Monday, May 31, 2010

Atlantic Fir checks out

After a very busy day berthing ships, Atlantic Fir left this evening with the barge Atlantic Tuna, destined for Point Tupper. The tug has been in Halifax for the last week or so, but is based in Point Tupper. She is the third tug of the name, was built in 2005 and is rated at 5050 bhp. She is also fitted with a deck crane, which was used to assist in rigging the towing bridle.
The "spotting" clue for this tug is the two piece spray shield over the vents on her funnels.

The barge is fitted for hauling gravel.

Busy in Halifax

This afternoon Point Chebucto comes alongside Zim Istanbul, stern first, to make up for berthing the ship at Halterm. The pilot wanted the tug as far aft as possible, but did not want the tug's stern to fall under the ship's cutaway.

The port was very busy and windy this morning. With only four tugs available, Svitzer and Atlantic Towing were kept busy from about 0630 to 1130. Here Point Chebucto returns to base after spending all morning berthing ships.

Atlantic Fir and Point Chebucto had just berthed the Undine at Autoport. It was the third and fourth berthing for each tug (respectively) for the morning. Atlantic Larch and Point Valiant had just unberthed the tanker North Point, which was the third and fourth jobs for each of them as well.

Friday, May 28, 2010


It is not often that marine casualties involve two ships with connections to Halifax. However this did happen on May 18 in the Suez Canal. The container ship Rhein Bridge was transiting the Canal en route Halifax for Singapore. Reports indicate that the ship lost power or lost steering and collided with the US flag integrated tug/barge Philadelphia, which was en route Saudi Arabia for Libya.
The ITB visited Halifax in 2001 for a refit and the following photos show what an operation that was. As an Integrated Tug Barge, built to circumvent rules for ships, and fall under rules for tugs, the tug portion of the unit had to be able to separate, and sail on its own. Photos 1 to 3 were taken on September 18, 2001:

1. The barge is shown here after drydocking and is preparing to join up with the tug. The barge will have to be ballasted well down in order to connect to the tug, which remains at the same draft at all times.

2. The tug, in fact a catamaran, was an ungainly craft on its own. Here it is after leaving the drydock, in its normal ballasted trim. The tug Point Valiant is conveniently lodged in the catamaran's stern notch and pushing it down the harbour, in a cold move.

3. The triangular object on the left is a giant tongue protruding from the barge's stern. When the tanker body is ballasted down, the tug will ride over this tongue and it will be locked in place to make a rigid connection with the tug. Another tug will be required to assist in this evolution. The bright patches on the tongue and catamaran hull are wear plates.

4. Sister Mobile's barge is shown here while being moved by tugs in Halifax December 6, 2001. The tongue is to the right, the bow to the left.

5. Here the two parts of Philadelphia are firmly locked together, docked in Tampa, FL April 20, 1992. The barge must be constantly ballasted/ loaded to the same draft to keep the tug in position. You will note the absence of any towing gear on the stern of the tug.

Rule makers did not take kindly to the ITB and made regulations that required tugs to be able detach, sail on their own, and to be able to tow the barge if needed. The ATB (articulated tug and barge) where the tug is really a tug on its own, and can tow the barge, met this new requirement. ATBs are connected with a simpler form of pin connection, which allows the tug to pitch in relation to the barge, and the tug can adjust its position irrespective of the tanker's draft.

Philadelphia and its sisters are not particularly efficient to operate- they require a large crew, no different from a conventional tanker, and are becoming obsolete. Two have been sold to Nigeria for further trading, two have been scrapped and the remaining two are carrying food aid grain to the middle east. They are single hulled (with double bottom) and are restricted from carrying oil to some port, and will be outlawed completely in a few years. Coupled with the downturn in demand for petroleum products their lives are limited as tankers. They may continue to work as bulk carriers, but their owners, US Shipping Partners, are also struggling financially, so we may not see these vessels for much longer.

I have received no word on the severity of damage following the recent collision. Philadelphia was last reported anchored in the Great Bitter Lake, awaiting surveys.

Philadelphia was built in 1983 and the tug measured 1443 gt on its own and was powered by tow Enterprise 16 cyl engines (one in each hull pod) totalling 18,200 bhp. The integrated unit measured 22, 331 gt. They were built for the Amerada-Hess Corp, and later operated by Sheridan Transportation.

Sisters are:

Jacksonville (1982) now Nigerian (refit in Halifax 2000)

Groton (1982) now Nigerian

New York (1983) scrapped

Baltimore (1983) scrapped

Mobile (1984) in service (refit in Halifax 2001)

June 21: Update: According to press reports, Philadelphia was severely damaged in the collision. One engine room was flooded when the hull was punctured by Rhein Bridge. As a result the ITB was declared a total loss and sold to Indian shipbreakers.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Stevns Breaker - update

The newly built Stevns Breaker is finally underway for Denmark.

The tug was to have entered drydock in Halifax for touchups and survey on May 8, but the floating drydock sank under her, and it has not been raised yet.

After her naming ceremony here May 18, she sailed for St.John's, NF to be drydocked there starting May 20.

With that now completed she sailed from St.John's at 2100 hrs this evening.
Update: Arrived Svendborg June 10

Toronto Fire Boat

The Toronto Fire Department's fireboat Wm. Lyon Mackenzie was built in 1964 by Russel Brothers of Owen Sound, ON. It is beautifully maintained and had a major refit last year. It is seen here coasting back to base on May 16, 2010.

Cates Tugs of Yore

1. This 1986 view shows Charles H. Cates XVI, III, XVII and XV (1956-57 era) of the small single screw wooden class, and Charles H. Cates IV (1974) of a later twin screw class.

2. In 1996 Charles H. Cates II (1983) stood still long enough for a photo. It was still carrying the line handling crane, which was seldom used, and eventually removed.

3. In 1996 Charles H. Cates XVI (built 1957) was still running, and several other members of the fleet were tied up behind, including XX (built 1969.)

4. Tymac No.20, reportedly built by Cates in 1921, is still going, doing laundry duty on Zuiderdam, May 22, 2010.

I have always made a point of checking out the Cates tugs when I have been in Vancouver, so this is a selection from the files.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Smit Tugs

While attending the International Tug & Salvage Conference in Vancouver May 18-21, I was able to see several tugs in action.

There are now two primary operators in the port, Seaspan and Smit. Smit took over RivTow, which was an amalgamation of several smaller operators. RivTow also owned Westminster, which was primarily active on the Fraser River, but its tugs now work in the main port (Burrard inlet) too.
Tiger Sun was a Westminster tug, and with over 5,000 bhp is extraordinarily powerful for its size. Smit Mississippi was brought to Canada from the Netherlands and is a typical Damen built ASD.
They are shown here putting on a show for guests at a reception sponsored by Smit.

Seaspan Tugs

I attended the International Tug & Salvage Conference in Vancouver May 17-21.
The primary tug operators in Vancouver are Seaspan and Smit.

Seaspan is an amalgam of several different operators, their most recent acquisition being the fleet of Charles H. Cates. That company (with Nova Scotia roots) was the primary ship docking firm in the port. They were famed for their small and agile tugs. Before the takeover, Seaspan was a coastal operation and did ship berthing at Roberts Bank, south of Vancouver.

Seaspan is part of the Washington group, which also owns shipyards and railways, and still operates several of the former Cates tugs- distinguished by their numbering. Charles H. Cates V is typical of the last class of twin screw tugs built for Cates. Charles H. Cates III is one of the pioneering ASD tugs, designed by Robert Allan Ltd.

They also have three larger ASD tugs, of which Seaspan Falcon is typical. Although built for use at Roberts Bank, it now works in the harbour too.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Stevns Breaker update

Despite the aborted drydocking, last Saturday, trials apparently went well for Stevns Breaker. During this week the tug was handed over to Nordane Shipping, and crews wound on the towing wire and began to store ship for the trip to Denmark.

It appears that some more paint was applied to the superstructure (there is still some masking tape around the IMO number.) Also the spray shields were placed over the air intakes. These also carry the Stevns "S".

Today was the day for the official naming ceremony, and the crew hoisted signal flags in celebration.
Update: The actual naming day was to be May 18.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Atlantic Fir in Halifax

Work continues at Halifax Shipyard while plans are made to raise the Scotiadock II. The tug Atlantic Fir arrived yesterday from its normal base on the Strait of Canso, towing the barge Atlantic Shark. It remained in port today, and was called out this evening to undock fleet mate Atlantic Elm which has been in the graving dock at Halifax Shipyard.
Here she waits while the dock is filled. She is bow in alongside the graving dock gate. Atlantic Fir was built in 2005 and is rated at 5,050 bhp. It is the third tug of that name in the fleet. The previous two were sold overseas.
In the background is the former HMCS Fraser laid up at Jetty Lima.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Atlantic Towing short handed, Svitzer busier

Atlantic Towing currently has no operational tugs in Halifax. This situation was brought about by a strange sequence of events.

First Atlantic Spruce was sent off on another assignment and so left only two Atlantic Towing tugs in Halifax.

Then the drydock Scotiadock II sank at Halifax Shipyard Saturday while docking Stevns Breaker. (see update below) This resulted in the remaining two tugs Atlantic Larch and Atlantic Oak heading off to fetch barges for the salvage work. Larch left Saturday evening for Point Tupper to get the barge Atlantic Tuna and tow it back to Halifax. I don't know where Oak went, but I assume it was on a similar mission.

Meanwhile the tug Atlantic Elm is in another drydock (the graving dock) at Halifax Shipyard and is out of service. The dredging tugs Atlantic Poplar and Swellmaster are in Halifax, but are in seasonal layup and also unserviceable-they would be unsuitable for ship berthing in any event.

At Point Tupper, the tug Atlantic Beech was sent out to take the tanker Algosea in tow. That ship had a gearbox failure and was towed in to Sydney on Saturday.

This may be good news for rival Svitzer Canada, as its tugs are the only berthing tugs in Halifax for now, and were handing all traffic today. In the photo above Svitzer Bedford has the stern line and Point Chebucto has just secured alongside a post-Panamax container ship. Atlantic Towing has the contract to berth OOCL ships, but oddly this ship is now carrying the Hapag-Lloyd name Vietnam Express, so this may have been Svitzer's job anyway.

Stevns Breaker update

See Update in the Stevns Breaker entry below.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Not a tug, but an ASD

This little landing craft is not a tug, but it does have an azimuthing stern drive- probably M&T Harbormater, but I could find no confirmation in my examination.

Although thought of as a recent innovaiton for tugs, steerable drives were developed during World War II for landing craft such as this, and are still in use. More sophisticated units have been used on tugs since the 1980s and have become known as Azimuthing Stern Drives.

This craft was built for the Canadian Coast Guard to assist with northern supply and aids to navigation, and was given the name GCU 407, by its builders E.S.M Qu├ębec Inc.

Just this year it has been refitted and re-registered as C211040QC, (a Canadian registration number, with the Quebec province locator). It is owned by Larinda Inc., a company associated with LeGrow's Marine in Dartmouth, operators of several small tugs and workboats in Halifax harbour.

This appears to be the same landing craft that had for years been parked in one of the sheds on pier 9. I think that it was owned by Beaver Marine (now part of MacNally Marine).

Friday, May 7, 2010

Newest Stevns tug

Stevns Breaker arrived early this morning fresh from East Isle Shipyard in Prince Edward Island. The tugs is the latest in a series built for Nordane Shipping of Denmark. After trials over the next few days, the tug will head off across the Atlantic.

The tug is a near sister to several tugs built by Irving Shipbuilding for the same owner. After a period of charter work all of the tugs have been sold on to other owners.

Her name is a little different from her predecessors, that had names like Iceflower, Icequeen and Icecap. This time the "ice" is dropped, because strictly speaking she is not an icebreaker. She is however ice capable.
She went right into trials with a run to Bedford Basin in the morning, then returning to pier 23 in the afternoon for bollard pull trials.
Update: Following Friday's trials, the tug was due to enter the Scotiadock II floating drydock in Halifax Shipyard for survey on Saturday morning. As the tug entered the dock, the dock continued to sink uncontrollably, and came to rest on the bottom. Fortunately the tug was not secured in the dock, and it was able to exit without damage.
A major salvage operation will be needed to raise the drydock, so Stevns Breaker may be in port a bit longer than planned.
Events surrounding the salavage of the drydock will covered in Shipfax.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Navy tugs at work

Glenside and Glenevis were called in the berth HMCS Toronto at the Maritime Museum at noon time. It was a tight squeeze, but the tugs were quickly lashed up and moved the ship bodily alongside the Yokohma fenders.
These tugs, with their Voith Schneider propulsion can move forward, aft or sideways with ease, and with almost full power. Their cut away bridge wings just clear the ship's sides, and their high wheelhouses allow the master to view the deck party and Queen's Harbour Master berthing pilot. Note also these tugs do not use tires as fenders.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Atlantic Towing in Halifax

Atlantic Spruce and Atlantic Larch berthed the post-Panamax container ship OOCL Dubai this morning (below). Then this afternoon Larch escorted the same ship out. (above)

Atlantic Elm showed up this afternoon with the the barge Atlantic Seal for Halifax Shipyard. They were met off Halterm by Atlantic Spruce which then transferred two deck hands from Elm to the barge. They tied up the barge at pier 6.