Friday, May 1, 2015

Hamal - former Halifax visitor achieves notoriety

A tug that visited Halifax only once, and then only for two days, has achieved notoriety. Hamal was arrested off Scotland April 23 in the largest cocaine bust in UK history. Initial reports indicate that there was nearly three tons of the dope, with an astronomical street value of  BP 500 MN, aboard the tug.
Hamal aroused suspicion on a trip from Turkey to Hamburg, Germany. After stopping in the Canary Islands (not exactly on a direct roue) it then went west about Ireland and north of Scotland instead of the normal route through the English Channel.
British authorities took the tug into Aberdeen where it has been impounded and the nine Turkish crew members charged for drug trafficking. While it may have been a bit of a rare bird when it called in Halifax, it was certainly well known in Aberdeen and other British ports in its original guise.

It was built in 1979 as one of a pair for Alexandra Towing. Named Formidable, it was certainly that in its day, with 3520 bhp, driving twin CP props in steerable Kort nozzles for 55 tonnes bollard pull. Designed to handle the biggest ships afloat at the time, it was also built to work with offshore construction barges and drilling jackets.It was stationed in Gravesend and sister tug Indomitable in Liverpool, but they traveled widely.

Alexandra formed a division called Alexandra Marine Transportation and built a fleet of giant semi-submersible barges for offshore work, and the two tugs went to work towing them offshore.
Alexandra Towing was sold to the Howard Smith Group which eventually evolved into Adsteam (and finally Svitzer) with the focus turning away form the offshore.

In 2001 Formidable was sold to Svendborg Bugser of Denmark and renamed Eurosund. (Svendborg Bugser was owned by Neils Hendriksen, whose initials appear on the tug's wheelhouse). Eurosund traded all over the Atlantic basin and arrived in Halifax July 2, 2002 from CuraƧao, light tug. The next day it set out for Trondheim, towing its former fleet mate AMT Trader. To see such a relatively small tug towing such a large barge was worth standing in the drizzle, particularly when they obligingly sailed out west of George's Island. (The oil rig Rowan Gorilla V was working with tugs on the east side of George's Island at the IEL dock.)

The tug was notable for its asymmetric wheelhouse, which was longer on the port side, to include a winch control and second steering position facing aft.


If the tug's hull shape looks familiar, it is because it came from the Richard Dunston shipyard of Hessle, England, builders of Ectug's Point Carroll and the fleet of fire tugs for Smit + Cory International.

Halifax Shipyard had used the barge to float the oil rig Eirik Raude for removal of its thrusters, and once they had completed the work, the barge was sent on to other chores.

Svendborg sold the tug in 2010 and it was renamed Mignon In 2013 it was renamed Hamal and it is under that name with Tanzanian registry that it was nabbed off Scotland.


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