Sunday, August 11, 2019

Tugs at Ile-aux-Coudres - Part 2

The GFFM Leclerc shipyard on the eastern tip of Ile-aux-Coudres builds small powerful shallow draft tugs for sale or charter. Many of the tugs find work as lighterage tugs in northern supply work. Others are kept on hand at the home port of Ile-aux-Coudres for general duties or leased out to others.

A small tidal basin adjacent to the ferry dock is the base, and on August 10 there were four Leclerc tugs and a pair of similar tugs operated by Transport Desgagnés.

The Desgagnés tug Lumaaq is an early version of the type, whereas Rénard Polaire is one the newer triple screw versions.
Lumaaq, Siku and a pair of lighters will be loaded aboard an outbound Desgagnés Transarctik ship to land sealift cargo in the far north.

Siku is awaiting its next northern assignment with fleetmate Lumaaq, and Ours Polaire is standing by for other work.

Béluga Polaire and Eclipse Polaire return from an assignment moving a barge out into the stream.

Béluga Polaire prepares to land some barge workers.

Eclipse Polaire returns to the dock.

The tugs move JMC 185 away from its berth.

The tugs had moved the barge JMC 185 out to the stream. Built in 2007 by LAD Salvage of Louisiana in Stephensville, LA as an ABS classed spud barge, it was owned by Cashman Equipment in Boston. Groupe Océan then acquired the barge for transporting reinforcing steel to the Hebron gravity base construction in Newfoundland from 2015 to 2017.  They then used the barge to transport precast concrete components from Sorel for the new Champlain Bridge project. CRT Construction has now acquired the barge for work in north Quebec with their tug CRT Express (see yesterday's post).


Tugs at Ile-aux-Coudres - Part 1

Ile-aux-Coudres, QC, home of the Industrie Océan shipyard, and headquarters for the GFFM Leclerc tug building and leasing company, has long been a busy spot for tugs. Saturday August 10 was no

The shipyard will become very busy soon as work will begin on four new tugs for the Royal Canadian Navy.  In the meantime the yard continues to refit Groupe Océan tugs and repair other ships.

Sometimes when more fit out space is needed shipyard activity spreads across the channel to the mainland.  On Thursday the Renard Polaire and Eclipse Polaire moved the tug Fjord Saguenay to the at St-Joseph-de-la-Rive wharf.

Fjord Saguenay has been on the slipway since the winter for repairs. It damaged a thruster January 26 while berthing the bulker  Nord Montreal at La Baie forcing its removal from service. In the meantime Océan Bravo has joined Fjord Eternité in ship docking at the Saguenay ports of La  Baie and Grande Anse.

It appears that the access hatches to the thrusters have been re-sealed. This would indicate that both thrusters were removed and repaired.

Work is obviously on going below deck with lots of noise emanating from the thruster room escape hatch.

Fjord Saguenay was built by East Isle Shipyard in Georgetown, PE in 2006 as Stevns Iceflower (i) and after working as Svitzer Njord from 2007 to 2009 it was acquired by Rio Tinto Alcan. It sailed to Halifax on its own arriving February 28, 2009 on one engine. After repairs at Halifax Shipyard it finally entered service March 29. Sister tug Fjord Eternité (ex Stevns Icecap (i), Svitzer Nanna) was brought to Canada on the heavy lift ship Fairlane in 2010.

On the island itself, there were two tugs on the slipway one for repairs and one for "parting out".

Although officially named Océan Brochu, that name has never been painted on the hull. Shortly before transfer of ownership from Arcelor Mittal in late 2017 to Groupe Océan a fire in Brochu's engine room resulted in the tug being declared a constructive total loss.

Built by Star Shipyard in New Westminster, BC in 1973, for Québec Cartier Mining, the 3600 bhp ice class tug V-S was stationed at Port Cartier, QC, for its entire working career. Groupe Océan took over operation at Port Cartier in 2017 and purchased the two tugs. Sister tug Vachon  was renamed Océan A. Gauthier and it is presently stationed in Hamilton,ON. Working in the fresh water of Lake Ontario, it serves the ports of Toronto, Oshawa, and occasional forays ino the Welland Canal.

Parts from the Brochu are to be kept in reserve for its sister, but so far the hull appears intact, so is there hope for a rebuild?

At the adjacent slip Océan Sept-Iles is also undergoing a major refit. Also an ice class vessel, built in 1980, it is the former Pointe Sept-Iles operated by Eastern Canada Towing, later Svitzer at its namesake port until 2013. With 5400 bhp and twin screws in nozzles, it was built to replace the 1973 built Pointe Margeurite lost in Sept-Iles Bay in 1978. I believe the replacement tug was built as a day boat with limited crew accommodation.

It is interesting to see two ice class hulls, with distinctly different hull shapes and propulsion systems.

continued part 2............

Saturday, August 10, 2019

CRT Express

CRT Express is the new name assigned to the former Dutch tug Meander when it was registered in Quebec City June 27. Built in 2006 by Gebr. Kooiman NV in Zwijndrecht it was acquired in May of this year by CRT Construction Inc of Lévis, QC and arrived in Quebec City under its own power on June 13.

With a pair of Mitsubishi main engines of 1278 bhp each, it is also fitted with a bow thruster, deck crane and towing winch with a bollard pull of 30.3 tonnes.

CRT Construction has a contract with Hydro-Québec and the tug will tow cargo barges between Chisasibi and Inukjuak on the east coast of Hudson's Bay. It sailed from Quebec City early in the morning of August 10 to pick up the barge JMC 185.

I was fortunate enough to get to Ile-aux-Coudres in time to see the pickup.

The barge was brought out to the waiting tug as soon as the tide had risen enough to free the barge from the muddy bottom where it was moored just west of the ferry dock.

The GFFM Leclerc tugs Beluga Polaire and Eclipse Polaire [see following post] shepherded the barge out to the stream. It was quickly connected and the tow was underway for Cacouna, QC, where it will be loaded for the trip north.


Wednesday, July 31, 2019

New for Secunda

Secunda Canada has acquired a new vessel from Norwegian parent Siem Offshore. Siem Commander is not a new ship, but is certainly a high end DP2 anchor handling tug supplier.

The ship arrived this morning from Stavanger and will undergo a refit before entering service. It has been laid up for some time, probably since it was acquired in 2017 from previous owners, Simon Mokster  Shipping AS. Built in 2009 by Havyard Leirvik AS as Stril Commander it is a 2807 grt, 3,000 dwt unit of 12,000 kW=16,000 bhp. It also has two tunnel thrusters and a swing up type thruster. It is fully equipped with a variety of tankage, a monster winch and large open deck served by tracked cranes.

After clearing customs at pier 9B the ship will move to the The Cove, the former CCG base in Dartmouth where it will complete "Canadianization." Word on the street has it that it will replace Trinity Sea on Secunda's Exxon Mobil Sable contract.

Backing in to pier 9B, a crane has picked up the gangway to disembark linesmen.

Also on the refit agenda, Siem Commander will be repainted to Secunda colours like fleet mate Siem Hanne.

Siem Commander glides past fleet mate Siem Hanne loading at the Mobil dock in Dartmouth.

Siem Commander was registered in St.John's, NL July 15, before sailing from Stavanger July 22.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

VB Hispania makes another scrap tow

The big Spanish owned tug VB Hispania is en route from Montreal to Turkey with another scrap tow, its second this year.

The 1374 gt, 8,050 bhp tug is now a veteran of transatlantic tows with this its sixth tow since 2016. Typically the tows begin in Montreal where the tug connects to a retired Great Lakes ship and sets off down river with a local tug as tethered stern escort. Recent tows have used the Océan Echo II, which stays with the ship until the Escoumins pilot station.

With a short tow line VB Hispania wends its way through the narrow channel north of Ile-aux-Coudres, at a blistering 4.9 knots. Once into the wider river, the tow line is let out and speed increases by several knots. 

The current tow sailed from Montreal July 21 and is giving an arrival date of August 24 in Aliaga. The ship is the former Cedarglen, renamed Eda and reflagged for the trip. As with several lakers it is a sort of hybrid. Built as the bulker Ems Ore in Germany in 1959 it was a 546 ft, 20,000 tonner with island bridge, built to run from Venezuela to Europe. In 1976 Hall Corporation of Montreal acquired the ship and two sisters and had them rebuilt. A new forebody from Davie /Lauzon was grafted to the stern and a new engine installed. The bridge structure was moved aft and landed above the engine room. This resulted in 730ft' x 75ft Seaway size gearless bulker.

It sailed for Halco as Montcliffe Hall until 1988, then N.M.Paterson + Sons as Cartierdoc until 2002 when CSL bought the ship and renamed it Cedarglen. The ship apparently operated until last year when it was laid up in Toledo, OH. It sailed down the Seaway on its own power, arriving in Montreal on May 18 of this year.

VB Hispania flies the Malta flag for the large Spanish tug operator Boluda. It was built in 2011 by Damen Mangalia, Romania, as Triton Responder, but was delivered as Oceanus, and transferred to the parent company and renamed Fairplay 32. In 2015 Boluda acquired and renamed the tug.


Monday, July 1, 2019

Navy makes a choice

The old saying that a camel is a horse designed by a committee has long been ascribed to the Royal Canadian Navy's decision making process. The old adage of course is largely based on aesthetics. The camel is a perfectly designed beast for desert caravans, but not for the Queen's Plate.

History will eventually be the judge on whether the RCN's choice of design for the new Naval Large Tug [NLT] project is a correct one. I for one have some doubts.

The navy's requirements, re-stated simply were for a vessel that could carry out ship berthing in the naval dockyards, provide firefighting capability, perform coastal towing, and be of a proven commercial-type design. The last of those requirements seems a strange one to me, since no two tug operations are so similar that a design can be "proven" from one to another. Many tug operators are able to make  a standard tug design work for them, but it can usually be shown that there could be improvements in one or more aspects of operation. As tug designs evolve progress is rarely made by standing still.

The four tug order will provide two tugs for HMC Dockyard in Halifax and two for HMCDY Esquimalt, in British Columbia. The difference in coastal towing alone from those two bases is so significant (open ocean from Halifax and sheltered inland waters of the Salish Sea in BC) certainly indicates to me that a "proven design" simply means a design that has already been built and used in a variety of operating conditions.

Over the forty plus years since the last RCN dockyard tugs were built most of the tug industry had settled on two engines driving stern mounted azimuthing thrusters (ASDs), with a small share of the market given over to true tractors - drives mounted forward, with azimuthing or cycloidal Voith Schneider (like the current Glen tugs) propulsors.

However in more recent times there have been an almost infinite variety of nuanced hull forms where azimuthing tugs can push, pull or tow with equal power from the same position. Enough of these have been built to justifiably make the claim for "proven."

Not only that but low emission engines have evolved too. In addition to the IMO Tier III standard,  there have been numerous varieties of hydrids built using generators, electric motors and batteries to improve efficiency and  reduce pollution. Several of these have passed the experimental stage and are arguably "proven". Dual fuel diesel / LNG ships have now become the norm for new vessel construction of tankers and ferries in Canada. They are still largely protoyypical for tugs.

According to a press release, the RCN has chosen a RAmparts 2400 design from Robert Allen Ltd of Vancouver. The pre-eminent tug designers in not just Canada, but the world, the Robert Allen firm has probably designed every variety of tug mentioned in the above paragraphs and more (including the three thruster ROTOR tugs) and even worked in concert with their prime competitor, Damen, the most prolific tug builder, on some of them. Certainly their portfolio of proven designs would be wide ranging. Why a shallow draft, harbour tug design, not normally fitted with a towing winch, was chosen in view of the above requirements is a mystery.

Not included in the press release was a detailed description of the propulsion system supplier. That the engines will be IMO Tier III goes without saying, but there is no mention of how the fire pumps will be powered, how the stern drives will be energized, etc., nor what company will provide the system. Since engines are at least as important as all the rest of the tug, this is a critical piece of information, currently lacking. The standard RAMparts 2400 has a strictly conventional diesel  / shaft / thruster arrangement.

Industrie Océan has built many tugs of different sizes - some simple and some complex - and has worked closely with Robert Allen, and Damen too.

What I am getting around too is that both designer and builder are capable of producing just about any kind of tug you could throw at them.

It is therefore puzzling that the RCN has chosen the RAmparts 2400 series. This is a basic, some would say traditional, budget tug, (48 have been built world wide, with more on the boards). They have been used in many different situations, including for the US Navy, but with no obvious suitability to the RCN's special requirements.

My opinion is that the RCN has several fairly unique requirements that need to be taken into account:

1. Tight spaces and light displacements. The Halifax dockyard features very narrow cambers between finger piers, where relatively light displacement warships tie up. This means that tugs do not have much room to manoeuvre. Once tethered to a ship they should be able to work without shifting position. While ASD tugs can do this to a degree they are not ideal. Tractor types are better. (The current Glens can often be seen working stern forward - living proof that the tractor is the answer, but that a better hull design is needed.).
The light displacement ships do not require high bollard pull tugs, but they also need precise control over power. Certainly the infinitely variable cycloidal systems are superior in these cases. However they have other limiations. True tractors with controllable pitch props, and/or ASDs with electric drives with various power options (main engine, auxiliary engine, battery and combination) would be the most efficient and effective.
A lot of the jobs Dockyard tugs do is shifting scows, placing fenders, and don't inlvove large ships. Again the  low power engine option is ideal in these situations.
At only 24m long the RAmparts 2400 is obviously designed for tight spaces, because it is short. That would certainly indicate limitations on sea keeping for coastal towing.
The standard propulsion package answers none of the efficiency or environmental issues.

2. Occasional larger ships. The new tugs will eventually be tasked with berthing heavy displacement supply ships and icebreakers, so sometimes will need more power. Again the propulsion system with a variety of power sources is the logical choice for operational cost and emission control. Short trips between piers or where no towing or pushing powers is required is common for most tugs and certainly true for these tugs. Again a propulsion system that allows for low power drive is called for, with full power needed for only short periods of time. Only then are the main engines needed, when  they can be run at peak efficiency.

3. Fire fighting. While required to provide fire protection in the Dockyards, this is so seldom needed that it can probably be accommodated by means of a PTO from one of the main engines, or from the central power sharing hub, rather than a dedicated auxiliary engine. The space (and cost) saved could certainly be utilized for battery space or even LNG fuel storage.

4. Ocean towing. Is this still a requirement for these tugs, not a just a 'nice to have'? Most ASD tugs that do both harbour berthing and towing are fitted with two (very expensive) winches - one forward and one aft - each equipped with different ropes/wires to suit the purpose. However there are now designs (that are proven) where a single double drum unit can be used. The hull design needed for such an installation is not the RAStar 2400. In fact I would say that the coastal towing requirement has been dropped, since only towing bits or hook are provided. This is a missed opportunity.
[There is a valid argument I suppose that coastal towing is not needed - the Kingston class MCDVs are on the way out and they have been the most often towed away for refits. Halifax tugs have towed these ships as far as St.John's. NL.]

5. Submarine berthing. RCN tugs in Halifax at least, are just as likely to have to berth US Navy subs as they are RCN subs, so underwater fendering will be a necessary feature of the new tugs. I do not know how this will be addressed. Protecting sub hulls from ASD thrusters could present a challenge.

6. Ice class. No mention has been made as to ice class for these tugs that I have heard. Although it is probably not a high priority (most of the RCN does not want to be anywhere near ice). A case can be made for this requirement, but within the tugs' life times there maybe no ice left. The Swedish navy has just taken delivery of some ice class tugs for example, but they are on the Baltic where it is essential.

7. Why navy tugs at all (a.) and why only four (b.) ? Part  a. of the question has been thrashed out, but I thought the reason the navy opted to buy their own rather than hire in, was that they had unique requirements that could only be met with their own design. To my mind the standard RA2400 spec could be met by most of the commercial tug operators in eastern Canada on a moment's notice.
The other, and more cogent argument is that the navy and its pilots do things differently from civilians, and that only dockyard based tugs (and crews) should be used. I buy this, but not on the basis of operating costs or tug design.

As to why only four - certainly a mistake. Halifax has three Glen class tugs now and no dedicated fire tug. Having only two NLT's does not allow for refits or extended times away from port while towing.
With the Halifax based navy fleet increasing by four (larger) ships over the next few years, having only two NLTs seems short sighted. For example what if a there is a fire on a ship in the Dockyard? One NLT is fighting the fire and there is not enough remaining tug capability to move other ships out of the way. Or what if one tug is away for refit? Commercial tugs will be brought in,and if they can do the job in a pinch, why can't they do it all time?
It also reflects poorly on part  a.  because the navy will have to hire commercial tugs either for the coastal towing or for harbour work or in case of emergency.

I grant I may be jumping the gun on several of the above issues for want of more detailed information. However I think the navy, using the same team of designers and builders, could have done better. If these tugs are expected to give 30 or 40 years of service they should be at the very least state of the art now. They should also be capable of adopting newer technologies later in their service lives, and should be as "green" as possible.

My particular concerns are certainly environmental, but cost and operaiotnal eeffectivenss are important too. I hope to hear better information that I have now.

Most of the world's RAmparts 2400s have been built in Turkey. They are constructed as day boats, but sleeping accommodation for crew can be added if desired.

Some have been built with full crew quarters, but they do not have towing winches:

I am certainly not implying that the RAmparts 2400 design is inferior. What I am saying is that either the RCN's requirements have changed (no coastal towing) or that they trying to use a proven design for a general purpose harbour tug when what they should be building is something quite different. Maybe they will a get a very nice horse when what they really need is a camel.


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.