are working for other Quebec operators. Foundation / Point Victor is operating as R.J.Ballott (see recent posts here) from Newfoundland.

The longevity of Foundation "V" tugs that left Canadian service has not been as positive. Two of the 1962 class went to Greece (Foundation Vanguard, Foundation Viscount) and one to Africa (Foundation Viceroy).  All are believed broken up years ago. Other Vs were salvage vessels, Foundation Vigilant and Foundation Venture now long gone. A small workboat, the Point Vanguard operates in Sept-Iles, QC for an unrelated company.

I was in error when I called Foundation Vera the first of Foundation's triple deckers. In fact the first harbour tugs the commany acquired when they set up in Halifax, Banscot and Banshee were triple deckers. More on this in a later post.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

KOTUG and Horizon

Halifax based Horizon Maritime has just announced an alliance with the Dutch tug company Kotug International BV to go after harbour and terminal work in Canada under the Kotug Canada banner.

In one of those huge upheavals common in European tug operations Kotug and partner Boskalis sold their Kotug SMIT tug operations earlier this year to the large Spanish operator Boluda Group.
Kotug SMIT had only been in existence since 2016, but operated in eleven ports in four countries.

Kotug had originally shaken up the European tug world by straying from their Dutch harbour tug base into Germany and France where complacent traditional operators enjoyed monopolies but were also bound by high priced labour agreements. Kotug took the companies head on and generally prevailed, in some cases despite legal challenges.

The Voith Schneider VS Hamburg and VS Rotterdam exhibited the owner's ambitions to spread beyond the Netherlands.

Among the companies shaken up by these moves was the main Dutch operator Smit. It was eventually picked off by Royal Boskalis Westminster a Dutch dredging and marine construction firm, that was not so much interested in harbour towage, but in their other assets internationally. However they did merge their European harbour tug operations with Kotug and controlled a big chunk of that tug work in Europe. However Boskalis remained more interested in its international construction work.

Note tug operating under Maltese registry in Hamburg! It could happen here.
Tractor type ZP Bulldog operating '"in reverse" as stern escort.

Kotug are also known as innovators and are certainly ambitious and when Boluda came calling they decided to cash out. By this time Kotug had also expanded internationally with terminal contracts as far afield as Australia, and opted to concentrate on those greener pastures, leaving Europe to others. They also have operations in Russia, Asia, the Caribbean and Africa and operate more than 100 tugs.

Canada does seem an odd choice (on either coast) for ambitious operators, since there are few harbour or terminal operations that might be up for grabs. The Svitzer contract at Point Tupper is about the only sizeable contract that might be in play in eastern Canada. In fact there are few terminals in Canada that have separate contracts within ports.

The trend in Europe for container lines to have exclusive berthing contracts has not taken hold in Canada since major ports usually have only one tug operator.

Certainly the established companies, Groupe Océan and Atlantic Towing Ltd seem to have  a lock on harbour work in the eastern ports. They have displaced Svitzer from all its long standing areas, and Svtizer was unsuccessful when it attempted to break into the Montreal work. Even its Strait of Canso work is in the form of a joint venture with Atlantic Towing. (So is ship berthing in Halifax, at least on paper.)

Both oil terminals in Newfoundland, Newfoundland Transshipment and North Atlantic Refining, own their own two tug fleets under long term management, altough the tugs are aging.

Horizon is a relative newcomer to the industry and until now has concentrated on offshore work. It lost out to Atlantic Towing for the west coast ETV contract, however they did cry foul on the award and may get another kick at it.

On the west coast tug, Smit also sold out to its partner SAAM in SAAM Smit. Seaspan remains a major force in Vancouver,  but new terminals of various sorts are planned or under way.

Kotug are certainly innovators, having developed and patented, the ROTOR tug. With three engines, the tugs have two omni-directional thrusters forward, in conventional tractor tug arrangement and one aft, and are thus extremely agile, and powerful. They may be able to capitalize on innovative solutions to specific harbour or terminal needs.

RT Magic, a ROTOR tug, can (and did) run circles around conventional ASD tugs...

... with two thrusters forward and one aft.

One interesting tug in the Kotug SMIT fleet was SD Jacoba, built in 1998 by East Isle Shipyard in Georgetown, PE (part of Irving Shipbuilding Inc) as Atlantic Fir (ii). It was sold after short term use  to Kotug. The first Atlantic Fir was built in 1995 and sold to J. Ostensjo of Norway and renamed Alex. The third Atlantic Fir, built in  2005, currently operates in Halifax.

Note:  All the photos above were taken before the formation of Kotug Smit, and all the tugs shown have been taken over now by Boluda, with the exception of the RT Magic which operates for Kotug International in Mozambique.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

R.J.Ballott follow up

The tug R.J.Ballott (ex Jerry Newberry, Kay Cole, Point Victor, Foundation Victor) sailed from Halifax today giving Triton, NL as its destination. It is towing the barge Kaligak, loaded with construction equipment taken on at the Waterworks Construction dock in Woodside. (In my previous post I stated that the barge was being unloaded, but in fact is was being loaded.) Some of the gear will be getting a real salt water dousing on the trip.

Since its Foundation days, the tug's exhaust stack has been extended, to reduce fumes in the wheelhouse.

The open tug/boat Waterworks 1 (a former seine skiff) stands by to remove linehandlers from the barge.

Waterworks Construction, as the name implies, specializes in building wharfs and has sent equipment to Newfoundland and Labrador before.

Incidentally the barge, although operated by NGC Nunatsiavut Marine Inc, is maintained by McKeil Marine and has been on the for sale list for some time. NGC is the business arm of the Nunatsiavut Government (the self-governed autonomous region of Labrador established by Inuit land claims). I believe the word "kaligak" refers to a specific type of sled in the Inuit language.


Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Trinity Sea

Secunda Marine's Trinity Sea remains laid up at The Cove in Dartmouth. It was replaced by the newly acquired Siem Commander (ex Stril Commander) this summer. 

Despite a slight resurgence in utilization rates among offshore supply vessels worldwide there are still more than 1,100 stacked according to recent reports. Older and "low end" vessels have the lowest utilization rates and even some higher end vessels are being cut up for scrap.

It seems unlikely that there be much of a future for Trinity Sea as an AHTS or PSV. Some alternative might be found for it, outside the offshore industry, but in the meantime it remains idle. The longer it is laid up, the more difficult it will be to bring it back into service.

Rebuilt as a virtually new vessel in 1999, on a Ice Class 1 A hull, it was built originally in 1983 as Neftegaz 2 . Some other former Neftegaz vessels are still running as research or seismic, but there would not be many as AHTs. Sister vessel Burin Sea (ex Neftegaz 1) may be the only one of its type still working. It is serving the Exxon Mobil Sable project off Nova Scotia.


Sunday, September 29, 2019

R.J.Ballott - return of a veteran

The Newfoundland based tug R.J.Ballott is back in Halifax for one of its rare visits, but it is certainly no stranger to the port.

Built in 1956 as Foundation Victor it initially served the port of Sept-Iles, berthing large bulk carriers, but often wintered in Halifax. When Eastern Canada Towing Ltd [ECTUG] took over ownership, new tugs were built for Sept-Iles, the tug was renamed Point Victor  in 1973 and transferred to Halifax. This was the first of the Foundation company's distinctive "triple deckers", designed to provide a clear view of the deck of large bulk carriers.

Although a big and heavy tug, its 1280 bhp and single screw were not adequate for the harbour work here and it was sold in 1977 to C.A.Pitts Construction becoming Kay Cole. McKeil took over ownership a few years later changing the name to Jerry Newberry. It kept that name when McNally Construction bought the tug in 1995. Current owners, Sealand Shipping Services Ltd of Baie Verte, NL bought and renamed the tug in 2013.

During Pitts ownership it was equipped with a towing winch but still runs its big 8 cylinder Fairbanks Morse main engine. On this trip to Halifax it arrived towing the 432 gt barge Kaliguk owned by the Labrador Development Corp of Goose Bay-Happy Valley, NL. It is unloading construction equipment at the Waterworks Construction (Dexter / Municipal Group) dock in Woodside.

Not surprisingly, for its age, the tug is looking a big rugged, but it is built of stern stuff and there is no indication that its career will be ending any time soon.

I have posted many photos of the tug over the years. Enter 'Point Victor" in the search panel on the left for more.

Here is a sample:

 In the colourful C.A.Pitts paint scheme, Kay Cole leaves Halifax towing a barge.


Friday, September 27, 2019

Stephenville Tug Sinks

The Stephenville, Newfoundland based tug Omni St-Laurent sank at its berth September 23. There was no one aboard at the time, and so far there is no explanation for the incident. According reports the tug had 7,000 liters of fuel on board at the time, but there was a quick response to minimize any spill and formulate a plan to raise the tug.


Omni St-Laurent dates from 1957 when it was built by the famed P.K.Harris shipyard in Apppledore, North Devon, England. It featured the revolutionary patented hydroconic hull designed by Burnett Corliss Partners. The twin screw tug was powered by a pair of Lister Blackstone engines. It has combined mast and engine exhaust uptakes in lieu of the traditional funnel, a feature of many British tugs of the time.

Ordered by the Dover Harbour Board, and named Diligent, the tug served in the port of Dover, England until 1984. It went through a variety of owners during the next five years, such as Peane, Greenhithe, S+H, and Henderson of Stroud until it was acquired by Sorel Tugs Inc (les Remorqueurs de Sorel, Inc) in 1989.

It became Omni St-Laurent when it took up duties in Sorel, QC in late 1989. Groupe Océan acquired the Sorel operation and in 2010 they sold the tug to Harmon Marine Inc of Kippens, NL.

Omni St-Laurent at the Industrie Océan Shipyard, Ile-aux-Coudres. 
Note the hull form using simple hull plate shapes and hard chines.

The port of Stephenville, on the west coast of the island of Newfoundland,  (once known as Port Harmon) sees only about six ships a year, but recently there has been controversy that the tug's 1040 bhp is inadequate for larger ships that must turn in the Basin. Such large ships are rare, and the cost of bringing in a second tug from Nova Scotia could have a negative impact on harbour business. The port is part of the infrastructure of the huge Stephenville Air Base built for United States Air Force during World War II. Later known as Captain Ernest Harmon Air Force Base, it was part of the US/British "Destroyers for Bases Agreement". Newfoundland was still a British colony at the time and not part of Canada. In 1949 when Newfoundland did join Canadian Confederation the base remained de facto US territory. That ended in 1966 when the base was closed and transferred to the Canadian government, then to the government of Newfoundland and Labrador.

The Port itself was privatized in 2003 and its name changed from Port Harmon to the Port of Stephenville in 2016.


Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Tugs from above - Updated

A walk out on the Angus L. Macdonald Bridge this afternoon allowed for some interesting angles on various tugs.

First was a general view of two of HMC Dockyard's  Glen tugs awaiting their next assignment.

 Glenside YTB 643 and Glenbrook YTB 644 alongside. They are Voith tractors built in 1976-1977.

The third tug, Glenevis YTB 642, was apparently elsewhere [see Upate below], possibly on refit. Construction work on the replacement tugs of this class will begin soon at Industrie Océan in Ile-aux-Coudres, QC. Unfortunately the powers that be think that only two tugs will be needed in Halifax, and two in Esquimalt, to replace five tugs and two firefloats.

The current tugs are the second generation of Glen tugs in the RCN (the first generation were built during World War II), and using many of the same names. I hope the new tugs will maintain the tradition. [see footnote]

I have photographed McNally Construction's J.F.Whalen from every angle but this one since it was built in 2013 by Chantier Forillon in Gaspé,QC. In this view the tug is sailing light and appears to have an electric arc welder mounted on deck just aft of the house. The 670 bhp (492 kW) twin screw tug has a demountable house for road transport and push knees for scow work.
It is registered in Toronto, ON, although McNally is headquartered in  Hamilton, ON.

Spitfire III heads north to assist in docking a container ship. One of three 5300 bhp (4000 kW) (70 tonne BP ahead, 66 astern) tugs built by Eastisle, Georgetown PE in 2007, it was designed to berth LNG tankers in the open roadstead off Saint John, NB. That facility does not need full time tugs so this one and Atlantic Bear work out of Halifax and make trips to Saint John when needed. The third tug Atlantic Beaver remains in Saint John.
It is fitted with a heavy duty berthing winch forward and a third "lip" of tubular fendering around the bow. It also carries a towing winch aft and is rated LR FiFi1 with water spray.

I was reminded recently about the first Glendyne, (YTB 503) built in 1945 by Russel Brothers, Owen Sound, ON. On February 15, 1957 while assisting in docking HMCS Magnificent, the tug was girted [pulled over by its own towing line] when the aircraft carrier went astern, and capsized with the loss of two lives.The skipper and four other crew members were recovered alive.
An inquiry found no negligence, but a misunderstanding about instructions to the tug lead to the tow line becoming so taught that neither tug nor ship could release it in time.
The aircraft carrier HMCS Magnificent was returning from duties with the UN Emergency Force in Suez.

Glendyne was recovered from 80 feet of water off HMC Dockyard by navy divers and Foundation Maritime's crane barge Foundation Scarboro on February 19. The tug returned to service and was retired in 1979. The builder's plate has been preserved, apparently at the naval museum in Halifax. The hull was sunk off Shearwater for diver training for the Fleet Diving Unit Atlantic, but I have no idea if it is still there. Her wooden wheelhouse served as a ticket office at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic wharf in Halifax.

 Two first generation Glens laid up retired but not yet de-stored at HMS Dockyard in 1977.

The second Glendyne, built in 1975 by Yarrow in Esquimalt, is one of two second generation Glens based at HMC Dockyard, Esquimalt and will be replaced under the new program, along with its west coast running mate Glendale.

For more on the first generation Glens see:

Thanks to readers: Glenevis is in St. John's, NL for ship berthing duties for visiting Canadian and foreign warships. Another reason why only two tugs in Halifax won't do!