Sunday, October 28, 2012

World's Most Powerful Tugs (again)

1. Even alongside at pier 33, Wolraad Woltemade exuded power.

Holder of the World’s Most Powerful title for a short tine were the South African pair, John Ross and Wolraad Woltemade. Built in response to the closure of the Suez Canal, when then supertankers were rounding the Cape of Good Hope, they were to be capable of towing the largest ships then in service. Completed in 1976, S.A.John Ross was built by Robb Caledon in Leith, Scotland and S.A.Wolraad Woltemade by James Brown and Hamer in Durban. They were given the radio call sings ZTUG and ZTOW respectively and took up station in Cape Town, but were also available for world wide towing when the Suez re-opened.

Powered by a pair of Mirrleess-Blackstone 16 cylinder engines they delivered 19,200 bhp to a single screw in a fixed nozzle for 150 tonnes bollard pull. They had all the usual salvage gear and a 30 tonne derrick for line handling.

Initially operated by SAFMarine, the state shipping company, ownership evolved into Pentow Marine and the “S.A.” prefixes were dropped in 1977. The Dutch operator Smit became a partner in Smit Pentow, which eventually became Smit Amandla Marine Pty Ltd. In 2003 John Ross became Smit Amandla.

The 30 tonne derricks were later removed, changing their appearance dramatically. In 2010 Woolrad Woltemade was sent to the scrappers in India, but Smit Amandla is still working in South Africa and has been involved in numerous salvages and tows.

Wolraad Woltemade arrived in Halifax September 25, 1985 to tow the jack-up drill rig Rowan Gorilla III to the Gulf of Mexico, it sailed September 29. It was back again November 25 and sailed November 26 with the jack-up Rowan Juneau, also for the Gulf of Mexico. Off Hatteras the big tug threw a con-rod, blowing out one side of one engine and it had to give up the tow to a Smit tug to complete the job. (Probably Smit New York, but never confirmed.)
2. The tug's massive derrick was intended to raise its towing gear and lift it aboard large ships.

3. No stern roller, but a smooth bulwark, showing lots of chain wear.

One wonderful story I heard about these tugs was recounted by the former delivery skipper of a dredge. They had set out from Brazil for southern Africa but had a main engine break down  in the mid-south Atlantic, and were unable to make repairs themselves. Conditions were getting fairly desperate aboard the small ship, and its owners called for tug assistance. 
Almost with out warning they spotted the derrick many miles off and suddenly one of this pair of tugs came sweeping down on them doing at least twenty knots, did a complete circle around the dredge and came to a halt exactly in position to pay out a tow line.
My friend stated that the tug was built to military specs and their advertised 20 knot maximum speed was probably understated by five knots or more. When I quized a South African tug man on this, he pooh-poohed the idea, but was not convincing.
That the tugs were built for speed could not be disputed however, because they were intended to respond to sudden emergencies over a wide area off South Africa.

Friday, October 26, 2012

World's Most Powerful Tug (for a time)

1. Oceanic alongside Purdy's wharf after a rig tow.

A pair of German tugs held the title for most powerful tug between about 1969 and 1976.
Built in Bremerhaven for Bugsier-Reederei-und Bergungs AG, the Oceanic and Atlantic initially had two 16 cylinder KHD engines giving 12,800 bhp through twin screws. In 1975 their bollard pull was increased to 152 tonnes when the two controllable pitch props were fitted with nozzles. (They also had three rudders)
in 1985, long after they had relinquished their titles, they were re-engined with a pair of new 16 cylinder Duetz diesels giving 13,190 bhp total, but burning heavy fuel. The bollard pull was then rated at 160 tonnes.
In 1993 the Arctic was sold to become the pirate radio station Arctic Research while Oceanic had entered permanent layup and conservation in their home port of Bremerhaven.
The tugs were designed as ocean-going salvage and firefighting tugs, and as such could their design speed was 20.5 knots. They were also fitted for long distance towing, and that is how Oceanic arrived in Halifax on December 7, 1982, with the semi-submersible drilling rig John Shaw on the end of a tow line.
2. Oceanic sailing light, with the rig John Shaw in the background.

3. The large funnel was a fake. The twin derrick posts are also exhaust uptakes and support a boom for line handling. Note the tow line stretched taught across the after deck.

Oceanic was delivered by the builders on June 6, 1969 (the hull was built by Rickmers Rhederei, and tug completed by F. Schichau) and arrived in Halifax August 30, 1969, having already delivered an oil rig to Sable Island.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Another tug boat sinks in Portsmouth, NH

1. Seahorse was participating in the Boston Tug Muster & Parade in August 1994.

For the second time this  year a tug sank in Portsmouth NH while working on the new Memorial Bridge between Kittery, ME and Portsmouth NH.
On Wednesday the strong currents on the Piscataqua River swept the tug under a barge, but two men aboard were able to escape without getting wet.
As usual these days, someone caught the incident on video, and it has been posted on You-Tube:

The tug was built in Houma, LA in 1968 as Harvey Raider and has carried the names Gaby Lynn Gisclair, Seahorse, John O, Harbor Lights, Buras Lady, Jenny Anne and most recently Benjamin Bailey. It was carrying the latter name when it sank and is owned by Riverside Marine Construction Inc of Eliot, ME.
Efforts to raise the tug will be made in the next few days.
A typical "southern tug" it has a large accommodation block on a small 65 foot long hull, minimum freeboard, and puts out 500 bhp.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Siberian Sea - US tug brings bunker fuel to Halifax

1. Siberian Sea arrived off Halifax towing the barge Columbia. After the pilot was aboard she moved to the push position.

2. Using a shallow notch, the tug pushes with traditional face wires to hold its position.

The US flag tug Siberian Sea (ex Heidi C. Roehrig, Matthew, Star Avjet, Texaco Avjet) arrived this afternoon with the fully loaded bunkering barge Columbia (4,286 gross tons, built 1993) all the way from New York.
Due to the unavailability of low sulphur bunkering fuel in Halifax, the operators of the tanker Kometik and Maatea ordered in the fuel. The tug and barge came alongside Komitek this evening and when completed the tanker Mattea will come in from an outer anchorage for her fuel.
The tug was built in 1980 by Jakobson Shipyard in Oyster Bay, NY, builder of many east coast US tugs over the years. It is fitted with a very high wheelhouse, to permit visibility over her barge when it is in ballast.
Owned successively, after Texaco, by Weeks Marine, Roehrig, and K-Sea, ownership is now listed as Kirby Offshore Marine Operating LLC. Kirby acquired K-Sea, making it one of the largest tug/fuel barge operators in the US, merging Kirby's intracoastal and river fleet with K-Sea's harbour and sea-going units.
The tug is powered by a pair of V-12 GM EMDs, giving 3,000 bhp through two fixed pitch open screws.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Svitzer Ocean Towing - folds up tent

1. Rowan Gorilla III arriving Halifax with Smit Singapore.
In an announcement that surprised the industry, giant Svitzer (owned by A.P.Moller, Maersk) has exited the ocean towing business. Stating that ocean towing does not fit the company's business model, Svitzer Ocean Towage BV has listed its three remaining tugs for sale.
Svitzer, in its current form, much prefers terminal tug operations with contracts for services which may include line handling and other duties. This was the business that Cory Towage specialized in, and which Svitzer acquired through its purchase of Wijsmuller, thus ending up as owners of Eastern Canada Towing.

Two of the three tugs in Svitzer Ocean Towing held the title as word's most powerful for a short time. That elusive title seemed to change hands yearly in the late 1970s, but does not diminish the fact that the three are very big and very powerful boats. Built originally for Smit-Tak International Towing & Salvage of the Netherlands, they were transferred to SmitWijs Towage BV in a joint venture arrangement between Smit and Wijsmuller in 1988. When Svitzer (of Denmark) took over Wijsmuller (of the Netherlands) the big tugs formed the nucleus of Svitzer Ocean Towage BV, which remained a Dutch company, based in Hoofddorp, Netherlands.

The tugs were quite revolutionary for their time, with centre wheelhouse, twin stacks and aft facing bridge control station, similar to offshore tug/suppliers.

Two of the tugs came to Halifax in their Smit days:
Smit London was built in 1975  by Merwede in Hardinxveld, Netherlands. It and sister Smit Rotterdam
 (which has not visited Halifax) were powered by four Stork diesels, producing 13,500 bhp driving twin screws in nozzles and 167 tonnes bollard pull. They were fitted for towing, salvage and fire fighting. 

2. Smit London sails from Halifax, light tug, December 21, 1988. (see below for why!)

3. Smit London makes up the tow of Rowean Gorilla I December 7, 1988- read what happened below.
In 1988 the tugs were renamed SmitWijs London and SmitWijs Rotterdam and with the Svitzer takeover were renamed London and Rotterdam.

The third sister, Smit Singapore was built in 1984 by Royal Niestern Sander in Delzijl to essentially the same spec, but producing 189 tonnes bollard pull. It was additionally fitted for anchor handling.
4. Smit Singapore has just towed in the rig Rowan Gorilla III from the US Gulf. The rig's legs were shortened from 605 to 370 feet to reduce stress during the tow.
5. She backs into her berth at pier 24.
6. Crew members prepare to stow the towing line.
7. The stern rails and roller get lots of wear and tear during a tow.\

In 1988 it became SmitWijs Singapore and in 2000 Singapore.
Smit London had a very close call in December 1988. It left Halifax December 8 towing the jack-up drilling rig Rowan Gorilla I. On December 14 the rig began to take on water in very rough seas southeast of Nova Scotia and eventually capsized and sank. A riding crew of 27 were very lucky to be able to board and launch a rescue capsule and Smit London was able to save them all. The tug returned to Halifax December 18 where an inquiry was held. The inquiry found that the rig's hull cracked due to stresses from its 500 foot high legs. The loss of the rig prompted the end of transatlantic "wet tows" of jack ups, and lead to more dry tows (on barges) but more importantly, to the use of semi-submersible heavy lift ships, and the loss of business for tugs.
This latter development is certainly a factor in Svitzer's decision to get out of the ocean towing business. The high cost of building replacements for the aging ocean tugs would also be a factor, particularly if profit margins are thin due to the competition from alternative forms of transport.
8. Smit London sails (again). Her skipper received high praise for rescuing all 27 crew of the rig in high seas.

9. Rowan Gorilla I in October 1988. Note the extreme height of its legs.

Although all three tugs are old, Svitzer has spent a lot of money in upgrades, and all three would be excellent additions to a small fleet. My hope would be that a Canadian operator would buy at least one so that we would have a powerful potential rescue tug based on the Atlantic coast of Canada.

Monday, October 15, 2012

More USSR Rescue tugs

Among the various classes of rescue tugs associated with the USSR's fshing fleets there were two small classes of tugs that I used to see in Halifax.

Gerakl class

These were much bigger tugs than the Orel class, but carried out essentially the same duties, providing salvage, rescue and towing services to the Warsaw Pact fishing fleet, which included Poland, East Germany and even Romania for time.
Built in 1974 in the Netherlands and rated at 6800 bhp, they were also ice strengthened.
1. Gektor dwarfs Besstrashnyy at Purdy's Wharf in Halifax. It was built by IHC Verschure in Amsterdam
2. Gektor ,call sign URKY, also carried the fleet number KCH-0610. The letter K indicated it was a member of the Kaliningrad Baltic fleet. The CH meant that it was a tug. In the 1990s it was chartered out to Dutch owners for salvage and towing, but was broken up in Alang, India in August 1990.

3. Gigant was built by the same builder, and carried call sign URJQ. Its fleet number was MCH-0819, meaning it was attached to the Murmansk fleet.

4. In 1989 it arrived in Halifax to tow the tanker Coastal Canada (renamed Coastal 1) to Alang India for scrap.

5. In 1994 it was laid up in Long Beach, CA with mechanical troubles and abandoned. Eventually sold at auction it was rebuilt in to an expedition super yacht in 2003 and renamed Giant I .

Another class, of which only one ship ever visited Halifax was the Stroptivyy class. These were really ocean going icebreakers, rated at 7,600 bhp. They were capable of towing the largest USSR mother ships and returning to port in mid-winter.
1. Stakhanovets was a big ship of 2635 gross tons, built in 1980 by Wartsila, Helsinki.
2. The ship carried a full suite of salvage gear and could support diving. It was attached to the Murmansk fleet, (MCH-0425) with radio call sign ULJV.

3. A close up of the stern shows the heavy ice knives at the rudders and the Baltic stern notch. The notch is used for tight tethered escort in ice. Towing gear however appears to be much lighter than on the other tugs.
 In 1995 the ship was lengthened about 7m increasing tonnage to 3121 gross. As far as I know it is still operating.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

USSR Rescue Tugs

From the 1960s to the late 1980s the USSR and other Warsaw pact countries had a huge fishing operation in Atlantic Canadian waters. There were hundreds of trawlers, and support ships, including factory ships, mother ships, water tankers and rescue tugs.
The USSR in particular had fishing fleets based in Tallin, Kaliningrad and Murmansk working in the area, and each fleet had at least one rescue tug to assist with repairs, diving and towing. Engine breakdowns and nets caught in propellors, collisions between trawlers and medical emergencies were common, and the tugs responded , often towing the effected ships into Halifax wheere they could be repaired.
In this period there were three classes of tugs, but the ones I liked best were the late 1950s/early 1960s Orel [eagle] class. There were two types within this class, the first had 5 cyl MAN engines with the foremast stepped ahead of the bridge. The second had 7 cylinder MAN engines with foremast stepped  on the wheelhouse. All were built by Valmet in Turku, Finland (one in Helsinki) between 1957 and 1963. The tugs were reinforced for ice, and had cut away icebreaking bows below the waterline. They also had a large derrick, rescue type lifeboats, towing winch and heavy stongbacks on the after deck.
Here is a look at some of the tugs that called in Halifax:
1. A typical scene of the tug Slavniy [Glorious]with a small trawler it has towed in and a water tanker, at pier 23. In the 1960s, the tugs had a grey hull, the same as all ships in the fishing fleet.
Built 1959, call sign UBMG, Broken up 1981 after damage by grounding 1979.

2.Slavnij at pier 24 with another small trawler and a typical factory freezer trawler in the background.
3.Steregushchiy [Watchful] at pier 24. Note the bow fender and large rescue lifeboat. 
Built 1960, call sign UHKQ, not reported since 1999.

4. Stoykiy [Steadfast]in the revised paint scheme of black hull and orange superstructure. With the word Spastatel (Rescue) on the side.
Built 1959, call sign UBMF, broken up 1988.
5. Stoykiy has put her boat in the water and it is under the bow, attending to some repairs on the trawler alongside.

6. Stremitelniyy [Speedy]has just towed this factory trawler into pier 34. It remained alongside the ship for several days carrying out repairs. 
Built 1957, call sign UTWR, broken up 1999.
7. Other tugs in the class had the foremast stepped further aft on the wheelhouse, such as the Gordiy 
Built 1962, call sign UWFM, broken up 1993.

8. The colourful tugs, such as Besstrashniy later received covered lifeboats, which could also be used for rescue work.
Built 1963, call sign UIZE, fate unknown.
9. Kapitan Nokhrin was a frequent caller in Halifax for many years.
Built 1961, call sign UYBB, fate unknown.
10. Halifax was not the only port these tugs used. Steregushchiyy is tied up in St.John's, Newfoundland. Note the heavy fender on the stern., and the large strongbacks.
11. Back in Halifax, the same tug has loaded two used Lada automobiles to take back to the USSR. Crews often purchased items not readily  available at home, and sold them for a profit.