Thursday, April 30, 2020

McKeil in at Belledune, Atlantic out - UPDATED

On April 3 the Port Authority of Belledune, New Brunswick announced a change in tug operators. Following a transition period, McKeil Marine would be taking over from Atlantic Towing, effective April 27.

Atlantic had been providing two tugs at the port, and depending on the time of year, these would be Atlantic Elm and Atlantic Beech in winter. Both have now left Belledune and returned to Saint John.

Atlantic Beech, built in 1959 as Irving Beech, was renamed in 1998 - a twin screw tug of 2250 bhp.

Atlantic Elm ex Irving Elm -98, twin screw 3460 bhp, built in 1980.

 Other tugs would be drafted in during the summer when these two were assigned to northern barge duties. Atlantic also operated the small 660 bhp Voith-Schneider tug Atlantic Aspen in the port, but its registry was closed November 18, 2019, and has presumably been scrapped.

Atlantic Aspen, dates from 1966 when it was built for the US Navy as USN 761, Mascouta.It was acquired for use in Belledune and renamed Eddie Mac1 after the well known local pilot.

Atlantic Towing's connection with the Port of Belledune is fairly deep as parent company J.D.Irving were involved in the development of the port through New Brunswick Mining + Smelting in the early 1960s. However the smelter is closed and the major customer in the port is now New Brunswick Power's coal fired generating station. It imports US coal via the Great Lakes and petcoke from various sources. There are also general cargo and barge terminals in the port.

McKeil has never been noted as a port tug operator, except possibly in their home port of Hamilton, ON, but even there they do not have exclusivity, as Ocean Group also operates there.

McKeil has, at least for the time being, assigned the tugs Lois M and Tim McKeil to Belledune, but those seem like expensive assets to have sitting there idle for long periods. Perhaps they will have other work to occupy them.

Both are ASD tugs, built 1991, 4800 bhp, acquired in 2014.

McKeil's Jarrett M is noted downbound on the St.Lawrence, heading for Belledune. Built in 1945 as the famous McQueen Marine tug Atomic it has been rebuilt several times, and is now a 1200 bhp twin screw tug. Despite its age, it is a capable tug, which has been used for winter icebreaking at Windsor, ON and harbour berthing in various ports.

There are a lot of other rumours surrounding Belledune tugs, but I will refrain from speculating beyond what has been announced officially.

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