Thursday, July 29, 2010

Svitzer departs, Atlantic arrives

All three Svitzer tugs left Halifax this morning for Point Tupper to take up their new station. Svitzer Bedford towed Point Valiant and Point Chebucto sailed light tug. They left their dock before 7 am.

1. At right: Svitzer Bedford, towing Point Valiant (far left) while Point Chebucto (centre) overtakes. 2. Svitzer Bedford takes the lead.

3. Point Valiant brings up the rear. Her shafts were locked for the tow.

4. Point Chebucto butts into the chop to catch up to the tow, and to keep the channel clear for other ships.

Yesterday Atlantic Larch arrived and today Atlantic Spruce is due, joining Atlantic Oak to form the nucleus of Atlantic Towing's Halifax presence.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Vacation Notice

I will be on vacation for most of the time until Septmber. Since I will be out of reach of a computer, this will mean sporadic postings on this site.
I will return to normal posting in September.

Another Svitzer Update

Part of the deal that will have Atlantic Towing in control of tug services in Halifax, is the bareboat charter of the tug Point Halifax (seen above in our masthead) to Atlantic Towing.
Svitzer will thus be down to three tugs, all at Point Tupper.
Point Halifax may therefore be seen in Halifax, but it will be controlled and crewed by Atlantic Towing.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The annoucement

The announcement finally made the papers today that Svitzer Canada and Atlantic Towing have formed a joint venture for port tug services in Nova Scotia. Svitzer will handle the Strait of Canso and Atlantic Towing will handle Halifax.

There is a sad note to this, in that Svitzer and its predecessors Eastern Canada Towing, Foundation Maritime and Halifax Towboat, going back over a period of over a hundred years, have provided tugs continuously in Halifax and from the same location.
There is also an irony as well, for it was the original Gulf Oil refinery in Point Tupper (which is now the NuStar terminal, and no longer a refinery) and the Shaheen refinery in Come-by-Chance, Newfoundland, that brought Smit &Cory International to Canada. Smit & Cory formed Eastern Canada Towing (Ectug) and acquired the assets of Foundation Maritime in 1971. Smit eventually bowed out of the partnership and Cory was eventually taken over by Wijsmuller then Svitzer.

It was obvious when Atlantic Towing made the move into Halifax five years ago that something would have to give. Neither company was making enough money to support the number of tugs here. There were as many as eight tugs here at one time, but for the first year or two it was a standoff as Irving syphoned off more and more business from Svitzer.
Eventually both companies found a way to cooperate to "borrow" each others tugs as needed so that ships were always served. But there was still far too much idle time for tugs and crews.
Svitzer found some outside work for some of their tugs, such as winter work in Freeport Bahamas for Svitzer's parent company. But this was certainly less than successful last year when Point Halifax was seriously damaged in ice in the Belle Isle Strait and Svitzer Bedford had an engine room fire off Quebec City.

The new joint venture will put Svitzer in as operators at NuStar in Point Tupper - a fit that is better for the parent Svitzer, which specializes in terminal tugs around the world. Svitzer needs at least one new tug, but could not support such an investment based on current business in Halifax. Their businesses in Baie Comeau and Sept-Iles suffered from the recession and both also need investment in new tugs. Perhaps with the losses in Halifax now at an end, they can begin to plan for that. It seems likely with this new announcement that Point Halifax, when it is again operational, will be deployed in Point Tupper and Quebec, as Svitzer will have no presence in Halifax.

Atlantic Towing very much wants a presence in Halifax due to their parent Irving's shipyard and the tanker traffic here, much of which services Irving Oil, directly or indirectly.
As the only tug operator in Halifax, they will need four or more tugs here. It will be interesting to see how they accomplish this as their resources are spread fairly thin now.

Svitzer will be sending Point Chebucto, Svitzer Bedford and Point Valiant off to Point Tupper next week. As of today Atlantic Towing has only Atlantic Oak in Halifax.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Changes coming

1. Svitzer Bedford and Atlantic Oak head out to berth Algoma Guardian.

Big changes are coming in the tug business in Halifax by the end of July.

On August 1 Svitzer will be taking over the tug contract at NuStar Energy in Port Tupper on the Strait of Canso. The contract, long held by Atlantic Towing, was won by Svitzer in a recent competitive bid. NuStar (formerly known as Statia Terminals) has been operating since 1992 and provides petroleum and chemical storage. It accommodates some very big tankers and operates as a transhipment point for crude oil from Newfoundland to US and Canadian ports. I t also has storage facilities for gasoline, gasoline components, furnace oil, diesel oils and butane.

Svitzer Canada (Eastern Canada Towing Ltd) will station three tugs there, namely Svitzer Bedford, Point Chebucto and Point Valiant. While the tugs will be stationed at Point Tupper, they will also provide tug services for other customers in the Strait area, including Georgia Pacific Gypsum, Martin Marietta's stone quarry at Cape Porcupine (Auld's Cove), tug assistance for the Canso lock and for US Gypsum's operation at Grand Narrows on the Bras d'Or Lake.

Meanwhile back in Halifax, Svitzer will have Point Halifax, when it returns to service. (It is still undergoing rebuilding of its thrusters after last August's accident) and one other tug "not currently in its fleet and yet to be identified"
Meanwhile, Atlantic Towing will redeploy at least one of its Point Tupper tugs to Halifax, and possibly two.

While the statement has been made that Halifax is not a six tug port, it is hard to imagine it working with only four. So many ships arrive and depart all at the same time, that there may be delays if the tugs are not available right when needed, and no shipping companies will want delays.
As it stands now, Svitzer and Atlantic Towing provide tugs to each other as needed, and that will need to continue.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Plainsville rebuilding

Typical of the small "pup" tugs built for the Canadian Navy in World War II, Plainsville has had a varied career since coming out of Russel Bros shipyard in Owen Sound, ON in November 1944.
Following naval service in Sydney, NS, she served the Department of Transport/Coast Guard for a time, but she seems to have escaped much notice.
She turned up in Halifax in 1997 working for LeGrow's Marine. They used her extensively for towing work barges and service scows, but sold her off a couple of years ago. Since then she has lain in Sambro, NS. This year she got some hull work and a coat of paint, but her house is in need of attention.
It appears that someone has decided she is worth the work to keep her going.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Quebec City tugs

While in Quebec City last week end I did not see any tugs in action, but there were lots of tugs and workboats in evidence. Groupe Océan's harbour tugs were lined up neatly at their berths in the outer Louise Basin. All three were built at East Isle shipyard in Georgetown to the same Robert Allen design.
Ocean Bertrand Jeansonne, Ocean Henry Bain and Ocean Keith Rusby are at the ready for berthing a tanker expected later in the day.
Also tied up at Oceans' float is Ocean Delta, their big sea going tug.