Wednesday, November 14, 2018

No oil for BP and no gas either

The off again / on again exploration for oil, starting in the 1960s, with only a brief interlude of actual oil production, will once again come to a halt. BP and Hess (50/50 partners) did not find any commercially viable quantities of oil or gas in the Aspy D-11 well that was spudded in April.

That well, drilled by the rig  West Aquarius went to 7400 meters (in 2771 meters of water) experienced some difficulties, including the need to drill a sidetrack well, and had to extend the rig's coasting license from  October 15 to December 31.  Nevertheless the results were not positive and operations came to a halt earlier this month. The rig will now be going back to Newfoundland where it will drill for Exxon Mobil in the Flemish Pass starting next year.

Troms Sirius now idled at pier 9B in Hailfax.

Horizon Maritime dedicated three support vessels to the project, their own Horizon Star and the two chartered Tidewater boats Troms Sirius and Lundstrom Tide. The latter two will presumably be returned to Tidewater unless more work can be found for them. Both were brought under Canadian registration in the spring to work on the BP well.

Lundstom Tide will also be out of work.

Related News: 
Offshore gas has also had an equally dismal history with both installations on their last legs and now working on decommissioning. Supply vessels work in and out of Halifax to support that activity. 

Secunda / Siem has Siem Hanne, Venture Sea, Trinity Sea and Burin Sea working out of Halifax, but Burin Sea departed earlier this week for St.John's.

Trinity Sea making a sunset arrival in Halifax last week.

Atlantic Towing has Atlantic Condor working at Deep Panuke with Atlantic Tern on standby, but it has been tied up in Halifax for several days.

A "near miss" when some heavy equipment broke lose has resulted in shut down of work on one of the decommissioning operations on the rig Noble Regina Allen. The rig is contracted to plug 22 wells for Exxon Mobil.


Tuesday, November 13, 2018


The first visit of a new Loire class French navy tug is marked today with the arrival of Rhône, second in the series after the class named vessel, Loire A602.

Weather turned blustery later this afternoon and rain filtered the view of the ship as it arrived.

The French Defence Procurement Agency will take delivery of two more of the class in 2019, namely Seine A604 and Garonne A605.

Rhône is designated A603, and classed in French terminology as BSAH, "batiment de soutien et d'assistance hauturier" [meaning offshore support and assistance] indicating its multi-functional role as a deep sea towing and rescue tug. It is also equipped to deal with port work, carrying a 300m pollution barrier, supporting twelve divers and transporting weapons and ammunition. It will of course also conduct sovereignty patrols and courtesy visits as did its predecessors, and carry disaster relief aid when needed.

Its main job however is to be available to tow nuclear submarines in case of major damage, and to retrieve the towed arrays when they enter port. It was designed to tow a nuke at 5 knots in sea state 7 (9 meter seas). The Loire class are twin screw vessels with 80 tonne bollard pull, from 7200 bhp main engines. They carry equipment for dynamic positioning DP1 and firefighting FiFi-1

By the time Rhône got up into clearer conditions the tug At;antic Willow was coming alongside to assist it into its berth at HMC Dockyard.

This not the first Canadian port for the ship. It visited Esquimalt in Victoria, BC in late September.

Procurement for the French navy has taken an interesting path with the naval design office working closely with private industry to apply commercial vessel design to semi-military functions such as coast guard, police and customs.

In June Rhone replaced Tenace A669 aged 40, then the oldest ship in the French Navy and one of class of three tugs in the French navy. The last of those predecessors to call in Halifax was Malabar A664. A third tug, Centaure A674 was sold to the Turkish navy, but damaged beyond repair in a drydock accident in 2013. They were built to the same design as the German civilian tug Hamburg which was broken up in 1986 with irreparably damaged engine and gear box.

For more on that class see an older post:

Theodore Too - still smiling

Theodore Too arrived safely back in Halifax this morning - still wearing a smile.

After encountering some mechanical issues on its return from Saint John, the vessel had repairs in Meteghan and then made the long haul around the southern tip of Nova Scotia and back to Halifax, where it tied up at the Svitzer Canada dock.  This was a temporary stopover, before moving on to its winter residence at Mill Cove in Bedford Basin.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Not really tug news

We don't report fake news at Tugfax but we do report news about fake tugs.Our favourite fake tug being of course Theodore Too, that well known tourist attraction built as a life size version of a tiny tug from the children's television series of the same name.

Much to the disappointment of many, the "tug" was transferred to Saint John. NB for the 2018 summer season, where no doubt it entertained many, including cruise ship passengers. On November 2,  with the end of the cruise ship season, it was en route back to Halifax when it had problems with its gear box in the Bay of Fundy. Not a nice place for any vessel to have a problem. It called for assistance from the CCGC Westport, the Coast Guard lifeboat stationed at the port of the same name on Brier Island, at the end of Digby Neck. The Westport towed Theodore Too through Petite Passage, then on the Meteghan, NS where repairs could be made.

Theodore Too sails past George's Island where a building "keeps its eyes" on the channel.

Several charming newspaper accounts wrote of Theodore Too as a living thing - a rare example of anthropomorphism in journalism, but somehow appropriate under the circumstances. However the situation could have turned ugly and I am sure that the master of the boat, a seasoned seafarer, acted with excellent judgment in calling for assistance in a real emergency.

High winds since the incident have likely prevented the boat's return to Halifax (or possibly Lunenburg).

Another vessel, that might not be classed as a tug by some, has left Halifax for Newfoundland - and probably not on its own hull. Since it is fitted with towing bitts, I can classify it as a tug, though it did not see much service in that role.

Walrus at its usual berth in Woodside, with its registration number (painted incorrectly, with an extra "1" ) on the bow.

Registered under the small boat category, it did not have an official name, but a registration number: C14939NS. It was owned by Waterworks Construction Ltd of Dartmouth and was usually seen tied up at their facility next to the Woodside ferry terminal. It was known as Walrus but that was a purely unofficial name, and may even have been inherited from its original owners, believed to have been some branch of the Canadian government. It has an aluminum hull, and is credited with 540 bhp, but that seems excessive.

Out for a pleasure cruise - one of the few times I saw Walrus in action.
New owners are P.D.Industries Ltd of Cape Broyle, NL. a small community on the Avalon Peninsula, about midway between St.John's and Cape Race.


Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Tar Season

Some say there are two seasons in the Atlantic Canada - snow plowing season and paving season. The latter traditionally ends in late November when freezing temperatures make it difficult for asphalt to cure properly. So at this time of year there is usually a mad last minute rush to get all the planned work done.

Asphalt is a tricky commodity to handle as it must be kept heated at all times, and so it can only be carried in specialized tankers. There are never enough Canadian tankers (whether they be ships or barges) to meet the seasonal demand, and the region's major asphalt product Irving Oil, acquires a coasting license for the US flag tug barge combo Coho / Penn No.92 to operate between Canadian ports when the Canadian fleet is too busy. (This is the fourth coasting license trip the tug has made this year. Much of the rest of the time it is running from Saint John, NB to US ports.)

Coho and Penn No.92 arrived in Halifax today from Saint John, NB, carrying 80,000 bbls of hot asphalt (at 300 degrees Fahrenheit), some of which it will discharge at the McAsphalt depot in Eastern Passage. It will continue on with cargo for some or all of the ports of Stephenville, Holyrood, Come-by-Chance and Botwood, NL.

Built in 2008 by Thoma-Sea Boatbuilders of Lockport, LA, Coho is a Fin class ATB tug, with a 53 foot height of eye elevated wheelhouse. It is powered by a pair of Cummins engines giving 4,000 bhp through twin screws in nozzles and Nautican triple shutter rudders. It relies on a JAK-400 coupler system to connect with the 90,0000 bbl, 414 foot long barge, and stays in the notch in virtually any sea condition. It thus does not carry a towing winch, but has a capstan and H -bitts if required to tow the barge.

The tug was ordered by Penn Maritime of Philadelphia, and called here in their grey and black livery. In 2012 Kirby Corp acquired Penn and repainted the superstructure white, and applied the Kirby diamond to the stacks.

I have featured the tug here before where I posted some photos of the tug out of the notch.:


Friday, October 19, 2018

Lois M - Arctic assignment and other nothern operations

The tug Lois M has arrived in Deception Bay, Nunavut to provide assistance to the Fednav OBO Arctic. The combination bulker / tanker has experienced a mechanical issue that has prevented its departure from the northern port. The tug arrived yesterday at the nickel ore loading port. Due today is the bulker Federal Sable to take the last ore cargo of the season as winter closes in. That ship was brought in because severe ice conditions in June delayed the start of the shipping season. Deception Bay, off Hudson Strait, serves the Raglan nickel mine and carries concentrates to Quebec City.

Lois M spent most of the summer in Quebec City apparently on charter to Groupe Océan to cover for other tugs such as Océan Tundra which was called away from the St.Lawrence to work in an even more northerly port, Milne Inlet on Baffin Island.

Lois M was built in 1991 by Matsuura Iron Shipbuilding, Higashino as Lambert for the Robe River Mining Co in Australia. Acquired by McKeil Marine in 2014, the 4800 bhp ASD tug was one of four similar looking tugs acquired by McKeil.

The Arctic returning from Deception Bay with a full ore cargo and some containers on deck.

The ship Arctic dates from 1978 as an icebreaking bulk carrier. It was extensively rebuilt in 1985 to carry ore /bulk / oil (OBO) with a new bow. It is therefore able to reach northern ports without icebreaker assistance, and to carry supply cargoes, including fuel, for the mines. It then loads the outbound ore. In 2017 the ship received a life extension refit in China. A 30,000 dwt replacement ship was announced earlier this year for delivery in 2020. It will be a Polar Class 4 icebreaking OBO.

 After unloading in Quebec City, the ship's icebreaking bow is partly visible.

Other Northern Operations
The other tug copmanies operating in the north are now winding down for the year. Atlantic Towing Ltd has completed their summer supply runs for Baker Lake off Hudson Bay, with the tugs Atlantic Beech and Atlantic Elm en route home with their barges.

The shipping season at Milne Inlet has been extended until sometime next week, which is very late (October 15 is the normal end of season)  but the supply ship Qamutik is still in port unloading much needed mining equipment and supplies. The last iron ore cargo has been shipped, but the hired icebreaker Botnica is standing by in Eclipse Sound for ice management to ensure that the last ship is able to depart. Tugs Océan Raynald T and Océan Tundra will also stand by until the last moment before returning home. Océan Tundra was called in when the tug Océan K. Rusby damaged a thruster in ice. It returned to Quebec on its own and is now on the slip at Industrie Océan at Ile-aux-Coudres for permanent repairs.


Saturday, October 13, 2018

Scrap Tow from Montreal

It seems likely that Océan Delta will soon embark on its last trip. Now under Panamanian registry, the tug was sold by Groupe Océan and its Canadian registry closed November  29, 2017. Since year end it has been idle in Sorel - Tracy, QC, latterly with crew aboard.

Lying in Sorel in August this year, the tug looked pretty tired.

It moved from Sorel September 5 to Montreal where it is slated to tow the decommissioned laker Nito to a scrapyard, likely in Aliga, Turkey, starting out Sunday, October 14.

Groupe Océan has sent both Océan Echo II to Montreal to take the stern line as far as the Escoumins pilot station.

It is very late in the year, but the former hurricane Michael is expected to peter out in the mid-Altantic this weekend. The record of late season tows has not been a starry one, particularly with this tug.

One of the last deep sea tugs under the Canadian, flag, and the last one on the east coast, its departure will follow only by a month of that other stalwart Ryan Leet which sailed from Sydney, NS for its new owners, and is now reported to be in Columbia. I was told that Ryan Leet was headed for a shipyard to be reconditioned for further use, but that seems too much to hope for at this stage for Océan Delta and most believe it will also be scrapped on arrival in Turkey.

Built in 1973 by Ulstein Mek.Verkstad AS in Ulsteinvik, Norway as Sistella it was an early member of the International Transport Contractors (ITC) fleet of deep sea towing tugs. In 1978 it was renamed Sandy Cape by the same owners until sold in 1980 to Quebec Tugs. As their Capt. Ioannis S. it was named for Capt "John" Styliadis, longtime Davie tug master.

In 1999 after Groupe Océan took over Quebec Tugs, they renamed the vessel Océan Delta and re- powered it with two 8 cylinder MaKs, giving 6464 bhp, replacing the original 5600 bhp N+H engines, driving a single controllable pitch single screw.

Over the years the tug took part it too many tows to relate here, including many trips to the far north, but in later years this work became harder to find eventually leading to its sale.

In Halifax in 1980 after losing its tows in the Gulf.

The laker Nito has an even longer history than the tug, starting life in 1967 at Collingwood Shipyard as N.M.Paterson's Mantadoc. Renamed Teakglen in 2002 by CSL, it passed through ownership by Goderich Elevators Ltd and near sale to scrappers in 2005 when it was returned to service as Maritime Trader for Voyageur Maritime Trading Inc. In 2011 Lower Lakes Towing took over ownership and renamed the ship Manitoba. It is also among the last of its kind - a wheelhouse forward laker, with no self-unloading gear.

Océan Delta was lead tug in the unfortunate December 2012 tow of HMCS Athabaskan that resulted in damage to the ship and its hastened decommissioning. It did successfully tow several lakers to scrap in years past, but not all without incident. In 1980 with a double tow of two lakers, its CPP malfunctioned, and it backed over the tow line and both ships went astray. It was major operation by Ectug to round them up and bring them into Halifax.

However those are only unfortunate incidents in a long and successful career. Groupe Océan spent a lot of money keeping the tug going, even to the extent of re-engining it, so it was well cared for.

The tug has been featured here many times see: