Thursday, October 20, 2016

Change Day at Atlantic Towing

For a short time today there were five tugs alongside Atlantic Towing Ltd's dock at Woodside. One tug was only in port briefly - Atlantic Hemlock.

Atlantic Hemlock has begun to shorten up the tow, which is trailing its buoyed insurance line.

 With the Hemlock on the hip, the barge makes its way stern first toward pier 6.

The veteran tug, built in 1996 is the oldest of the modern ASD tugs in the fleet. It arrived this afternoon towing the barge Atlantic Sealion. The once notorious Irving Whale, the barge is back from a summer's work in Chesterfield Inlet, running the supply shuttle to Baker Lake. Since the tugs that were working in the north returned to Belledune, I am assuming that is where Atlantic Hemlock picked up the tow. After a short spell at Woodside it set out for Saint John.

Hemlock features the tapered sides to the deck house. A feature of the original Robert Allen design, it was eliminated in later tugs in the series.

Also sailing this afternoon was Atlantic Larch.It had been in Halifax to fill in for Atlantic Willow while it was on the slip in Shelburne. Willow is now back with a nice new paint job and will be ready to work. When Larch left Halifax earlier this year, when it was replaced by the more powerful Atlantic Fir, it was fitted with a large Sat dome from the Fir, but this has now been removed, altough the tripoid mast is till in place. 

Larch and Hemlock are fitted with towing winches, but no fire fighting gear, and are considered "outside tugs" meaning that they are available for coastal work.

Atlantic Hemlock away from the dock (far right)
Atlantic Larch (far left) readying to go.
Atlantic Willow (inside the pier), Atlantic Fir (centre left) and Atlantic Oak (centre right) are the regular Halifax tugs.

There is a sixth tug at Woodside, although it is not in the water.
Irving Chestnut, after several years laid up at pier 9 in Halifax, was in the way and was lifted out at Woodside this summer. Built in 1953 as the US Army T-Boat T-497 it is assigned to Atlantic Towing's subsidiary Harbour Development Ltd, and was used a general purpose tug / workboat / crew boat. A  sister boat Irving Hazelnut (ex T-435) is still operating as a dredge tender. 
With a third unit Irving Walnut (ex T-425) which may have been scrapped by now, the trio were called
the "Nut Boats" and worked Saint John Harbour and the Canaport offshore tanker buoy before being signed over to the dredging fleet. They are the last of the Atlantic boats to still carry the "Irving" name - the rest of the fleet was renamed in 1996-1998.
How long the Chestnut will sit until she is broken up or refitted is anyone's guess.


Thursday, October 13, 2016

Pacific Hickory - return visit

Arguably the finest tug ever built on the east coast of Canada is returning to familiar waters after an extended absence. Some speculation surrounds the arrival of Pacific Hickory in Montreal (ETA October 23), but it is likely that it will be towing a former Great Lakes ship to the scrappers in Turkey. This is a bit of a comedown from some prestigious salvage and long distance tows by the same tug over its long history.

As built, the tug was painted with a buff crow's nest and white bulwarks on the forecastle deck.

Built by Saint John Shipbuilding and Dry Dock in 1973 as the Irving Miami, the tug was designed to tow massive newsprint barges from Saint John, NB to US east coast ports. Its elevated crow's nest was used when the tug was pushing the barges in estuaries and rivers to give visibility over the huge deckhouses.
Between assignments Irving Miami was also available to J.D.Irving's Atlantic Towing for other work including handling Irving Oil barges and the odd salvage and contract tows.

 The tug had an enclosed winch house and carried the "Irving" symbol on its funnels

At 140 feet long x 38' wide a depth of 21'-3" and draft of 18' and 880 grt it was certainly capable of just about any seagoing assignment. Its twin 20 cylinder GM engines developed 7200 bhp for a bollard pull of 100 tons and an advertised speed of 15 knots.

The paper barges were more like floating warehouses. They had problems keeping the cargo dry however and were eventually put to other uses.

In the long run the barges proved unsuitable for newsprint but the tug was kept busy with other assignments. It did still tow the big barges as they were converted to carry other forest products and general freight, but it was frequently used with Irving Oil tank barges.

Here with the tank barge Irving Sealion, Irving Miami is in the notch using face wires. It has also lost the buff colour except on its funnels and the white gunwale.

 In 1989 Irving Miami was paired up with a self-unloading barge the Capt. Edward V. Smith (the former laker Adam E. Cornelius). Conversion of the barge by Halifax Shipyard involved removing the engines and building a stern notch for a tug. The original ship's wheelhouse was retained for navigation. That assignment lasted for year, but replacement Arctic Nanook only lasted a year and Irving Miami was back in the notch in early 1990, but gave up the job to Magdelan Sea later in the year. 

When the J.D.Irving group of companies moved away from Irving Oil part of the Irving conglomerate the tug became available for other work and as part of a fleet-wide renaming became the Atlantic Hickory in 1995. Irving tugs were historically named for trees, with softwood (coniferous) names for inland tugs and  hardwood (deciduous) names for coastal and seagoing tugs.

 Little had changed when the tug was renamed Atlantic Hickory except for some tiny face pads just below the name and a number of tires.

Fitted somewhat snuggly in the stern notch, the tug relied on winch tension to keep itself in line with the barge. It also required a watchman in the forward bridge to con the combination.

Also in 1995 the tug was paired up again with the barge which had since been sold and renamed Seabarge One. The barge was renamed Sarah Spencer the next year and the assignment lasted until 1999 when the owners purchased the tug Jane Ann IV and fitted it and the barge with an articulation coupling system. They also installed a system so that the tug could be controlled from the barge's bridge. Atlantic Hickory had relied on old fashioned face wires, and voice commands, which was less than ideal in the Seaway locks.

Rigged for pushing, the tug had plenty of power, but less than ideal control in tight quarters.

Atlantic Hickory was once again available to Atlantic Towing and undertook a number of  assignments including work with the original barges in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean.

Following a major refit over the winter of 2003-04 the tug was once again paired with a barge it was built to handle and assigned to work in the Caribbean.

The tug was set up to tow the barge at sea, but its high wheelhouse was essential in confined waters. During the last refit it lost its conventional lifeboats in davits and rewceived an FRC in a cradle. No doubt other improvements were made, as the tug had been continually maintained at the owner's shipyards.

Finally in 2006 the tug's registry was transferred to Dominica and in 2007 it was sold to Vancouver, BC-based Pacific Offshore Services Inc where it was renamed Pacific Hickory. Since then the tug has traded world wide with countless long haul barge and rig tows. It has also towed between the far east and Europe with barges stacked high with loads of inland barge hulls. These tows have necessitated transits around the Cape of Good Hope.

Now the tug is returning to Canadian waters - albeit briefly - as it is still proving useful to its owners despite what would be considered an advanced age for any other tug.

There are numerous photos of Pacific Hickory on line and a Google search for images will be rewarding. There are also a few You Tube videos.
They show numerous changes, including funnel extensions and the adsence of a cross bar between them. It also appears that the crowsnest windows have been plated over, altough these may  only be storm shutters. The tug has acquired at least one deck crane and a walkway round the bridge. Some of these additions were likely made during a 2007 refit, but other are newer. Commercial managers Seabridge Marine Services have published a spec sheet:


Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Ryan Leet - please say it ain't so

After nearly a year laid up in Sydney, NS, Ryan Leet, one of Canada's only truly ocean going tugs, has apparently been sold. Although its Canadian registry remains open, international sources indicates "owners unknown" a sure sign that something is afoot.

If that were not bad enough, those same sources list "Malta Towage Ltd" as managers. This is perhaps the most ominous sign of all. Malta Towage Ltd is not to be confused with several other reputable companies with similar names. Instead it is linked to Britannia Shipping of the UK and a notorious Irish criminal convicted of various crimes and misdemeanours in the US and the UK and under suspicion of others in Portugal and Spain. The individual has acted as broker in the sale of several ships that were later arrested for drug smuggling, but has always been acquitted of actual involvment. A recent ship sale he arranged has been barred by a court in Malta when they discovered that he owned both the buying and selling companies, the sale price was well below market value and that the sale would have deprived entitled creditors to a share of the proceeds.

Ryan Leet's (ex Salvor Commander-90, Abeille Provence-87) history has been recounted here before, so I will await further developments before re-hashing it. If I have reported the sale correctly, no good could be expected to come out of it for the tug, bringing a distinguished career to a potentially ruinous end.


Sunday, September 11, 2016

Maersk Nexus

The supplier Maersk Nexus has been working out of Halifax for the last few weeks,. Since Maersk Supply Service Canada's base is in Newfoundland Maersk suppliers are here rarely.

Today it took on fuel at pier 9 from the Wilson pipeline and when completed, backed up to pier 9c. Yesterday it loaded bulk cargo from Shaw resources trucks, indicating to me that it is supporting drilling, and thus must be working for Shell.

One of a pair built by Asenav in Chile, it and its sister Maersk Nomad are 10,445 bhp PSVs of the Ulstein UT 745 CDL class. It was delivered in 2010.

Before moving back to pier 9c, Maersk Nexus waited for the arrival of Skandi Flora which is supporting Shell's drilling program in the Shelburne Basin. Managed by Mathers, it and Breaux Tide, operated by Atlantic Towing, are working under coasting licenses as foreign ships. The licenses have now been extended for another year as Shell is about to start a second exploratory well.


Saturday, September 10, 2016

Halifax Tugger has a new job

More or less picking up where I left off :

The small tug Halifax Tugger has been seen for past few days working on new job, handling the refuse scow for cruise ships. It has apparently taken over from Gulf Spray which has remained idle. Halifax Tugger works in a push mode, whereas the classic Gulf Spray used the more unwieldy tow line.

With companion Harbour Runner, which is used in docking the barge, Halifax Tugger works its way to its Pier 9A base to offload refuse from a cruise ship.

Halifax Tugger previously was kept very busy working with the barges used in replacing the Macdonald bridge deck, but those barges have returned to Quebec.

Halifax Tugger (background, left), Captain Jim (middle) and Belle-D. (foreground) with the barge Halcrane carrying a new bridge deck section.

The barges, Océan Abyss and Halcrane were picked up by Océan Echo II in August and towed in tandem up the St.Lawrence. They were met off Ile-aux-Coudres by another Groupe Océan tug, Océan Yvan Desgagnés and towed on individually to Quebec City.

Océan Echo II with its tow trudging up the St.Lawrence against the tide, doing about 3 knots.

Halifax Tugger dates from 2011 when it was built as Cercle Polaire by GFFM Leclerc at Ile-aux-Coudres, QC. The twin screw, 520 bhp 30 footer was used by Leclerc in their rental business, to assist with northern supply lighterage and construction activity until 2015 when RMI Marine acquired the tug and gave it a new name. As a vessel of less than 15 tons the names are unofficial, and it is registered by number.


Sunday, July 3, 2016

Taking a break

Tugfax and Shipfax will be taking a summer break. There will be no regular posts until September, and then there may be a format change.

Gulf Spray prepares to take some scows in tow  this morning and head from pier 9 to pier 22 to relieve the cruise ship Queen Mary 2 of some of its accumulated waste.


Saturday, July 2, 2016

Atlantic Cedar in , Svitzer Montreal out, Erie and Ontario too, and another still here.

Atlantic Towing Ltd has brought in the Atlantic Cedar for harbour work, joining the Atlantic Oak and Atlantic Willow. It replaces Atlantic Fir which has gone to Pictou, NS for a towing job.  Built in 2005 it is a sister to the Fir and the Oak, rated at 66 tonnes bollard pull, 5,050 bhp with a towing winch and stern roller and fully equipped for firefighting.

 Atlantic Cedar in the Narrows awaiting the bulker CSL Métis.

Traditionally Atlantic Towing Ltd named its inland /river tugs after coniferous trees and salt water tugs after deciduous. Since discontinuing Saint John River work, the company now makes no distinction in naming. 

 Atlantic Willow rewinds her winch while waiting for Maersk Palermo to depart Halterm this afternoon. After the ship released the tug it was sent a head to chase an un-heeding catamaran sailing vessel that was in the channel.

 Atlantic Oak has beenereleased by the Maersk Palermo and heads back to base as the fog rolls in (again).

Getting under way this evening Svitzer Montreal headed off to its new home port. The former Svitzer Caucedo was built in 2004 as Caucedo for Remolcadores Dominicanos by East Isle Shipyard, builders of all the above Atlantic Towing tugs. It is rated at 5072 bhp and has no towing winch..
Svitzer Montreal is about to disappear into the fog as it departs outbound for Montreal.

The tug arrived in Halifax in late May, underwent an in-water refit and was renamed June 10. The tug joins Svitzer Cartier in Montreal and will cover that port when Svitzer Njal and Svitzer Nerthus head north to Baffinland for the summer.

The pair of Great Lakes Towing Company tugs, Erie and Ontario sailed early yesterday morning. They must have been away from the dock at first light, because by the time I was aware of their departure, they were well offshore. [See previous post of June 27]

Despite published reports that the tug was demolished the old Craig Trans is still very much in existence. Granted it has been sold twice for demolition, but it has not budged from the dock in Wright's Cove, Burnside.

(July 1, 2016 photo)
[Looking across Bedford Basin, the Rockingham rail yard stretches along the western shore.]