Friday, October 28, 2011

Penn No.6

The big US flag tug Penn No.6 came over to Halifax from Imperial Oil and tied up at the Svitzer dock today. It is only when you get to see one of these tugs up close that you can appreciate how big they really are.

Penn No.6 was built in Slidell, LA by Southern Shipbuilding as Robert Alario in 1970. At 149' length overall and 35' breadth, the tug packs 5700 bhp delivered by two V-16 GMs. Morania Tanker Corp of New York bought the tug in 1992 and renamed it Morania No.6. Morania, founded in 1947, merged into Penn Maritime in 2000, but had shared common ownership since 1985. The tug changed its name as part of the merger and its colour too. Instead of the Morania red, it became Penn grey.

Penn moved its headquarters to Stamford, CT, but it maintains a base on Staten Island and also has an office in Slidell, LA.

Penn specializes in asphalt and heavy fuel transport, and has a fleet of a dozen tugs and barges. The barges are double hull, and the tugs are a mix of wire tow and articulated.

Penn No.6 is a wire tow tug, which can also push in the notch using face wires and has large pads to fit into the barge notch. Its massive tow winch and deck gear are typical of tugs of this size, built to handle very big barges.

See Halifax Shipping News for some excellent photos of the tug's arrival in Halifax towing Barge 120. The barge was built in 2002 and measures 7320 gross tons, 18,000 tons deadweight, and has a capacity of 115,000 bbls of black oil in six heated tanks. (All US units of measure)

Penn Maritime tugs are constant visitors to the Irving Oil refinery in Saint John and make calls in Halifax from time to time.

This evening it went back to Imperial Oil and picked up its barge, now fully loaded, and went out to anchor until the wind dies down.


Monday, October 24, 2011

New Life in the old Vim

1. Point Vim at the IEL dock this afternoon.

2. The tug now has a winch and a knuckleboom crane, and new wheelhouse doors.

3. In its heyday in Halifax harbour the tug was called out in all weathers to berth ships, including this blustery Palm Sunday in 1978. Note the single radar and standard compass atop the wheelhouse, which was also fitted with wooden doors.

The once familiar Point Vim returned to Halifax for the first time in five years, showing off her new look.

Built in 1962 for the Foundation Company of Canada's towing operations as Foundation Vim, the tug worked all around Atlantic Canada before settling down to duties as a harbour tug in Port Hawksbury and Halifax. By that time Eastern Canada Towing had renamed her Point Vim (in 1974) and installed a fixed nozzle on her single open prop (in 1981.)

With the demand for more powerful tugs in Halifax, she was in reserve for several years until Svitzer Canada sold her in 2006 to Davis Shipping of Wesleyville, NF. Since then she has had numerous upgrades. The visible ones include a towing winch, a knuckle boom crane, and new watertight wheelhouse doors to replace the wooden relics that she was built with.

Still powered by her original 1,000 bhp Fairbanks Morse, she is going strong at 49 years of age.

The tug arrived towing the barge NT1032 with a load of metal fabrications from Bull Arm, NF. The cargo was unloaded this afternoon.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Salvor now (and back then)

The McKeil tug Salvor arrived this afternoon towing the pollution control barge John P. Oxley from Shelburne. The barge has just completed a refit at Shelburne Ship Repair, and was returned to its berth at the Ultramar dock in Eastern Passage. The barge was built in 2001 by les chantiers Verreault in Méchins, QC and this is the first time it has left Halifax in the interim.
1. Salvor tied up at the Svitzer dock after completing its tow.

2. Salvor leaves the Eastern Passage bound for Halifax.

3, Salvor leaves the Ultramar dock in Eastern Passage after delivering the barge John P. Oxley.

4. Esther Moran arrived in Halifax 1982-05-03. One of her halyards has come free, but she looked quite trim in her Moran colours of green hull, red house, black funnel and huge white M.

The Salvor has been used in a variety of jobs since its acquisition by McKeil in 2000. In August it was pushing the barge Lambert Spirit on the St.Lawrence and Lakes.
The tug was built in 1963 for Moran Towing of New York and was named Esther Moran. It visited Halifax under this name in 1982 to tow out the El Paso Columbia. It was paired at that time with a sister tug M.Moran, which also was acquired by McKeil and renamed Salvager in 2000, and Wilf Seymour in 2004.) It is also in barge service, pushing the Alouette Spirit from Sept Iles to the Great Lakes.

Monday, October 17, 2011

With a little help

Most cruise ships using Halifax do not request tug assistance. They are all bristling with thrusters, and certainly do not want tugs with their black old tire fenders scuffing up their nice white hulls.

However once in a while they do take a tug. Such was the case today with AIDAaura, which was tied up inside pier 23, in a narrow camber, and it was windy.

I don't believe that Atlantic Willow needed to touch the ship however. I think she just put her line up to the ship's stern and pulled her out and helped to turn her to seaward. The tug was built for duty in Point Tupper, and is the only Atlantic Towing tug registered in Port Hawksbury.

Atlantic Willow is a 4,000 bhp stern drive tug built in 1998. She is fitted with fire-fighting gear, but has no towing winch.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

"New" tug in town

1. Looking bright and clean Atlantic Hemlock goes out to assist the container ship Thailand Express, October 10.

2. Dressed all over, Hemlock gets away from the dock in St-Malo, France to put on a display. May 17, 2000.

Atlantic Towing Ltd has shuffled some of its tugs around, resulting in a "new to us" tug in Halifax, at least for a while.

One of the regular tugs has been gone since August. At last report Atlantic Fir is towing the barge Atlantic Marlin in the Gulf of St.Lawrence after sailing from Valleyfield, QC last week.

Atlantic Hemlock arrived here October 4 towing the barge Atlantic Swordfish. Atlantic Larch took over the tow, departing October 7 and is now off the west coast of Newfoundland.

Atlantic Hemlock is now on harbour duties in Halifax.

Built in 1996 at Eastisle Shipyard, she is a 4,000 bhp ASD, but has at least one distinction.

She is one of only two tugs of this class to have made two Atlantic crossings under her own power.[The other is the Fjord Saguenay, based at La Baie, QC.]

In early 2000 Hemlock was sent to Europe to promote the East Isle yard's tug program and spent some time there. She may have been to Rotterdam, but in May she attended events surrounding the International Tug & Salvage Conference, and I saw her performing in St-Malo, France.

In July of 2000 she assisted in cable repair work off Broadstairs, UK and then spent time in Southampton. I'm not sure when she returned to Canada, but I assume it was in the fall of 2000.

Since that time the tug has been a bit of a roamer, working on various towing jobs for Atlantic Towing, from the Saint John, NB base. In 2001 she was contracted to tow various submarines and warships in the filming of the Harrison Ford moved K-19:the Widowmaker in Halifax Harbour.


Sunday, October 9, 2011

The state of Emergency Towing

1. The tug Hellas in happier times. Towing the Canadian Mariner on the St.Lawrence River, with the tug Avantage on the stern, off St-Fidèle, QC, 2007-08-17.

2. Would a rescue tug have made a difference? Abeille Languedoc, one of the French rescue tugs, seen here off St-Malo, 2000-05-17. Even bigger tugs have since been added to the fleet.

The Province of Nova Scotia has arrested the tug Hellas in Sydney, NS in order to secure a bond or other instrument to cover the potential cost of removing and remediating the wreck of the former Great Lakes bulk carrier Miner.

Hellas had the bulker under tow for Turkey to be scrapped when the line parted in bad weather and the ship ran ashore September 20 on Scatarie Island, at the northeast corner of Cape Breton Island. Since that time Mammoet, appointed as salvors by the tug owners, have removed some fuel oil and ballast waste from the ship.

The ship has received storm damage since grounding and there is now legitimate doubt about whether it can be removed intact, or will have to be broken up in situ.

The press and enthusiast websites are rife with speculation on the topic, and of course at this point it is a matter of wait and see. Press reports indicate that no pollution has been detected, and this is not surprising, since there was no fuel aboard save that to run a lighting generator.

The grounding site is a sensitive ecological zone and a Provincial nature reserve. Thus the Province of Nova Scotia has an interest beyond the normal Federal government interest.

I have written on the Shipfax blog about the Federal government's response.

Over the years a number of scrap tows have been lost en route and that should not be surprising, since the ships were old and not intended for deep sea voyages. That more of them have not been lost is perhaps a tribute to the tug crews. We do not know how many have been adrift for periods of time during the transatlantic voyages, but there have been several, including one in the Gulf of St.Lawrence last year. Most have been recovered and reached the destination - usually Turkey.

Some questions have been asked about tug availability during the time that Miner was adrift. The tug Hellas was not able to re-establish a tow line, and when the ship finally did go ashore, was not able to pull it off. Would a rescue tug have made a difference?

Today's reality is that "rescue" tugs do not exist in Canada. Tugs in eastern Canada are usually under contract and cannot drop what they are doing. Even if they could do so, they are not fitted for salvage work. There are also relatively few such tugs in the area. In fact there are only two deep sea tugs in eastern Canada: Ryan Leet (8800 bhp, based in Halifax) and Ocean Delta (5600 bhp, based in Quebec City). The normal 4,000 bhp to 5,000 bhp harbour tugs have some capability at sea, but would be hard pressed in severe conditions.

Even the multi-purpose anchor handling supply vessels used in the oil industry are rare in Nova Scotia these days. There are several working off Newfoundland, but they are many miles away from the Nova Scotia coast, and are fully booked.

In the UK right now there is a big hue and crew regarding the Coast Guard standby tugs. The government decided to withdraw this service as a cost cutting measure, and one of the tugs was sold. I hear that they have had second thoughts and may have put the cuts on hold now, due to public pressure. Nevertheless it is an expensive business to keep tugs on standby, ready for emergency. In the UK, France, Holland and Germany there are almost a dozen such tugs. Spain probably has almost as many itself (of varying sizes) but one has to remember that the density of ship traffic, particularly tankers, is intense in the Channel and North Sea, and the risk of accident is much higher. The history of accidents is also horrific, and the need for dedicated rescue tugs is hard to deny.

Here on the east coast of Canada ship traffic is minuscule compared to western Europe, and the chances of an accident with serious pollution or threat to life is much, much lower. Shipping activity is spread thinly over a wide area, with only a few "choke points" such as the Cabot Strait.

However should this be the basis for our government not providing some sort of emergency response capability?

It is all very well for the authorities to expect the towing tug to recover its lost tow, but in the event that that the tug itself is disabled, where would another tug come from? And how long would it take to get there?

What would happen in the event of a collision or grounding of a ship that had no attendant tug - who would respond?

In today's world the experienced salvage companies do not maintain salvage stations as they once did. They fly people and equipment to the site of casualties (and do so very quickly) but rely on locally sourced tugs when they need them, hired on a daily rate.

If a salvor needed a 10,000 bhp tug in Nova Scotia today, none would be available. Period. The nearest source might be Europe unless one of the oil industry vessels could be spared.

My proposal is that the Canadian government station salvage and rescue tugs in Sydney, NS and Yarmouth, NS, with a third tug based in Halifax and able to roam. It should be available for summer in the arctic, since there are no tugs there either (they had to send one from Quebec City two years ago.)

These should be dedicated 10,000 bhp plus tugs, able to tow anything that sails in Canadian waters and should not be sent off on hydrographic surveys or fishery patrols. If built to modern standards of energy efficiency they should not be costly to operate. Yes they will cost bucks to build, but no insurance is free.

I would also be surprised if any of them was called out in an emergency more than once a year. The question then is can they be justified or not. As insurance against the inevitable I say we can't afford not to have them.