Thursday, May 30, 2013

Ocean Echo II and Betsiamites - controversy at the Strait

1. Océan Echo II and Betsiamites with a typical load of wood chips, approaching Trois-Rivières, QC in 2006.

It is not often that a tug and barge cause a controversy, but such was the case at Port Hawksbury, NS on May 29 when the tug Océan Echo II and its barge Betsiamites arrived with a load of wood chips for the Port Hawksbury Paper Co.

The mill was re-started under new owners last year, and they were having a dispute with truckers and wood lot owners over the price for wood. Last week the drivers agreed to resume deliveries after withholding wood for a week. At the time it was estimated that the mill only had about a week's supply of raw material on hand. Apparently the mill owners decided that they needed some insurance against future disruptions and hired a load of chips from Quebec.
Océan Echo II and Betsiamites normally run on the St.Lawrence River, with wood chips or sawdust from Port Cartier to Trois-Rivières, but are known to make one off trips to other mills as needed.
The tug and its barge were built in 1969 by Port Weller Drydock (with another barge, the Sault-au-Cocohon*) and operated a shuttle service between Forestville and Quebec City with pulpwood, on a ten year charter, with purchase option. Atlantic + Pacific Barge Transportation Ltd of Vancouver arranged the deal and had Jackson, Talbot, Walkinshaw naval architects design the tug and barges. The tug was originally named Atlantic but was renamed Laval in 1975.It is a twin screw, in nozzles, with 3,000 bhp from a pair of 6 cyl Werkspoor engines.

The original deal with Anglo-Canadian Pulp+Paper's subsidiary St.Charles Transportation, was transferred to Reed Paper Co when they acquired the Quebec City paper mill and they exercised the purchase option.

In 1988 Reed International plc sold the mill to Daishowa Paper Mfg Co Ltd and they operated the tug and barges through Daishowa Maritime Inc until the early 1990s. With the switch from pulpwood to chips, the barge continued in service for a time, but was laid up frequently, and it was sold to Groupe Océan.
2. Océan Echo II free of its barge.

In July 1996 Groupe Océan renamed it Océan Echo II. They also modified it with a new coupling system to integrate it with the barge. It still has the capability to tow the barge if needed.

They have now been joined in the Groupe Océan fleet by the tug Mega and barge Motti , delivered earlier this year from Europe. That pair were re-registered in Canada on May 23 with owners listed as Travaux Maritimes Océan Inc.

Océan Echo II has not been confined exclusively to the St.Lawrence, and has made a few trips into the Atlantic. The first was in 1979 when it came to Halifax to tow the barge Jean-Raymond to Quebec City. It was back in Halifax in June 2008 when it towed the barge Timberland from Halifax Shipyard to Quebec.
In the meantime it had made a number of trips, with the barge, to Sheet Harbour, NS to load wood chips, also for Quebec.

* Sault-au-Cochon was the barge that went aground off Pictou while in tow of Florence M November 8, 2010, spilling much of its load of pulpwood.It was later freed and broken up at the Aecon-Fabco shipyard in Pictou. 


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