Friday, January 27, 2012

Orion Expeditor / Breton Sea - from the shoebox

Digging back in the files for one of my favourites:

1. Breton Sea in Halifax 1992-11-04 looking her best in Secunda Marine colours.

2. With the barge Sydtug 240 departing for Boston with two straddle carriers for the Massport Container Terminal 1992-07-24.

3. All dressed at North Sydney 1988-03-14. This is the distinctive colour scheme she wore in Beaufort Sea.

4. Arriving in Halifax 1989-03-16 after towing the Margit Gorthon in from the Gulf with ice damage. That is Capt. Tétrault on the bridge. The Swedish type full width bridge is common in hte Baltic.

5. A substantial towing winch and a cargo derrick to serve a gear hold allowed the tug to carry supplies and salvage equipment. The winch house provided better visibilty than the bridge.

6. The tug's convincing icebreaker shape is evident in this shot. Her prop, nozzle and rudder have been removed during this refit 1991-02-23, at Dartmouth Marine Slip.

The tug business has become a very capital intensive one, requiring millions of dollars to buy and many more to run a single tug, let alone a small fleet. All sizeable tugs in this part of Canada are now owned by large corporations, able to make those kinds of investments and to spend the dollars required to maintain and upgrade their fleets.
It was therefore very tough for an "owner/operator" to get into the tug business and even tougher to stay in the game. The last of these hardy types was Capt. Don Tétrault, owner of the tug Orion Expeditor.
A mariner of wide experience, he had become established in the Beaufort Sea with Arctic Offshore Ltd, and had purchased the Swedish tug Orion in 1981 to carry out contract work for the oil exploration and supply companies in the western arctic. When exploration ceased, he decided to reposition to North Sydney, NS as a freelance operation, called Sydney Tugs. He set out from Tuktoyaktuk, sailed round Alaska, via Vancouver and the Panama Canal and arrived in Sydney in 1986. His tug, now renamed Orion Expeditor, was towing a smaller tug, named Gordon Gill which broke its tow line and went missing off Alaska October 26, 1986.
Sydney tugs found work from time to time, and eventually landed a contract with Devco to berth coal ships. They also acquired a barge, Sydtug 240 to expand their ability to find work.
Regrettably in 1990 a strike at Devco left Sydtug without work, and the bank called the company’s loan.
Secunda Marine Services acquired the tug, which they renamed Breton Sea and the barge and continued the Sydney operation for a time. They moved the tug to Halifax in 1992, and Capt
Tétrault with it, but work was still hard to find. In 1994 the tug was sold back to Sweden, and at last report was still working, now in Kokkola, Finland.
A superb tug for operating in ice, it was built by Broderna Wiberg in Husum, Sweden in 1974. Fitted with an excellent 8 cyl MaK developing 3400 bhp, it had a single CP prop in a fixed nozzle, with a huge barn door rudder that could swing through nearly 90 degrees. It had an icebreaking bow, and round bilges just like an icebreaker.
It was also fitted with a towing winch, and most unusually for a Canadian tug, a cargo derrick. The tug did carry out some substantial tows, and went to the aid of several vessels in Gulf of St.Lawrence, particularly in winter ice.
Amazingly the small tug Gordon Gill eventually was found March 26, 1987 about 125 miles from where it broke tow off Dutch Harbor. Declared a constructive total loss, it was salvaged and rebuilt for Atlantic Towing and ended up on the east coast after all. Renamed Atlantic Alder in 1997 it was sold in 2001 to the Hudson Bay Port Co of Churchill, MB where it was renamed Mantaywi-Sepe. It was built in 1982 in Hay River NT and is a twin screw tug of 1600 bhp.
The barge, ex STC 101, built by Defoe Shipbuilding in Bay City, MI in 1956, became Secunda's Seabarge II. Secunda sold the barge and it became Tri-Nuk 1. In late 1998 it was sold to the Bahamas with the former Norfolk & Western push tug French River ex R.G. Cassidy, St.Joseph, LT-2194. After winteriing in Port Hawksbury the pair sailed south in spring 1999.


  1. is that the barge DD2000 in the b&w photo?

    1. I am pretty sure it is. The shed came off one of the American scows bought by Halifax shipyard when they were building the oil rigs. It was probably a lightering barge from New York at one time.

  2. Saw the tug in Kokkola, Finland while berthing there in March 2004. We had arrived there to discharge Ammonia (NH3) for the plant there that makes fertilizer, being stand-by station forward on the vessel with my camera ready I wanted to take a photo of the tug but the camera's battery gave out on me in the cold... Got a new one a week later but never returned to Kokkola before signing off in Uusikapunki, Finland in August.