Saturday, August 6, 2022

French tug for scrap

 The French emergency towing and rescue tug Abeille Languedoc arrived in Brest France, August 2. After transferring some equipment to another tug, it was due to move to an adjacent dock where it will be broken up. Its retirement brings back a memory of seeing the tug close up and getting, what to me was an unforgettable photo.

Built in 1978 by Ulstein Hatlo in Ulsteinvik, Norway as the salvage tug Neptun Gothia, it was chartered the next year by the French Navy and operated by "Les Abeilles", the famous French towing company, then owned by Progemar. It was a 12,632 bhp vessel with a160 tonne bollard pull. Along with sister tug Abeille Flandre (the forner  Neptune Suecia) they were to be available on 40 minute notice or on patrol to respond to emergencies. The need for such vessels became evident the year before when the disabled VLCC "super tanker" Amoco Cadiz drifted aground and spilled all 220,880 tonnes of its crude oil cargo into waters off Brittany. The ship had a malfunctioning rudder and was taken in tow by the large salvage tug Pacific, which happened to be in the area. Unfortunately the tow line parted and the ship grounded on rock pinnacles and broke up before a second line could be rigged. See more in Wikipedia: Amoco Cadiz

The French government reponded very quickly and established the Emergency Towing Vessel service to assist ships until commercial salvors could arrive on scene. In addition the Abeille Languedoc and Abeille Flandre, they commissioned construction, also in 1978-1979, of two more ETVS, Abeille Provence and Abeille Normandie. The latter two were replaced by more powerful tugs in 1987 and in 1990 joined Secunda Marine Services. Based in Halifax they were renamed Ryan Leet and Magdelan Sea respectively. Long since sold off, they were always an appealing sight.

 In my opinion the latter two were much better looking tugs, but Abeille Languedoc and Abeille Flandre were impressive nonetheless.

In May 2000 while traveling between Jersey, Channel Islands and St-Malo, France as part of the International Tug and Salvage Conference, our boat was overtaken by Abeille Languedoc (at speed). The rendez-vous had been prearranged, and the decks were lined with photo takers, some of whom (and their cameras) were doused with spray as the tug passed. Those of us who managed to stay dry got the photo that heads up this post.

In recent years Abeille Languedoc has also been rescuing distressed migrants trying to cross the English Channel (La Manche) from France to England. The French government currently operates an ETV fleet of four big tugs, and the service has figured in countless emergencies and has saved many ships and many lives.


Friday, July 22, 2022

Océan sells off older units

 Quebec City based Groupe Océan has apparenty sold its four older units to the Georgetown, Guyana company BK Marine Inc. (The company is part of the huge BK Group, a conglomerate of transportation, construction, and infrastructure operations.) The tugs have been inactive for some time, but have been maintained in  "warm layup". All four are veterans, and can be expected to see a few more years of service in the Caribbean /South America.

The tugs are:

Ocean Echo II , previously covered in this blog May

 Now renamed Brianna K the tug is tied up in Quebec City with fleet mate Océan Basques which has been renamed  Bradley G

The Océan Basques has also been covered here numeorus times, including my September 2014 post.

Océan Echo II and Océan Basques at the Industrie Océan shipyard in Ile-aux-Coudres in 2014. Both are twin screw tugs.

BK Marine has also acquired the Avantage, now renamed Kane G. I speculated on its potential sale, also in May 2022.

 The fourth and final tug is Mega - not so far renamed, and presumably its barge Motti as well -both of which remain laid up in Sorel-Tracy, QC.

The Brianna T ex Océan Echo II is fitted  with hydraulic rams for articulated tug/barge work, and Mega is also paired with its barge, Motti and it is likely that BK Marine has found work for such combinations. Bradley G ex Océan Basques is a powerful twin screw tug, and could be an asset in the right place (but won't need its ice breaking abilities in Guyana).  Kane G ex Avantage as a low powered single screw tug is a little harder to figure, but perhaps in an "en bloc" sale, it was part of the deal. 

So far no sailing dates have been posted, but the tugs in Quebec City are flying the Guyana flag, and have their new names painted on.


Saturday, June 18, 2022

Venture Sea - final chapter

The end has apparently come for the notable tug / supplier Venture Sea a former stalwart of Secunda Marine. Under the name Jarvis it was reported beached at Alang India on June 17, and scrapping began almost at once.

The Venture Sea dated from 1998 when it was built by Halter Marine of Pascagoula, MS at their Escatawpa shipyard. The story I have heard was that Secunda needed a high specification vessel in a hurry and Halter was the only yard that could deliver on a tight schedule. In fact the boat's upper superstructure was built separately and joined after the hull was floated downstream and cleared a low bridge on the Pascagoula River. (I believe it was the I-10 bridge with about a 40 foot clearance.)

The 2235 gt vessel was rated at 12,292 hp from four GM EMD main engines and 132.5 tons bollard pull. I won't go into all the ins and outs of ownership as Secunda migrated to McDermott and back, and then to Siem, but during those years the vessel worked out of Halifax for at least some of the time. 

Its last real assignment was an emergency tow for the bulk carrier Golden Opal with a cargo of iron ore from Baffinland Mine for Immingham. It experienced steering gear failure (perhaps due to ice damage) in the Davis Strait and Venture Sea was dispatched from Halifax September 27, 2020 to take the ship in tow for Nuuk, Greenland where it made repairs. 

In late 2020 the ship was reported sold and renamed Jarvis under the Vanuatu flag. Its Canadian registration was closed December 22, 2020 but it arrived in Halifax January 8, 2021 from layup in Shelburne still carrying its original name. Curiously the ship always had the initials "M.V." before that name, even though that was not part of the official name. It is the only ship I know of that did this.

 The new name was painted on in Halifax at Pier 27, shortly before sailing January 10, 2021.

Since the sale to owners called Virgo Ships, the Jarvis * was reported in the Mediterranean, Western Europe, South Africa, South America (east coast), West Africa and South Asia. Other owners, such as Star Martrix of Hong Kong were later reported, but management remained with Hermes Marine Services of Mumbai. It is believed the Jarvis was towing ships and oil rigs to the scrap yards.

In April it was reported taking stores in Cape Town, departing for Alang. With a possible change of ownership in May, likely to Indian cash buyers, it arrived in Alang about the first of June. I would like to think that the breakers are among the few responsible ones in the area, but that seems unlikely.

My favourite photo of the Venture Sea has it sailing from Halifax December 30, 2016 and dipping into a slight swell off Herring Cove - a taste of things to come in the life of an offshore tug/supplier.
* The Hermes Marine people tlike to name their ships after characters in Marvel Comics superheroes comic books. Jarvis is the name of the factotum in the family home of  Tony Stark, a.k.a. Ironman.


Saturday, May 28, 2022

Océan cleans house - 3. Mega, and maybe Avantage

 3. Mega

Groupe Océan has recently decommissioned some of its older idle tugs, possibly for sale or in some cases more likely for scrap [ see Part1 and 2 - previous posts]. One of the tugs is the Articulated Tug Barge pusher Mega, along with its barge Motti. The duo have been laid up for sale for years, without any takers.

The tug Mega was built in 1975 and is ice rated and with four Wartsila diesel engines delivering 6,000 hp through electric drives. It was refitted with Articouple connectors and paired with the 5195 gt barge in 1993. It was previously named Teuvo to 1985 and Aatos to 1993. The barge can carry 28,000 cubic meters of wood chips, and is fitted with a side door/ramp, and carried crawler backhoes for unloading.

Océan took delivery of the duo in March 2013 and it did make some trips to Port Hawksbury, NS with wood chips as well as working on the St.Lawrence.

Steady work did not materialize however, and the pair were laid up together in Sorel.

Canadian registrations for both tug and barge were closed May 17, 2022. Whether this indicates a sale to foreign parties or a trip to the scrappers is unknown at present, but this post will be updated when information is received.


Another idle Groupe Océan tug is the Avantage, and its fate is also unclear. Its Canadian registration was closed July 25, 2018 and it remains idle in Quebec City. It was recently moved from one berth to another, but that may not have any particular significance.


Laid up at Quebec City in 2018, it was next to the Brochu which was scrapped at Ile-aux-Coudres.

The Avantage was built in1969 by Boelwerf in Temse, Belgium as Sea Lion for Union de Remorquage et de Sauvetage (URS). Powered by two 8 cylinder ABCs driving a single screw, it was rated 2160 bhp 38 tons bollard pull or 3500 bhp, 45 tonnes bollard pull depending on sources.

 It stopped over in Halifax in March 1997 on delivery to MTL Marine Tug Inc of Montreal, and it was renamed Avantage. Ownership passed to Les Remorqueurs de Trois-Rivières in 1999, and was drydocked for hull work in Halifax in October of that year. The company was later taken over by Océan.

Avantage working as stern tug on the Aquarama scrap tow in 2007.

The eventual fate of the Avantage is unknown, but this post will be updated when that becomes clear.

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Océan cleans house - 2. Océan Basques

 2. Océan Basques

Groupe Océan is disposing of its older idle tugs. One of those is Océan Basques dating from 1972 when it was delivered by Collingwood Shipyard to MIL Tug + Salvage of Halifax. The successor company to  Foundation Maritime ordered two powerful icebreaking tugs to operate at Sept-Iles, QC under contract to the Iron Ore Company of Canada. Named Pointe- aux-Basques and Pointe Marguerite, they were powered by two V-12 GM engines rated at 4200 bhp and 73 tons bollard pull. They were twin screw, with fixed pitch props in nozzles. In 1973 MILTug became ECTUG (Eastern Canada Towing Ltd) and the tugs continued in service in Sept-Iles. In November 1978 the Pointe Margeurite was rammed by a ship and sank in Sept-Iles Bay, with the loss of two lives. A replacement, built to the same specification, and named Pointe-Sept-Iles, was delivered in 1980. The tugs were "triple decker" with high wheelhouse for better visibility while working with large bulk carriers.

Pointe-aux-Basques after the salvage tow of the Macreefer from the Gulf of St.Lawrence to Halifax.

In 2013 Svitzer Canada Ltd, the successor to ECTUG, was not able to renew the Sept-Iles contract, which was awarded to Groupe Océan. The tugs also went to Océan and were renamed Océan Basques and Océan Sept-Iles. Replacement tugs were soon acquired and the two tugs were reassigned. Océan Basques emerged from a major refit in 2014 with its new name.


The tug's cut away icebreaking bow is visible in this photo.

The rudders were protected by free standing frames. 

The hull is hard chine,possibly hydroconic form.

The tug was finally laid up in Quebec City in December 2021, and its Canadian registration was closed May 17, 2022, along with Océan Echo II (see Part 1) and Mega (see Part 3). Whether they have been sold foreign or are headed for the scrappers is unknown at present, but this post will be updated when that becomes clear.



Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Océan cleans house - 1. Océan Echo II

 The Quebec City based operator Groupe Océan has been growing substantially in recent years with expansion to British Columbia and Jamaica and the acquistion of new tugs. On May 21 they took delivery of the small Océan Aqua delivered by heavy lift ship to Valleyfield, QC from Malta. A Damen Stantug, the former DMS Raven, it had been operating in the Persian Gulf for Damen Marine Services. The 1460 bhp twin screw tug was built in 2003 by Stoc.Kozle Serwis in Poland and Damen Hardinxveld in the Netherlands. 

Meanwhile the company is shedding three of its older tugs which have not been operational for several years. These include:

1. Océan Echo II

This twin screw 3,000 bhp veteran tug was built in 1969 by Port Weller Drydock for Atlantic and Pacific Barge Transport Ltd. Named Atlantic it was contracted, along with two 7850 ton deadweight barges built in the same yard, for a ten year charter to Anglo-Canadian Pulp and Paper to carry pulpwood from Forestville, QC to the paper mill in Quebec City. The barges Betsiamites and Sault au Cochon each had a 3600 cord capacity. While one barge was unloading in Quebec City, the tug was towing/pushing the other barge for another load.  The tug was renamed Laval in 1975. It generally pushed the barges from a stern notch using face wires, but also towed them on a tow line depending on conditions.

At the end of the charter in 1979 Anglo's subsidiary St.Charles Transportation Co Ltd bought the tug and barges and sent the Laval to Halifax for a third barge, named Jean Raymond. Reed Paper Ltd took over Anglo in 1974 and continued to operate the tug and barges.

Gordon Turner took this photo of the Laval in Reed Paper Co markings, in the Welland Canal.

Reed International Inc sold the operation to Daishowa Paper Manufacturing in 1988 and the tug and barges came under the ownership of Daishowa Maritime Inc.

In the early 1990s Groupe Océan acquired the tug and in 1996 gave it the named Océan Echo II. They also fitted it with Articulated Tug Barge rams in hull blisters, and modified the barge Betsiamites  accordingly. They now hauled wood chips to various paper mills. The barge also carried a crawler backhoe with a huge bucket to move the cargo.

In 2008 the tug was back in Halifax, this time to take away the former shipyard barge Timberland which had been acquired by Groupe Océan.

When tug and barge were not working on the St.Lawrence they sometimes ran wood chips to the paper mill in Point Tupper, NS, or loaded wood chips at Sheet Harbour, NS. 

In May 2014 the tug sustained severe bottom damage when it ran aground outbound from Kingston, ON. It was out of service for some time for repairs


In this view, the ATB rams in hull blisters are clearly visible.


The fully moulded hull was rare in tugs even as long ago as 1969. Note also it has no bilge keels.

In 2018 it took the barge NT811 from Quebec City to Iqaluit for a port construction project, but since then it has seen very little service. On May 17, 2022 its Canadian registration was closed, along with the tugs Océan Basquess and Mega [see separate posts for each.] Whether these boats have been sold to foreign owners, or for scrap is not known at this time. Further details will be posted here when known.

Ocean Echo II and Ocean Basques are tied up together in Quebec City and Mega is in Sorel, awaiting the next move.


Monday, May 9, 2022

Evans McKeil - end of the line (amended, again)(and again)

The Evans McKeil, a veteran Canadian tug has reached the end of its useful life and has gone to the breakers. Dating from 1936 it had a 53 year career under the United States flag before coming to Canada fro another 33 years of service.

In fact the tug had three careers, starting in the unusual location of Balboa, in what was then the Panama Canal Zone - in fact United States territory. The Panama Railroad Company was one of the operating entities of the US government (and actually pre-dated the Canal), and operated tugs and barges. It built this tug in its own shipyard, naming it Alhajeula (Spanish for a little jewel). As with many railroads of the time, they were changing over from steam to diesel locomotives, so were familiar with diesel electric propulsion. The tug was equipped with an Ingersoll Rand D-E plant with two 6 cylinder, 500 bhp Ingersoll Rand diesels, eacxh with 50 kW generator a 900 hp engine driving a 750 hp DC electric motor. (I don't know if that was the engine output or the power at the shaft.) *A single screw tug, it was 111 ft long x 25.6  ft breadth, and was intended for barge work with a heavily fendered hull. (Many railroad tugs in New York harbour were also diesel-electric and the Canadian Pacific Railroad had its own D-E tug the Prescotont in barge service between Prescott, ON and Ogdensburg, NY since 1930.)

On August 19, 1942 it was struck by a US Navy seaplane. A barge that the tug had in tow was carrying aviation fuel and it burst into flames. Six were killed on the tug, nine on the airplane.  It took nine months to rebuild the tug, which tehn returned to servic May 16, 1943.

The tug was repowered in 1965 with a 1700 hp GM 16-278 diesel.

In 1970 it was put up for sale by the Panama Canal Company. Malcolm Marine of St.Clair, MI bought the tug and brought it up the Hudson River and Richelieu River to the Great Lakes.They renamed it Barbara Ann and it went to work in general towing, salvage and ship docking. In 1976 it was repowered with a GM EMD 645-E6 main engine of 2150 bhp, making it a very powerful tug for its type.

In 1989 McKeil Work Boats of Hamilton, ON bought the tug and registered it in the company's homeport on September 20, 1990. It was then named for the founder Evans McKeil, (of Nova Scotia ancestry).


Under McKeil direction it ranged the Great Lakes, St.Lawrence and east coast - reaching Halifax on several occasions. It was given a raised wheelhouse in 1990 (which was raised again in 1991) to facilitate barge work. It operated with the brine tanker barge Salty Dog for several years, but also did other barge work, and towed old lakers to the scrap yards.

 One memorable tow from Halifax was with the retired submarine Ojibwa which was loaded on the floating drydock HM1 and towed to Port Burwell, ON in 2018 where the sub was  placed on display.

On May 8, 2022, the 1943 built tug Seahound towed the Evans McKeil upbound in the Welland Canal deadship from Hamilton, ON to Port Maitland, ON where it will be broken up.

Note: There are several reports that state the tug will not be broken up - at least not right away. Updates will be made under a separate posting.

*Thanks to a reader for providing the Canal Copmany's "as installed" drawing for the sister tug, showing the two diesels, generators and motor. It also showed electro-mechnical steering.