Friday, June 14, 2019

Refits - all sizes

As spring moves into summer and warm weather arrives, it is not surprising that Halifax tug owners are joining home owners in getting out the scrapers and paint brushes.

Acquired in July 2018 from Tidewater, Horizon Enabler, the former Tidewater Enabler, continued to carry the colours of previous owners. The ship tied up at Pier 9B May 27 after returning from a large cable laying project in Greenland waters. After unloading the cable laying gear at IT International Telecom crews got busy on the starboard (sunny) side of the ship.

Starboard side new colours / Port Side old colours.

The ship's transom has been re-instated after the cable work, and will be readied for repainting.This afternoon the ship will move to The Cove in Dartmouth where it will berth to allow the workers to move to the port side.

Cable slides have been removed and the "tail gate" reinstalled.

Further along at Pier 9C the well known Gulf Spray is celebrating its sixtieth birthday with a serious shave and haircut. Built by Ferguson Industries Ltd in Pictou to its own account in 1959, the tug had
a major rebuild in about 2007. After severe damage in a storm in 2014, repairs were made, but they did not restore the tug to its previous yacht like appearance.

The tug's hull has acquired a large crop of marine growth over the winter.

Now up on the dock, the tug is being readied for another season of barge handling. The barges are used to remove waste and recyclables from cruise ships. The international garbage it is not allowed to enter the domestic "waste stream" and it thus landed ashore and transferred to a special incinerator at the international airport. 

Even at 60 years of age this tug still performs useful work, and certainly raises an admiring glance from tug aficionados when it is seen hard at work.


Tuesday, June 4, 2019

New Tugs in Town

With construction of the southend container pier extension moving into the second phase, McNally International Inc has mobilized additional plant for the work.

Phase 1 dredging started in January and was completed by May 22. The crane barge Derrick No.4 conducted the dredging using the dump scows S.11 and S.12. The tug Mister Joe was on hand for the start of the work, and the smaller tugs Oshawa and J.F. Whelan carried through.

There is now the rock mattress to place, using the dump scows to transfer the material from pier 9C to pier 42.

The second phase is to build concrete caissons that will form the base of the new pier. McNally has brought in two more barges, the Idus Atwell, equipped with a crane and the semi-submersible barge Beaver Neptune as a construction platform for the caissons. There have also been numerous sectional scow components of the Argonyn class. McNally has ten of these 50 ft x 9 ft truckable units that can be linked together in various configurations to form a single floating platform.

The barge Idus Atwell had to be towed from Point Anne, ON (near Belleville) to Halifax, a ten day trip assigned to to  the veteran tug Sandra Mary. Built in 1962 as hull number 1205 by Russel Brothers in Owen Sound, ON, its original name was Flo Cooper when it was built for C.A.Pitts Construction. McNally acquired and renamed the 900 bhp tug in 2000. In 1993 its registration was transferred to Charlottetown, PE when it was working on the Confederation Bridge project.

Russel Brother's "Steelcraft" trade name appears on the original builder's plate still in place aboard Sandra Mary

It is similar in design to another McNally tug, Mister Joe built in 1964. The latter was re-assigned from Phase 1 work earlier this spring and is no longer in Halifax. In fact AIS signals say that it is in Lake Champlain. This I find hard to believe, so will await other reports.

After arriving in Halifax May 18, Sandra Mary sailed on May 25 for Point Tupper, presumably towing Oshawa and returned with the Beaver Neptune and the tug Whitby. Built in 1978 at the port of the same name by original owners McNamara Construction, it is rated at 475 bhp.

Sandra Mary and Whitby tied up at pier 9 between assignments.

All of these tugs have worked in Halifax on many projects over the years, and it is always interesting to see them again.

Idus Atwell set up just off the end of pier 42 for placement of the rock mattress.
 (McNally built the extension in 2013.)


Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Océan Stevns back to Canadian flag

The Groupe Océan tug Océan Stevns may be headed back to Canada. The tug was registered in Quebec City May 21 after a period of bareboat charter to an Océan subsidiary, Ocean J Towing Ltd, in Jamaica. At time of writing the tug is still in Kingston, Jamaica and there is no ETA for Canada.

The tug was reflagged in early 2018 to St. Vincent and the the Grenadines and in July 2018 it stopped in Halifax for a few days, then sailed July15 for Kingston, Jamaica. Océan had a ten year contract for tug services in Kingston and both Océan Stevns and Océan Taiga were sent south for the contract. They were later joined by Océan Kingston Pride ex Bogaçay IX, acquired for the contract from its Turkish builder/owners. It is a RAmparts 2400 SX design with 6,298 bhp and 80 tonne bollard pull.

Business was not as brisk in Kingston as expected, and apparently three tugs were not needed. Earlier this year Oceran J faced criticism from port users when it raised its rates, less than a year into the contract.

Océan in Canada may also be a bit stretched as the summer comes on and two tugs are needed for the Baffinland work. When the Océan Stevns left Halifax I also speculated that it was underpowered for today's large ships and predicted that it would be back in Canada in less than five years. See:

Océan Stevns was built in 2003 as Stevns Ocean by Industries Océan in Ile-aux-Coudres for Stevns Multi Ships of Denmark. It is powered by two MaK main engines totaling 5,000 bhp, driving two Aquamaster stern drives.

In 2013 it came back to Canada on charter with option to buy, along with sister tug Stevns Arctic. Those options were exercised and the tugs were renamed Océan Stevns and Océan Arctique. Initially used at Sept-Iles, QC, the tugs have also worked in Quebec City.


Sunday, May 19, 2019

Horizon Star - back to work

The big offshore services vessel Horizon Star sailed this afternoon for St.John's. Aside from some harbour trials last month, the ship had been idle at The Cove in Dartmouth since returning from the Yantian Express salvage job in January. (Ironically that ship is due in Halifax tomorrow).

 Horizon Star glides through the Narrows for a brief stop at pier 9 before heading to sea.

With Horizon Star returning to sea, all three of Horizon Maritime's big boats are now at work. Horizon Enabler has been off Greenland installing subsea cables since February.

Their third large support vessel has just entered service in Norway. Horizon Arctic was acquired recently from Bourbon Offshore Norway. The former Bourbon Arctic, built in 2106 by Vard (hull in Romania, fit out in Norway) is a 8143 gt, 307 tonne bollard pull ice class OSV with accommodation for up to 60 persons to support offshore work such as ROV operation.

The ship has apparently resumed a North Sea contract with Lundin Petroleum carried over from Bourbon. Entry into service of the Bourbon Arctic also marks the opening of a new Norway office for Halifax and St.John's based Horizon.

Relatively young companies, like Horizon, with low debt levels are expected to thrive in the current market. Older, larger companies are often crippled with debt and over burdened with excess vessels that are now overvalued. Several have gone to Chapter 11, downsized or forced to merge with others in order to survive. Horizon has also chosen to operate in harsh environments and establish themselves in a specialized niche. 

Friday, May 17, 2019

Salvage Monarch - unexpected visit

High winds off the our coast for several days resulted in a surprise visit to Halifax for the tug Salvage Monarch and its tow, the converted tall ship Caledonia. Neither vessel is a stranger to Halifax - for more on Caledonia see Shipfax . The tow is headed from Toronto for Boston, and the Gulf of Maine is notorious for stormy conditions. While tug and tow passed Halifax Sunday May 12 it was decided to duck in for shelter. Tall ships, with their great windage and awkward bowsprits are notorious to tow, and so it was prudent to avoid rough weather.
Unfortunately they are tied up at pier 27, an impossible place to photograph anymore.

While the tall ship Caledonia is a bit of a classic, built in 1947, the tug itself can lay claim to classic status too. Dating from 1959, it has been rejuvenated a couple of times, most recently by Toronto Dry Dock Ltd, its present owner. It is now fully compliant to operate in US waters.

Original owners,  Pyke Salvage and Navigation of Kingston, ON (then part of Fednav) foresaw the need for a capable salvage tug with the opening of the St.Lawrence Seaway in 1959. The company's co-operation with McAllister Towing of Montreal eventually led to McAllister taking over ownership of Pyke's assets.

At the time various owners were having tugs built in the UK and P.K.Harris of Appledore, North Devon went on to produce several notable tugs for Canada with the patented Hydroconic hull form. This hard chine design was much more economical to build than fully moulded hulls and has proven to be quite functional - given good rudder design.

I have featured the tug here before, see:

McAllister used the tug for salvage work and some long tows, including one from Sorel to Halifax in 1971 with the ferry Napoleon L. In those days Salvage Monarch acquired the sobriquet "The Grim Reaper" for the number of old Great Lakes ships it towed to ship breaking yards. This was useful work as the number casualties in the Seaway system diminished over time with improved navaids.

By the time McAllister sold its Montreal towing and salvage operation, Salvage Monarch had become more of a conventional harbour tug than a salvage vessel, but it still carried a towing winch when most tugs had towing hooks only.

When Groupe Ocean acquired the Montreal tug operations, they made a number of their tugs available for charter work, including bareboat charter. Salvage Monarch made one of its infrequent returns to salt water in 2000-2001 as a standby and chase boat for cable work.

It was then sold to a fledgling towing company in Goderich, ON, which was followed by several years in layup.

Toronto Dry Dock apparently saw the potential in the tug and have over the past few years given it a lot of TLC and brought it back to a high standard.

This is the tug's first long distance tow under those new owners, and it is an ideal job for it. Great power is not required to tow Caledonia, and a skilled crew can certainly deal with the normal issues. Although I cannot confirm it, it is likely that there is a riding crew on the Caledonia too, another reason to be safely tied up in port during windy weather.

Toronto Drydock Ltd have built up their business from modest beginnings, now with a fleet of three tugs - all classics in their own right - owing their longevity to many years in fresh water, but also to "in house" maintenance and upgrades. They are involved in ship repair, marine construction and of course commercial diving and salvage.

For more on Toronto Drydock Ltd, see their web site:

Weather conditions improved considerably by Thursday May 16 and the tug and tow were able leave port. Hugging the coast they will make a shortest possible dash across the mouth of the Bay of Fundy, aiming for the Maine coast.

Regrettably I still don't have a photo of the tug in its black hull / red superstructure paint scheme and its tiny elevated bird's nest conning station.


Thursday, May 16, 2019

Atlantic Larch and tow

Atlantic Towing is gearing up for another season of northern supply work with the repositioning of tugs from their winter duties and preparing the barges for their work.

For the past several years ATL has been ferrying cargo in Chesterfield Inlet to Baker Lake on the west coast of Hudson Bay, using two tugs and two barges. Last year the tugs were Atlantic Elm and Atlantic Beech. For several years one of the barges has been Atlantic Sea Lion.

Atlantic Larch, ATL's "outside" tug, has a towing winch and additional satellite communication.

It seems certain that the Atlantic Sea Lion will be one of the barges again this year. After laying over in Halifax for the winter, it was picked up today by Atlantic Larch and headed off to Saint John. NB to be readied for work.

The barge has a long history since it was built by Saint John Dry Dock and Shipbuilding Co Ltd in 1966. Originally a tanker barge for carrying heavy fuel or asphalt, it was named Irving Whale.  From September 7, 1970 until late July 1996 it sat on the bottom of the Gulf of St.Lawrence in a perfect state of preservation after sinking in a storm.  When leaking from its cargo became a serious threat to fisheries, it was raised at great expense and handed back to J.D.Irving Ltd.

 After twenty-six years on the bottom and five years laid up, the barge was pretty raw looking when it left Halifax for a refit in Shelburne in tow of Atlantic Elm.

After five years laid up in Halifax it was renamed ATL 2701 and rebuilt as a deck cargo barge in 2001.  It was used to carry wood chips for a time and even made a lengthy trip to the Great Lakes in 2007 with a cargo of specialized gas piping racks.

 As seen today underway in tow, Atlantic Sea Lion reveals little of its past.

In 2009 it was renamed Atlantic Sea Lion and has seen regular service in the north. The barge and its tug initially go up the St.Lawrence to Becancouer QC and load cargo for the north. After the long tow to Hudson Bay they operate a shuttle service from deep draft ships, transferring cargo into Baker Lake. The first ships usually arrive in late July and the operation goes on until October.


Monday, April 29, 2019

RCN announces Glen replacements - Updated

Today (April 29) the Canadian government announced a $105 mn contract for four new tugs has been awarded to Industrie Océan shipyard in Ile-aux-Coudres, QC. The program, expected to take 42 months, will add 25 to 30 new jobs for the shipyard which employs up to 110 people, and will occupy about 40% of the yard's capacity.

Despite its small footprint the shipyard has a large covered building hall where it could build two tugs at once. It also has repair slips that can accommodate several ships at one. Parent company Groupe Océan also operates a fabrication facility in Quebec City which builds components up to the size of  deckhouses and can do fit out.

The five Glen class tugs, built in 1976-77 have only 1750 bhp, but due to Voith-Schneider propulsors are ideally suited for dockyard work,

Long in the planning stage, the new tugs will replace five Glen class tugs, three based in Halifax and two in Esquimalt. The tugs will be operated as naval auxiliary vessels, using civilian crews, and will work within the naval dockyard for ship berthing and firefighting, but will also undertake coastal towing.

The original mandate of the program was to use "proven design" but there was been no revelation yet on propulsion systems, power or name of designer.

 Océan Serge Genois returns to base in Quebec City. It is likely to be the model for the new has an enlarged wheelhouse compared to earlier versions.

Industrie Océan has built a flotilla of tugs of different sizes for parent company Groupe Océan. 
Several have been of essentially the same Robert Allen compact tug design and have worked successfully in Montreal and along the St.Lawrence River. They are rated at 4200 bhp with azimuthing stern drives. Five, built between 1999 and 2010 currently serve the current Océan fleet. Another was built for export and another, formerly with Svitzer, now works on the west coast.

News has reached me that the design for the tugs is not currently in use in Canada. With one of the world's foremost tug designers based in Canada, with tugs built and operating around the world, one hopes that Robert Allan Ltd will be the designers.

However Industrie Océan has also worked with the Dutch company Damen, (the largest, by volume, builders of tugs). to build a dredge and some smaller work boats. Since Damen has recently built three hybrid tugs for the Dutch navy and two ice class tugs for the Swedish navy, perhaps the design and construction assistance may be coming from the Netherlands.


Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Court Sale - ex Panuke Sea

The well known OSV, formerly Panuke Sea, has been ordered sold by the Federal Court. An ad appeared in local newspapers today giving creditors 30 days to file liens. The ship has been laid up in Sydport, Sydney harbour and is not being maintained. According to court filings on behalf of Heddle Marine, operators of the facility, the vessel is taking up needed space, and its resale value is diminishing.

Panuke Sea on trials after its second rebuild.

The ship is one of four former USSR suppliers acquired by Secunda Marine Services and rebuilt. Originally Neftegaz 14, it was built in 1984 by Komuny Paryskiej in Gydnia, Poland, powered by a pair of Sulzer engines (built under license by Zagoda) giving 7200 bhp. The USSR Ministry of Gas Industry built a large fleet of similar vessels with excellent ice class hulls, but with privatization of the Russian petroleum industry many were laid up.

Secunda acquired the tug / supplier in 2001 and it arrived in Halifax under its own power with a Russian crew on October 15. It was registered in Halifax as Panuke Sea on October 22.

I have covered the subsequent rebuilding of the vessel previously. To summarize it was rebuilt alongside in Halifax over that winter, then went to St.John's for drydocking and returned to Halifax for trials in July 2002. However the ship did not meet standards for visibility of the afterdeck, and another rebuild began which was not completed until March 2003.


Panuke Sea was named for the area off Sable Island where oil and gas fields were developed,
and it is likely it served some of that activity as well as other Secunda contracts. Secunda changed ownership several times, through J.Ray McDermott, and back to Secunda Canada LP, but in 2006 when the company was again being sold the ship was put up for sale asking $600,000.

New owners, identified as Servimax Servicos Lda, acquired the ship and closed Canadian registration September 19, 2017. They renamed it Kydy Sea and hoisted the flag of Togo. It has remained in Sydney Harbour ever since.


Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Tow Work

As spring arrives we can expect to see a bit more towing going on around Halifax, although there has been regular tug activity since January with the Halterm dredging project. With the larger tug Mister Joe off to Shelburne, the smaller tug J.F.WHalen must now herd the dump scows from the dredge all the way to Fairview Cove where the spoil is deposited.

With a bit of a head wind today J.F.Whalen was really leaning in on its scow as it worked northward, but was making good time nevertheless.

The versatile small tug, with 540 bhp is small enough to be carried around on the deck of the dredge when they move from port to port. Its aluminum wheelhouse is also detachable and the house and hull can then be moved by truck if needed. That is how it was delivered to Halifax first in 2014 from the builders, Chantier Naval Forillon in Gaspé. The boat is twin screw with flanking rudders and removable push knees. A sister tug D.J.Stanyar works for McNally Marine in Onrtario.

While J.F.WHalen was readying another scow, the Canadian navy tug Glenevis was picking its way out to sea towing  HMCS Moncton.

Glenevis ATA 642 is one of  three Glen class tugs based in HMC Dockyard, Halifax and operated by the Queen's Harbour Master with a civilian crew. The 1750 bhp VS tractor tug was built in 1976, and although there has been talk of replacements for many years, there does not appear to be anything on the horizon. But as it is election year I expect something will be said before October.

Glenevis is well suited to harbour berthing duties within tight confines, but also for coastal towing with light displacement vessels such as Moncton. It is one of six Maritime Coastal Defence Vessels based in Halifax (Six more are based in Esquimalt, BC). One or two of them are in refit in various shipyards around the region at any given time, and one of the Glens usually tows them to and from..
Voyages extend from Shelburne to Pictou, Sydney or even St.John's.

In view of ice conditions to the east, I expect this tow to be headed for Shelburne. [to be updated].


Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Toisa Pegasus sold and renamed

A big offshore construction vessel that spent some time in Nova Scotia has been sold and renamed.

Toisa Pegasus, 9494 gt, 7800 dwt, was built in 2009 by De Merwede in Hardinxveld, Netherlands for Toisa Ltd of Piraeus, Greece. Through a complex chain of intertwined companies, it was managed by Sealion Shipping  of London. Toisa was a largish company with something like 24 bulkers and tankers (some under construction) and an equal number of offshore support vessels.
The falling oil prices and reduction in offshore activity in 2016 hit the company particularly hard and in an effort to survive it laid up many of its ships, but kept them in operational condition.

One such ship was the Toisa Pegasus, which arrived in Shelburne, NS March 29, 2016. Its huge 400 tonne capacity crane loomed over the government wharf, where it was originally intended to remain for up to a year. The ship was equipped with twin bell 18 person saturation diving system and had accommodation for 199 people in order to support offshore projects. It had all the other  "bells and whistles" required for a state of the art ship, including DP3.

The ship did not stay in Shelburne for the whole year, sailing, I believe, sometime in July 2016.
Attempts to save the company through chapter 11 re-organization and re-financing did not work out and all the assets were sold off over the past several months.

Toisa Pegasus was sold to Subsea 7 for reported fire sale price of $38,950,000 and renamed Seven Pegasus. It has now left its last layup port of Perama, Greece for Rijeka, Croatia, where it will have a refit. It is expected to go to work in the North Sea in the 2Q 2019. (The second quarter of this year.)


Ocean Uannaq re-registered.

A small Grope Océan tug has been re-registered after it was declared a total loss in 2016.

Océan Uannaq at work on a dredging project in the summer of 2015.

Océan Uannaq was built at Industrie Océan in Ile-aux-Coudres in 2008. The 11.5 gt tug was twin screw and rated at 770 bhp. It, and sister tug Océan Nigiq, were intended to work in the north at the Baffinland iron ore port. In fact both were transported there as barge cargo during construction of the original port infrastructure. They were then used to move the lighterage barges to anchored ships while the port was being built. They likely assisted in the building work too since Groupe Océan had the construction contract.

When Svitzer unexpectedly won the Baffinland tug services contract Océan put the two tugs to work with their St.Lawrence River dredging operation, pushing spoil barges, usually connected by face wires in a stern notch.

Connected to their dump scows, Océan Nigiq (foreground) and Océan Uannaq (background) did not adjust the face wires when the barges were empty or full.

When construction of the massive new Champlain Bridge began in Montreal, Océan Uannaq was chartered to the Signature sur le St-Laurent construction consortium for barge handling work. On April 1, 2016 the tug was involved in an accident and sank at the work site. Fortunately no one was injured and both crew members managed to escape to the adjacent tug Océan Catatug 1.

On May 28 the tug was raised from its sunken position, but due to damage caused by the accident and the prolonged period submerged, it was declared a total loss. The incident was investigated by the Transportation Safety Board, and report number M16C0036 can be found here:

Photos in the report show a badly mangled wheelhouse and other bumps and bruises.
Nothing much more was heard of the tug, but it made its way back to Quebec City, where it was rebuilt. When I saw it early last summer, the wheelhouse had been completely restored. It appeared ready to go north for a dredging project in Iqaluit.

Now the tug has been re-registered in Quebec on March 15, 2019.

Footnote: nigiq and uannaq are terms used to describe direction by the indigenous people of northern Canada. The directions, usually of wind,  do not relate to the compass directions used by southerners, but relate more to prevalence of direction, and thus the same word may be used in different places to describe different compass directions.


Thursday, March 7, 2019

Tugs and Ice

Tugs have to work year round, and in the cold of winter they are likely to take on quantities of frozen spray as they go about their business.

However towing in the winter takes on another set of problems as the tow line can become fouled by ice. If the towed ship cannot maneuver or use its own power, there is the danger of over running. If the tug is stopped by ice, the towed vessel can catch up quickly, and if it is unable to stop can slam into the tug. Therefore great care must be taken in towing in those conditions.

On successful, albeit lengthy, tow occurred in March 19898 when the tug Orion Expeditor was called out from its North Sydney, NS base to assist the paper carrier Margit Gorthon. The ship's rudder had become jammed 5 degrees off centre in ice and was unable to proceed. The tug set out on March 12 and took the ship in tow off Cape Ray.

It then had to tow well east along the Newfoundland south coast as far as the Avalon Peninsula before turning south. Fortunately it had the assistance of CCGS Edward Cornwlalis when it transited the Cabot Strait where ice was as its worst. From a position off Cape Race, it sailed to the northern tip of Sable Island to remain clear of the ice. It then made for Halifax, arriving March 16.
Under normal circumstances the voyage time from Cape Ray to Halifax would be a day and a half.

Just passing Ives Knoll inbound to Halifax, the Orion Expeditor is about to hand off the tow to harbour tugs.

A weary looking Orion Expeditor makes for its berth. After some rest the crew ill set to trimming the tug by shifting some bunker fuel.

Dominion Diving's Big Steel with divers and some work scows, attacked the rudder almost immediately on arrival.

Orion Expeditor was built in1974 by Bolsones Werft, Molde, Norway as Orion. Powered by an 8 cyl MaK it had 3400 bhp delivered to a single controllable pitch prop. It also had a huge "barn door" rudder that swung nearly 90 degrees to each side and was well suited to working in ice.
It came to Canada in 1981 for Arctic Offshore and worked in the Beaufort Sea until 1987. It then moved its base to North Sydney. 

In 1990 Secunda Marine Services acquired the tug and renamed it Breton Sea and moved its base to Halifax in 1992. In 1994 it returned to Europe for Finnish owners OY Yxpila Hinaus and resumed the name Orion. It is believed to still be in service from the port of Kokkola.

  All dressed and ready for action at North Sydney, NS.

If this post seems familiar, I posted some of the same information before see: Tugfax January 27, 2012


Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Firebird registered

On March 5 the former navy fireboat Firebird was registered for the first time as a civilian vessel.
Ordered in 1974 and delivered in 1978 by Vancouver Shipyards Co Ltd in North Vancouver, BC, it was one of two fireboats built for the Minister of National Defence. The sister tug, Firebrand was assigned to the nearby Esquimalt naval base, but Firebird had farther to travel. It was brought to Halifax in August 1978 via the Panama Canal, nestled on a bed of gravel in a barge towed by the tug Ocean Crown. The tug and barges were being delivered to new owners in Quebec, and the fireboat was able to hitch a ride.

Still perched in its gravel nest, Firebird waits to be unloaded at Dartmouth Marine Slips Long Wharf. The RCN tug CNAV St.Charles is also in for a refit.

Assigned to the Queen's Harbour Master and classed as an auxiliary vessel, employing a civilian crew, the Firebird worked out of HMC Dockyard in patrol and firefighting duties. It was initially assigned pennant number YTR 562 (Yard Tug Rescue), but later re-categorized as YTB 561 (Yard Fire Boat) since it was rarely used as a tug. Its bollard pull rating of 7.5 tonnes was not in demand when the Dockyard had six other harbour tugs available.

Firebrd is powered by two 365 bhp Cats for propulsion through a pair of z-drives. Another duo of 365 bhp Cats drive the fire pumps and could deliver 5,000 igpm at 150 psi while the boat still moves independently. Three 3 inch monitors of 1250 igpm were the main firefighting tools, but it also had several deck connections and carried 500 gallons of AFFF (foam). In a fire emergency its crew was supplemented by Dockyard firefighters.

Firebird was called out on New Year's Day to retrieve an errant target float. 
Regular Dockyard tugs were apparently on holiday schedule.

In 2017 the Firebird was declared surplus and sold to R.C. Ballott of Springdale, NL. The boat was moved to Eastern Passage where refitting work has been going on, particularly in the past few months.
Although it is not clear what use will be made of the boat.

Sealand Shipping Services and Sealand Diesel Services Ltd of Springdale NL have made good use of the tug  R.J.Ballott (ex Jerry Newberry-13, Kay Cole -95, Point Victor -77, Foundation Victor-73) built in 1956 and still going strong, so they no doubt have good plans for the Firebird.

Rarely used to fight an actual fire, Firebird did from time to time put on a show.


Monday, March 4, 2019

Comings and goings in the offshore

On February 22 the supplier Atlantic Condor sailed from Halifax for St.John's, NL where it went into drydock. Word has it that the boat will be working from St.John's. This has not been confirmed officially but I have heard it from more than one source, totally unconnected to each other.

Atlantic Condor is a UT 755 LN type supplier, built with extra methanol carrying capacity.

The vessel was built by Halifax Shipyard and completed in 2011 to service a ten year extendable contract with Encana for the Deep Panuke gas field south of Sable Island. In May 2018 Encana announced the premature shut down of the project, after the gas was found to be heavily saturated. The project had been expected to produce for 13 years. Now that it will be decommissioned different types of support vessels will be needed.

Supply vessels from the United Starters are rare in Halifax these days, so the arrival on March 3 of the HOS Renaissance was a bit unusual. Out of Port Fourchon, LA, the boat is one of the HOS MAX 300 class and normally works in the Gulf of Mexico.

This may be the first time that HOS Renaissance has been in ice and snow. If so it got a real taste of winter, passing through one storm on the way and arriving in time for another today.
Its call in Halifax is apparently to load deck gear to enable it to carry fibreoptic cable. A sister boat HOS Red Dawn called in Halifax in 2015 for the same reason.

Typical of the offshore supply vessel industry world wide, HOS (Hornbeck Offshore Services LLC) has not been able to find traditional offshore work for all its boats, so is taking on other types of work. HOS reported at year end 2018 a fleet of 80 boats, of which 38 were stacked. They expected no improvement in that situation in the near future.

A more detailed account of much the same material can be found in Shipfax March 3, 2019


Saturday, February 23, 2019

Tug + OSV Annual Review 2018

In addition to organizing the bi-annual International Tug and Salvage conferences and the yearly Tugnology events, the ABR Company Ltd produces the authoritative industry periodical  International Tug and OSV. It is published bi-monthly and covers the tug an offshore vessel industry in detail.

Each year the ABR Company then publishes the International Tug + OSV Annual Review. It is very highly regarded in the tug and OSV sector as it highlights new vessels built during the past year all over the world. The 2018 version, just out, features thirty some vessels in great detail, describing the features and facts, with a high quality colour photo, and most fascinating to me,  general arrangement drawings. These usually include a couple of deck plans and a profile.

This edition covers 105 vessels, with about 35 detailed accounts and the rest in capsule form with descriptions and photo.

Each year the review covers the newest developments in tug design, whether it is hull form or configuration or propulsion arrangement. This year several trends that have been in the making for some time are finally embodied in actual ships and it is fascinating to see how the various designers and shipyards have developed the concepts. Tugs and OSVs from all continents are covered. As expected Europe is covered widely, but so is North and South America, the Pacific and Asia, including the newly developing tug industry in Indonesia.

The cover photo of this year's Review features two tugs built to work in Prince William Sound, AK for Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. Edison Chouest Offshore operates the general purpose tug Elrington (left) and the mammoth escort tug Commander (the first of five for this contract). With 12,334 bhp and a 142 tonne bollard pull, the Commander has a free running speed of 15 knots. It also carries a suite of oil spill response gear and extensive fire fighting equipment.

The advent of LNG fuel figures into some of the new builds.  There have also been more developments of the arrangement of propulsion units, whether ASD type thrusters or Voith Schneider. The first new build carousel tug is also featured, with its revolutionary ring mounted winch. Particularly for escort functions, the latest designs produce incredible power, generally in fairly small tugs. There is also tremendous development in northern regions and numerous ice class tugs have been delivered in the past year.

Not to be left out, and despite dire conditions in the oil patch, new OSVs are still coming out, many for highly specialized jobs, but they are also diversifying, particularly to work on offshore wind farms. Many of these vessels are equipped for 'walk to work', which allows safe transfer of workers from ship to offshore installation without using cranes and helicopters. Dynamic positioning of the ship and deployable gangways make servicing the offshore installations safe and convenient.

The International Tug + OSV Annual Review 2018, all colour, high grade paper, 114 pages, available from the ABR Company.
Their website is


Monday, February 18, 2019

Atlantic Tern

Another veteran vessel working the offshore from Halifax is Atlantic Tern. It works in concert with the much newer Atlantic Condor to supply and standby the Encana's Deep Panuke gas field. Production was halted at the field May 2018, but work goes on to decommission the platform and ready it for removal.

Atlantic Tern was built in 1975 as the anchor handling tug supply vessel (AHTS)  Canmar Supplier II by Vito Steel Boat and Barge Construction Ltd of Delta, BC. First owners Dome Petroleum, through their offshore subsidiary Canmar Drilling used the boat in the Beaufort Sea. Amoco took over the debt-ridden Dome and Canmar, and eventually closed down their arctic operations. By that time the boat had been renamed Supplier II but became Canmar Supplier II again (twice) until finally sold in 1998 to the Norwegian company Remoy. They renamed it REM Supporter until selling it to the Faroe Islands operator Thor p/f in 2005.
It then became  Thor Supplier. During this time it was extensively modified with the addition of an aft facing bridge structure and raised forecastle.

In 2012 Atlantic Towing Ltd acquired the boat and renamed it Atlantic Birch II. Initially it worked as a support vessel for seismic work off Greenland, but by 2013 it was back under Canadian flag and registered as Atlantic Tern. Paired with Atlantic Condor the boats are constantly shuttling to and from the Deep Panuke site, about 250 km southeast of Halifax. Atlantic Tern appears to spend more time in the standby role, leaving Condor for the heavier loads.

Atlantic Condor was built in 2010 by Halifax Shipyard for a ten year contract with Encana. Atlantic Tern may be working on similar terms. With the shutdown of the Deep Panuke field and its 175 km long  pipeline to shore, it is expected to take until 2021 to plug the wells, and remove the topsides production structure. The pipeline will be abandoned in place. So it seems there will be work for Atlantic Tern for a few more years.



Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Burin Sea soldiers on

Burin Sea makes its way toward Bedford Basin for DP trials this morning.
It sports a little frozen spray, picked up on its way in from Sable Island.

The tug/supplier Burin Sea is still in service when many boats of its type have long since been relegated to the scrap heap. Its story, and that of sister vessel Trinity Sea has been told here before, but here is a capsule history.

The boats were originally built for the USSR by Stocznia Szczcinska im A Warskiego in Szczecin (Stettin), Poland in 1983. Burin Sea was named Neftegaz I and Trinty Sea was Neftegaz 2. With the democratic transition in Poland and dissolution of the USSR in the late 1980s there were major changes in the oil and gas industry there and the two ships were laid up. Secunda Marine Services bought both at a very good price. (They also acquired a third unit, Neftegaz 14, which arrived under its own power, and became Panuke Sea, and a fourth unit, Neftegaz 29 that was never converted.)

Secunda's own tug Magdalen Sea towed the pair from Norway, arriving in Halifax May 18,1998.

Soon after arrival in Canada, the boat's new name was painted on the bow. The hammer and sickle of the USSR was still displayed on the funnels, but was not to remain long.

After considerable demolition work, Ectug's Point Carroll towed the hull to the Verreault shipyard in Méchins, QC for hull work in July and back to Halifax in September.

The harbour tug Point Halifax assists in setting up the tow to the shipyard for hull work.

Rebuilding was completed by November of 1999. That rebuilding was extensive, and resulted in a very different looking superstructure. However the ice class 1A hull, which was apparently made of very high quality steel, and its original Sulzer engines (producing about 10,000 bhp, delivered to two controllable pitch props) were the reason that it was worth the investment.

Fresh from rebuilding the boat sets out on sea trials in November 1999.

Now, nearly twenty years later, both boats are still in service shuttling between Halifax and the Exxon-Mobil gas field off Sable Island. That installation is being decommissioned and removed, so the boats will be working on that project for some time to come.


Sunday, February 3, 2019

Quebec Tugs

Quebec tugs are particularly busy this winter as much of the St.Lawrence is choked with ice. To get an idea of what some of the tugs are doing, there is an excellent webcam, playing live 24 hours a day, right above the Port of Quebec tug and pilot dock. It looks out over the St.Lawrence as far as the Lévis shore and refinery.

In winter, the harbour tugs also serve as pilot boats, and the pilot station is out in the stream directly off the dock. Ships exchange pilots from the lower river (they boarded at Escoumins) for pilots that will berth ships in the Port of Quebec or take the ships up river as far as Trois-Rivières.

The webcam which broadcasts on YouTube at   has extremely high resolution and is amazingly clear at night. The famous Quebec City skyline forms the backdrop and is lit up spectacularly. The ferries are crossing regularly and icebreakers make their way back and forth in addition to the commercial traffic of container ships, bulkers and tankers. Then there is the ice as it moves up or downstream with the tide, leaving open patches, then closing up again.

The Quebec City tugs are fitted with boarding gangways atop the deck house. This keeps pilots well clear of  ice.

This winter there were five tugs working in Quebec City. Océan K. Rusby is usually the dedicated pilot tug, but all are equipped for this service if needed. However the biggest tug, Océan Tundra has been sent to Matane to keep the ice from clogging the harbour there to allow the train and passenger ferries to run.

Three of the remaining tugs are ASD stern drives, but one, Océan Charlie is twin screw and usually in reserve. However it has been called out several times in recent days, both for pilot and ship docking duties.

Océan Charlie was built in 1973 and is a 3900 bhp twin screw. 
Its boarding gangway is painted with yellow railings.
(The YouTube camera may be mounted on the pole above the white shed in background.)

Toggling back and forth between the YouTube video and an AIS display, you can keep track of which tugs and which ships are in view. And if you missed something, you can "rewind" the video by four hours to catch up.

Groupe Océan tugs are busy in other places too and ice has been a big issue this winter, frequently stalling traffic trying to reach Sorel and Montreal.

The tug Océan Bravo has been called away from its usual spot in Trois-Rivières and Duga from Sorel is filling in. It was dispatched to La Baie on the Saguenay River (also ice-filled) to assist the tug Fjord Saguenay. That tug damaged a thruster while docking the bulker Nord Montreal on January 26. It is now going to the Industrie Océan shipyard in Ile-aux-Coudres for repairs under escort on the Saguenay, but once into the St.Lawrence, under tow of Océan Bravo. Since Fjord Saguenay may be out of service for some time, another tug may be brought in. The RioTinto Alcan pier in La Baie is a busy spot, with too much traffic for just one tug, the Fjord Eternité.

Built in 1970 as Takis V, renamed Donald P in 1973 then Océan Bravo in 1998, this is also a 3900 bhp twin screw tug, with what are now classic good looks.  Shown here in its very attractive Quetugs livery. At the time Quebec City was noted for its white tugs, white ferries and white fire trucks!

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Captain Jim

The tragic loss of a life in the sinking of the workboat Captain Jim on January 29 has thrown a shadow over the waterfront community in Halifax. The several companies that work on the water would have known the boat and its owners well.

The company, RMI Marine has operated the Captain Jim in a variety of roles around the harbour for many years. The boat was named for Jim Ritcy a co-founder of Dominion Diving and the father of RMI's owner, who was also skipper on the boat the night it sank. He and a cargo surveyor survived by escaping to a life raft. The deckhand however was not able to escape the sinking. After an intensive search and rescue operation, the boat was located in about 12m of water and the deckhand's body was recovered.

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada is investigating the incident and no decision has been made as to whether the boat will be raised.

Built in 1989 by Guimond's Boats Ltd in Baie Ste-Anne, NB, the Captain Jim's lines were typical of fishing boats on the Northumberland Strait.

 The unbroken sheer line, flared bow and beaked stem are typical of Northumberland Strait boats.

 The engine is amidships with a large open, self draining deck, with a towing bit.

The boat's bow flare and lines were revealed when it was hauled out for a refit.

  The FRP hull was finished however as a crew / workboat and named Atantic Walnut by first owners, Atlantic Towing Ltd. They used the boat in Saint John as a workboat and for personnel transfers.  RMI Marine acquired the boat for use as a diving tender, workboat and for any other tasks that were needed on the water.

Some of those were tug work, such as moving construction barges during the Big Lift project on the Angus L. Macdonald bridge.

At the time of its loss it was returning from a tanker at the outer anchorages after a cargo sampling assignment conducted by the surveyor.