Saturday, December 27, 2014

Halifax built tug a sinker

One of the few tugs built in Halifax lies partially sunk at Trois-Rivières, QC after rolling on its side December 26. The unattended tug had been laid up for several years, and it is understood that the owners had been warned that it was at risk with the onset of winter weather. It had also been reported that the tug's engines had been at least partially dismantled.

Designed by Robert Allen Ltd it was built by Halifax Shipyards, when it was owned by the Dominion Steel + Coal Co, for the British Columbia forestry giant MacMillan-Bloedel. When it was launched October 26, 1965, at a cost of $1.25mn, it was the first tug built by the yard. Delivered to MacBlo's shipping arm Kingcome Navigation Ltd and named Haida Brave it went into service towing barges from Port Alberni and Powell River, BC to San Francisco and Long Beach, CA. The 350 ft long barges could carry 6500 tons of newsprint, and the trip could be up to 1200 n.mi., at the stately speed of 8 knots.
For this work the 566 grt tug was fitted with two 8 cylinder Werkspoor engines delivering 3470 bhp to twin screws.

The tug worked consistently through 1978  for Kingcome, then Reliance Towing Co when it was sold to Rivtow Straits Ltd, also of Vancouver and renamed Commodore Straits. It then expanded its duties towing log and cargo barges until it was laid up in 1990.
Mac Mackay collection - unknown photographer
In 2003 it was acquired by an affiliate of the Upper Lakes Group Inc of Toronto and given a thorough refit at Allied Shipbuilders Ltd in North Vancouver. It sailed light tug  via the Panama Canal and arrived in its new home port of Trois-Rivières, QC December 3, 2003.

Upper Lakes set up Distribution Grands Lacs / St-Laurent Inc., and used inland river type covered barges, shuttling grain from the Lakes through the Seaway to its elevator in Trois-Rivières.  The tug was not particularly well suited to pusher work, but spent some years on an off moving the barges.

By 2008 Upper Lakes established Marinelink Inc as a heavy lift operator to work on the St.Lawrence. They found an old heavy lift ship in the southern US and sent Commodore Straits to pick it up. It towed the Barge Laviolette south for sale to scrappers and returned with the ship Revival ex John Henry.
Joined by the tug Océan Golf off Pointe-au-Pic they stopped in Trois-Rivières.

Then in September 2008 Commodore Straits was joined by the tug Radium Yellowknife and towed the ship to Port Weller Dry Dock where the superstructure was removed and it was reduced to a barge. Renamed Marinelink Explorer it retained its heavy lift derricks. The tug's ownership was also transferred to Mareinlink Inc and it received a small elevated wheelhouse for visibility over the barge.
The barge did find occasional work, but  was mostly idle, and the tug as well. Other tugs were moving the grain barges more efficiently.

 In  2011 Upper Lakes laid up the tug and barge and offered them for sale. At the same time Upper Lakes sold off its cargo ship fleet, bunkering tankers and other shipping interests. Finally in 2013 Distribution Grands Lacs / St-Laurent was allowed to go into bankruptcy.
In late 2013 CAI Logistics of Moncton, NB acquired the tug and barge. CAI was the company of Chaulk Air and other freight forwarding companies with business in Labrador and the far north, but had not been shipowners. The tug was renamed Chaulk Determination and the barge Chaulk Lifter.

The years of work and layup had taken their toll on the tug's engines and it is understood that a rebuild was started but abandoned. Some work was found for the barge using hired tugs.
The tug is now leaning against its pier in Trois-Rivières, and likely to capsize, having already spilled a large quantity of its 22 tonnes of fuel. A very big mess to clean up. See a picture and read more (in French) at:



  1. Predecessor of same name (Commodore Straits) sank in Welcome Passage BC and is now a popular diving attraction.

  2. I was on this boat at B.C. shipyard for a refit.It's a part of myself that sink with it.