Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Sixty years on - Part 2 Victor and Valour

 The first two new post World War II tugs built for Foundation Maritime, Foundation Victor of 1956 and Foundation Valour of 1958 are still operating. The latter is running in the fresh water of Lake Superior and so may be expected to last "forever". The former is still in salt water but seems equally indestructable. Both are powered by the durable Fairbanks Morse engines, which, although costly to maintain, are ultimately reliable. 

The two tugs replaced low power steam tugs and were quite successful because they were big and heavy. Their 1280 bhp single screw configuration was typical for the time and was  quite adequate for the ships calling in Baie-Comeau and Sept-Iles. 

The opening of the St.Lawrence Seaway in 1959 was foreseen and larger ships were built to run to and from the Great Lakes. It was chiefly to handle these, but also large foreign flag ships at the two St.Lawrence ports, that the two tugs were built.


This ca. 1958 winter view of the tug dock shows Foundation Victor on the north side (left of photo) of the dock with a small low power tug, and possibly a US tug. On the south (right) side is the seagoing Foundation Frances blowing down its boilers, and the steamer Banscot ahead of it. At the salvage dock, Foundation Josephine II awaits an assignment.

In the 1950s and 1960s Halifax was a winter port. Ships were diverted from the St.Lawrence for the winter months due to ice and these two tugs were quite capable of handling the typical general cargo ships and tankers of the time, and more than adequately displaced the steamers and low powered Ban tugs. It was not until the mid to late 1960s that winter navigation on the St.Lawrence became possible.

Foundation Victor was the pride of the fleet when it was built.

In the early 1960s Foundation Maritime again sought to upgrade its fleet, and that will be the subject of later posts in this series.

As of circa 1961 this was the FM harbour tug and crane fleet.
Foundation Vibert was built for Baie-Comeau and will be the subject of a future post. The Banscot and the two small tugs on the lower line worked in Halifax. The three "Bans"on the middle line also served in Port Alfred . 
The Foundation Beechwood was used in marine contruction work and is named for the Beechwood dam on the upper Saint John River where it worked.

When Foundation Maritime sold off its marine operations to Marine Industries Ltd of Sorel, QC, forming MIL Tug in 1968, new tugs were already planned for the port of Sept-Iles. By the time the MIL Tug operation was re-sold to Smit snd Cory in 1971, the new tugs were under construction. Pointe aux Basques and Pointe Margurite were twin screw, 4,000 bhp, icebreaking tugs that completely outclassed the Valour and Victor.

Marine Industries Ltd had stripped many of the useful assets from Foundation to support the dredging operations (J.P.Porter and Dragage Richelieu Dredging).  MILTug however was kept as a free standing operation and most of the tugs that remained with MILTug went to Smit and Cory. (The salvage tug Foundation Vigilant was sold off.)

Foundation Vigilant, at the salvage dock, was not wanted by Smith and Cory, so was sold off. The salvage dock and shed lasted, although unused, until 2020 when they were demolished. Bluenose II, on the right at the Oland's pier, has also found a new berth and the entire area has been filled in for a new development. That is either Point Victor or Point Valour peeking out of the left side of the photo.

Foundation Victor and Foundation Valour were transferred to Halifax for year round operation, and in 1973 renamed Point Victor and Point Valour by Eastern Canada Towing Ltd (ECTUG) which had been formed by Smit and Cory. By this time Halifax already had sufficient tugs to handle port operations so Victor and Valour were actually surplus to needs. (ECTUG was really only interested in terminal operations, so did not actively seek salvage or general towing work for its tugs.) The tugs were also a bit too large and ungainly to work within the confines of the finger piers. 


By 1977 ECTUG decided to sell the Point Victor and C.A. Pitts Engineering Ltd of Toronto acquired the tug. The company had marine construction projects, and like Foundation before it, decided it needed its own tug. Renamed Kay Cole it worked all around eastern Canada.



In 1995 Pitts was merging with other companies and a tug was not in the cards. McKeil Workboats of Hamilton, ON was a willing buyer.

They soon renamed the tug Jerry Newberry and put it to use in ways never foreseen by Foundation including barge towing to the US East Coast.

Fitted with some added bow fendering (in place of large truck tires) the Jerry Newberry tried its hand at ship berthing in Montreal for a time.

McKeil in turn sold the tug on to McNally Construction of Hamilton, ON and the tug kept its name.

They put the tug to some extreme use including trips to Labrador and Ungava Bay but by 2013 they were not finding enough use for it. New owners, from Newfoundland, named Sealand Shipping Services Ltd of Baie Verte, bought the tug and renamed it R.J.Ballott. They also added a towing winch I believe.

As of 2021 the tug was in regular use including a tow to Montreal. The tug often works in Labrador and the north shore of the Gulf of St.Lawrence, so is well out of the spotlight, but continues to provide service.

See more photos in my post from November 28, 2013

Point Valour
lasted a bit longer with ECTUG, but was also sold on. It is easily identifiable because of its slightly larger wheelhouse. I believe the large house was needed to accommodate the radar set which HAD become mandatory. There was no real need for a walkway ahead of the wheelhouse, except to clean windows, so the wheelhouse was enlarged forward by a foot or two.

As modern tugs came into service, shiphandling using a tow line became obsolete, and so did tugs like the Point Valour as they only had power ahead. They could not pull back with any power like the ASD tugs could.

 ECTUG finally sold the Point Valour to Thunder Bay Tug Services Ltd and it went into operation at the Lakehead.
Huge amounts of power are not needed in Thunder Bay as ships are limited to St.Lawrence Seaway size (the US flag 1,000 footers do not serve Thunder Bay, ON). Point Valour is still a big tug and its weight is still useful. (Thunder Bay is home to several tugs built in the 1940s, some of which are former Foundation boats. The Glenada in the photo above was built originally in 1944.)


Sunday, January 9, 2022

Sixty years on - Part One

 In my previous post I made note of the six sister tugs built for Foundation Maritime in 1962. Remarkably, three are still operating, and are likely to put in several more years of service.

Since this year marks their 60th anniversary I will expand a bit upon the careers of each of the six tugs. My plan is to stretch the story over several months. Although the tugs were built in December of 1962 and a larger follow-on tug in June 1963, I will be extending this series to "before" and "after" - going back to the 1950s, and extending to a few years later.


The Foundation Company of Canada was an offshoot of a large US construction company. A pioneer in the use of pneumatic caissons, they established Canadian headquarters in Montreal but had marine construction projects throughout eastern Canada. Their more or less accidental entrance into marine towing and salvage in the 1930s is most amusingly recounted by Farley Mowat in Grey Seas Under - required reading for any tug entusiast.

The exploits of the salvage tug Foundation Franklin make exciting reading in Mowat's book Grey Seas Under. A following book The Serpent's Coil tells of the salvage tug Foundation Josephine and its rescue of the cargo ship Leicester


The company's success in salvage work was only one part of their business. In order to provide a year round marine base, the Foundation Company purchased the Halifax Towboat operation and renamed it Maritime Towing + Salvage. It expanded to provide harbour tug services in Halifax, Sept-Iles, Baie Comeau and Port Alfred, as well as general towing. As Mowat relates, the company had to make do with a rag tag collection of old boats during war time. Following the conflict they were able to upgrade a couple of the boats to diesel and to buy some war-built tugs, but some of these were also inefficent steamers - built cheaply and "for the duration", and with a hodgepodge of power plants and machinery.

The Bansun (foreground) had been a non-condensing steam tug from the Geat Lakes, acquired during World War II and converted to diesel post-war. As a steam tug it had to return to the dock frequently to replenish its fresh water supply since briny harbour water filled the boiler tubes with scale. The tugs "chugged" like steam locomotives. Its coal burning sister tug Banstar (background) had yet to be converted when the above photo was taken.

Several small war built "Glen" class tugs were acquired,but were low powered and not up to the job of docking large ships. It took up to six tugs to berth the Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary for example.


 In the mid 1950s with the iron ore port of Sept-Iles and the grain, aluminum and paper port of Baie Comeau demanding bigger and more powerful tugs Foundation turned to the pre-eminent Canadian shipyard Davie Shipbuilding + Repairing Ltd in Lauzon, QC (then owned by Canada Steamship Lines). CSL / Davie also operated the tugs in Quebec City and had already begun to upgrade its fleet with new diesel tugs. They had both operating experience and excellent in house design capabilities. Incidentally, Foundation operated its salvage tug from Lauzon seasonally, so knew the Quebec tugs from close observation and co-operation.

In the 1950s and 1960s the Foundation Vigilant was based in Lauzon in the summer and moved to Bermuda in the winter, but ranged far and wide as needed.

Foundation first contracted for two big ice stengthened harbour tugs for use in Sept-Iles but with the ability to cover Baie Comeau. Foundation Victor was built in 1956 and Foundation Valour in 1958. They were single screw tugs of 1280 bhp, and worked most of the year in Sept-Iles but returned to Halifax during the dead of winter as there was generally no winter navigation in the Gulf or river between late December and the end of April, and Halifax was a busy "winter port" handling shipping diverted from the St.Lawrence.


Foundation Victor's high wheelhouse provided good visibility for ship berthing work.

The tugs were "triple deckers", built with a wheelhouse elevated above the officers' cabins to permit easier all round viewing and of the decks of large ships. This pattern was an improved version of the unheated but enclosed flying bridge of the earlier pre-war and war built steam tugs. The feature was continued with later tugs all the way to 2005, so obviously it was a succesful design feature.

The Scottish built Banscot was among the tugs acquired by Foundation Maritime when they bought the Halifax harbour tug business. It had an open fly bridge with a crude weather enclosure.

The war built Foundation Vera orginally had an open "monkey island" flying bridge, which Foundation enclosed to make weather tight. Tug skippers preferred the elevated position for its better visibility.

In the 1970s the Foundation Company sold the tug business to Marine Industries Ltd of Sorel, QC which formed MIL Tug. However that company was soon resold to a joint venture between the Dutch Smit International and the British company Cory Towage, forming Eastern Canada Towing [ECTUG]. Over time Cory gained full ownership then resold to Wijsmuller which was soon taken over by Svitzer. Both Ectug and Svitzer built new tugs and they sold off the older tugs. All the new tugs built for the successor companies continued to follow the triple decker design up until the most recent tug, Svitzer Bedford dating from 2005. Even a series of British built tugs for the Smit-Cory era were triple deckers.

Six triple deckers alongside the old ECTUG dock Halifax in 1977.

The first of the new Davie built tugs were named Foundation Victor and Foundation Valour (the Second World War was still fresh in most minds in the 1950s)  and were delivered in 1956 and 1958 respectively.

Remarkably both of these 1950s era tugs are still operating in Canadian waters in 2022. The former Foundation Victor, later carrying the names 1973: Point Victor, 1977: Kay Cole, 1995: Jerry Newberry, 2013: R.J.Ballott is now based in Newfoundland but travels widely, towing as far as Montreal in 2021.

Foundation Valour, renamed Point Valour in 1973 has been serving as a harbour tug in Thunder Bay, ON for many years.


to be continued...

Monday, December 27, 2021

An explanation and an apology

 There is a long tradition among ship watchers to exchange photos at Christmas time showing ships in snowy or icy conditions. I was going through some photos from 1977 and grabbed the photo that was part of my previous post and included it with no identification of the two tugs and the oil rig.

I did not intend to make it a guessing game or a mystery quiz, since I do have the names of all three recorded. So starting in reverse order they are:

The Sedco 704 one of seven semi-submersible oil drilling rigs built by Halifax Shipyards. This one dates from 1974 and was a known as a "mid-water floater" with a rectangular platform supported by columns on pontoons. It could work in water depths to 1,000 ft (later revised to 1,200 ft) and drill depth to 25,000 ft. It had a major drydocking and refurb in 1992-1993 at Verolme Botlek in Rotterdam, which consisted mostly of upgrading welds.

After a period working off Nova Scotia it operated in the North Sea for successor company Transocean. The rig was scrapped in Turkey in 2017.

Background tug, Point Vigour, built in 1962 by Davie Shipbuilding in Lauzon, one of six sister tugs, all single screw, 1,000 bhp. Eastern Canada Towing Ltd acquired the tug in 1973 and it was renamed Point Vigour, they had it had refitted with a Kort nozzle and its single Fairbanks Morse main engine was upgraded.

Also in 1977, Point Vigour posed off the ECTUG dock with another oil rig in the background, the triangular platform Sedco J also built in Halifax.

 In 2007 McKeil Marine bought the tug and renamed it Molly M 1. It is still operating on the Great Lakes and St.Lawrence with the occasional foray into salt water. It will be sixty years old in 2022, but is nevertheless going strong. Two sister tugs, which have remained in Canadian operation, Point Viking and Point Vim are also still operating. The other three were sold foreign and are believed scrapped long ago.

Foreground tug is the Pointe Marguerite one of two tugs ordered by MIL Tug (formerly Foundation Maritime) for service in Sept-Iles, QC. Built by Collingwood Shipbuilding in 1973, they were heavily reinforced for work in ice, and had an icebreaker bow. Powered by a pair of 12 cylinder GM engines, they were rated at 4300 bhp (but often quoted as more than 5,000 ihp). MIL Tug was sold to Eastern Canada Towing Ltd while the tugs were under construction, and ECTUG employed them as planned in Sept-Iles.

Hauled out on the Dartmouth Marine Slip, Pointe Marguerite shows its icebreaking bow. On the adjacent slip Atlantic Towing's Irving Birch superimposes its funnel, lifeboat and mast. That is Sedco 704 in the background again.

Tragically Pointe Marguerite was crushed between two ships November 14, 1978 in Sept-Iles Bay and sank immediately with the loss of two lives. Sister tug Point-aux Basques is still in service, now with Groupe Océan as Océan Basques as is the replacement tug, built to essentially the same design, Pointe Sept Iles now as Océan Sept-Iles.

An enlargement of my "Christmas" photo shows the subjects in slighly more detail.


Friday, December 24, 2021

Merry Christmas from Tugfax

 Wishing all readers a Merry Christmas and Happy and Healthy 2022.

A wintry scene from the old Eastern Canada Towing (ECTUG) dock in March 1977. 

(Oil rigs were a common sight in Halifax harbour in those days.)


Friday, November 12, 2021

Salvor to the breakers

 McKeil Marine has been disposing of surplus tonnage in recent years, and the latest to go under the torch is Salvor, one of two similar former Moran tugs in the fleet. I covered the tug's history on this blog ten years ago, and there is little to add to: Salvor story

McKeil acquired the fleet mates Esther Moran (built 1963) and M.Moran (built 1961) in 2000, but they were not unknown to Halifax. Both were here in 1982 to tow out the El Paso Columbia with help from local tugs in the above photo. Esther Moran is on the starboard side (left in photo) with Point Vim while Point Vibert assists M.Moran on the port bow (right in photo) moving the ship under the Angus L. Macdonald bridge.

Esther Moran became Salvor in 2000 and it has recently been reported that it is being broken up in Port Maitland, ON. M.Moran was initially renamed Salvager but became Wilf Seymour in 2004. It has been paired with the barge Alouette Spirit for many years delivering aluminum ingots from Sept-Iles, QC to Great Lakes ports and returning down river with a variety of cargoes. It is still in full operation.


Saturday, November 6, 2021

Atlantic Elm - veteran at work

 It is hard to believe that the tug Atlantic Elm has reached the venerable age of  41 years, yet still does a a day's work tugging and towing. 

The tug spent the summer barging cargo in Chesterfield Inlet, off Hudson's Bay. The cargo was bound for Baker Lake, and it was lightered off ships anchored in deep water. The tug returned to its home port of Saint John on October 22 with the barge Atlantic Marlin. It was not long until it was underway again, making a run across the Bay of Fundy, possibly with a small ferry in tow.

Its most recent assignment was a tow from Shelburne, NS to Halifax, NS. The vessel in tow was the museum ship Acadia, built as a hydrographic research ship in 1913. Irving Shipbilding Inc completed some much needed hull work on the old ship and it was time to return to its static berth at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic.

Atlantic Elm handed off the tow of Acadia to the harbour tug Atlantic Fir which brought the old ship alongside the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic's pier on November 5.

Atlantic Elm was built in 1980 by Saint John Shipbuilding and Drydock to a Robert Allen Ltd design. The twin screw 3460 bhp, 44.5 tonne bollard pull tug was originally named Irving Elm but was renamed in 1996 as part of a fleet wide renaming program.

Irving Elm has travelled far and wide including some trips to the Great Lakes. It had a small "birdhouse" type elevated wheelhouse added, but I wonder how often it is used.

The split funnels provide some additional view aft over the enclosed winch house. The design of the tug closely follows that of the Jervis Crown / Seaspan Monarch built in 1977 for barge work on the Pacific coast, and also still in service.

Job completed, the tug returned to Saint John. Its fleet mate the even older Atlantic Beech, built in 1969, is also in Saint John having just returned November 3 from Chesterfield Inlet.



Friday, October 22, 2021

Atlantic Cedar - rare visitor

 Atlantic Towing Ltd provides harbour tug services in Saint John, NB and in Halifax. Tugs are sometimes reassigned between the ports, and it is always interesting to see one from Saint John come to Halifax. Atlantic Cedar arrived October 21 for for a special assignment at Irving Shipbuilding's Halifax Shipyard.

 Today the tug was standing by alongside the semi-submersible Boa Barge 37 as the latest Arctic Offshore Patrol Vessel was rolled aboard using self-propelled modular transporters (SPMTs). The barge is on long term charter to perform this function as the ships are no longer launched in the traditional way.

The barge will be moved to Bedford Basin where the ship will be floated off. That operation will likely be covered tomorrow on the companion blog Shipfax.

Atlantic Cedar was built by Irving Shipbuilding's Eastisle Shipyard in Georgetown, PE in 2005. It is a 5,000 bhp, 66 tonne bollard pull tug with FF1 fire fighting capability. It is a sister tug to the Halifax based Atlantic Oak and Atlantic Fir. They are among the 36 similar vessels built from 1995 to 2011 based on a Robert Allen Ltd design of azimuthing stern drive harbour tug.

Atlantic Cedar's normal duties involve standing by tankers offloading at the Canaport monobuoy off Saint John, NB, where they deliver crude oil to the Irving Oil refinery.