Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Tug and barge change hands

Idle since 2010 the tug Commodore Straits and the barge Marinelink Explorer have been sold and renamed. Chaulk Determination and Chaulk Lifter respectively. The new owners are shown as a numbered New Brunswick company, but based on the new names, I assume it is connected with CAI Logistics, a Moncton based freight forwarder.

Marinelink Explorer and Commodore Straits laid up in Trois-Rivières in 2011.

Halifax Shipyards built the tug in 1966 as Haida Brave, and it sailed directly to the wast coast on completion.  In 1984 Rivtow Straits renamed the tug Commodore Straits. A subsidiary of the Upper Lakes Group bought the tug in 200x and returned it east. It went to work for Distribution Grands Lacs/St-Laurent Ltée of Trois-Rivières, QC, moving grain barges through the St.Lawrence Seaway. It is a twin screw vessel with 3700 bhp Werkspoor main engines. Smaller tugs were found to be more suitable for the grain barge work and the tug was idled for a time and transferred eventually to Jackes Shipping, a UL Group subsidiary.
In 2008 Upper Lakes established Marinelink Inc, to be a tug barge service on the Lakes and St.Lawrence River. They bought a heavy lift ship, orginally named John Henry and built in 1978 by Peterson Builders Inc of Sturgeon Bay, WI. It was a specialized shallow draft ship with bow and stern doors and a reputed 300 tonne lifting capacity. It only worked for a couple of years until it went into a 15 year layup in a controlled environment. In 2000 it emerged from its US government cocoon and was to be rebuilt as Revival but work was suspended. Marinelink renamed the ship Marinelink Explorer and Commodore Straits was dispatched to Norfolk VA and towed it to Canada.

Shortly after the photo above was taken the tug Océan Golf met the tow and assisted it up river to Trois-Rivières. In September of 2008 Commodore Straits and Radium Yellowknife towed it up through the Seaway to the Port Weller Drydock where it was reduced to a barge, with temoval of its superstructure, but it retained its heavy lift capability.

The tug and barge did get some work, including transfer of some locomotives from Becancour to Sept-Iles in 2010, but they were laid up in Trois-Rivières. In 2011 when Upper Lakes sold its Great Lakes bulk carriers, the pair were put up for sale.

CAI Logistics is involved in freight forwarding and logistics by air, sea and road. Originally based in Goose Bay, NL but now headquartered in Moncton, NB, and with connections to the Canadian north, they have chartered or used ships, tugs and barges. Founder David Chaulk and CAI were listed in 2010 as one of the fastest growing companies in Canada (4,650% in the 5 years to 2009.)

In  about 2010 CAI acquired a ship, the former Visten ex Coldstream Trader-96, ex Aldabi -93. It was a 3,987 gross ton ice class combi tanker/cargo ship, built in 1990 in the Netherlands. Renamed Chaulk Tenacity it was sent to Swansea, Wales to be refitted as a cargo ship after some time in layup. It was to become capable of carrying 253 TEU and /or general cargo and to have a pair of 20 tonne cranes.
The refit did not go well and Chaulk sued the ship yard and the project managers for incompetence. The ship is still listed in the Canadian register, with owners as Chaulk Air Inc of Moncton, but to my knowledge the ship has never entered service.

Perhaps CAI will have better luck with their new venture.



  1. I know the tug/barge combination holds a crewing advantage in the U.S., but does that hold true in Canada? This pair always struck me as a bit unweildly. Why remove a lightly used power plant and replace it with a well used tug?

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    2. UL Group was well known for thinking outside the box and coming up with novel ideas - not all of them worked.
      To bring a ship like this into Canadian registry would have cost a fortune. As an unmanned barge the bar is very much lower. Also the tug's crew is about half the size of a ship's crew, and works with lower grade licenses and thus less pay.
      Too bad the tug's main engine packed it in, otherwise it would have been good for many years, particularly in fresh water.
      I think UL Group just basically gave up and sold out, so they didn't really market the new service.

    3. I worked on both the tug and barge, I was also involved with the removal of the wheel house, there was many factors involved here, when we received the ship in Canada and had done some inspections we had found that the engines had some how had got seawater in the sumps, that water had sat in there for a vary long time and there was a lot of damage, also the walls in the wheel house did not me TC fire codes, and an large refit would be required to just make sea worthy, so after much debate it was decided to remove the wheel house, also by removing the wheel house and using the tug to push it they were able to cut back on crew,
      Now the demise, original the plan was to haul steel coils out of US Steel in Ontario, as the barge was nearing completion US Steel closed it operations, they then had tried for a contract that was open to hall windmill towers, but due to incompetency's within the company that operated the pair that contract was giving to another company, the locomotives seemed to be some light in the tunnel but failing to hire a proper hosting engineer if I remember right they snapped a cable witch resulted in damage,
      Then when old jack leech's children wanted nothing to do with the shipping industry that made it a real easy one to place on the chopping block

  2. UL Group had been on the market for a long time, and none of the children now grown up wanted anything to do with running it, so when Algoma offered to buy at ULG price, thta was it, maybe bad timing for the tug and barge, but that how business works you take good and bad and make it work til it done...I am sure had UL Group stayed in the, the tug barge operation would of been a sucess just like UL Group was.I' miss them running the lakes and St. Lawrence, they were a 1st Class Operation.