Monday, July 28, 2014

Newfoundland Tug News


The veteran tug/supplier Riverton has left the Canadian flag after a memorable career. Built in 1975 Scheepsw. “De Waal” in Zaltbommel, Netherlands as Smit-Lloyd 112 it was powered by a pair of 6 cyl Werkspoors delivering 7,500 bhp through twin screws with controllable pitch props and two thrusters.
It worked under the Dutch flag for Smit-Lloyd until 1989 when it was acquired by the Royal Canadian Navy. Arriving in Halifax March 29, 1989 it went into refit in Dartmouth and emerged as Riverton. The second tug of the name in the RCN, it was used for a variety of chores including target towing, but rarely if ever did a major tow.

There was some controversy when it was acquired as several Canadian vessels were available, but were passed over in favour of the Dutch ship, and later when the RCN acquired two more suppliers from foreign owners (even though Anticosti and Moresby were Canadian built). Prime among the objectors was Secunda Marine Services. In 1997 when the RCN decided they didn't need Riverton anymore it was chartered to Secunda, and without name change, it served them until 2002. Interestingly as a naval vessel, it was not registered. On return to the RCN it was laid up. During its RCN career it carried pennant numbers AGOR 121 and ATA 121.

In 2002 it was sold to Cape Harrison Marine of St.John's and did odd jobs including some barge towing and seismic standby in addition to offshore work.
On March 27 its Canadian register was closed and it hoisted the Panama flag. Its new owners are listed as Yacht Bilgin Shipyard Europe of Funchal, Madeira. It has since sailed for the Mediterranean.


Newly registered on July 22 is Maersk Clipper, the latest newbuilding for Maersk Supply Service Canada. From Ast. y Servicos Navale SA of Santiago, Chile, the big boat measures 6,490 gross tons and wields 13,800 bhp. It will be delivered later this year. (I suspect that bhp rating is about 4,000 bhp understated.)

Atlantic Towing has also taken delivery of their newest supplier Atlantic Merlin June 26. Built as Jaya Sovereign it measures 6200 bhp and shows 16,300 bhp. It is a sister to Atlantic Kestrel (ex Jaya Supreme) delivered in 2012.

Atlantic Towing limited has also ordered four platform supply vessels (without towing or anchor handling capability) from Damen in the Netherlands for delivery starting in 2016.

Not to be left out Secunda Marine Services has ordered a supplier from Poland.


The biggest tug operation ever to take place in eastern Canada took place last week with little fanfare. The 180,000 tonne Gravity Base Structure (GBS) for the Hebron offshore oil field was built in an enclosed earthen drydock at Bull Arm. The Dutch dredge Leonardo da Vinci was called in to dredge out the bund wall allowing the area to fill with seawater.

It took 10 hours on July 22 for a flotilla of tugs to pull the base out into deeper water in Trinity Bay. It was then anchored where it will be extended to full height (thus increasing its draft considerably). Top sides structures and components under construction as far away as Stephenville and Halifax will be barged in for placement over the coming year. McKeil Marine has assembled a large fleet of barges for this work, some new and other purchased.

While at anchor, the GBS will be serviced by a number of speedy former Quebec passenger craft (see recent posting on Shipfax).

By my count the following tugs were involved in one way or another in the pull out:
Océan A. Simard, Océan Serge Genois, Océan Bertrand Jeansonne, Océan Ross Gaudreault, Océan Arctique, Océan Stevns, Escorte; Atlantic Hemlock, Atlantic Larch, and the tug/suppliers Venture Sea and Havila Venus.

Craig Trans - unlikely yacht

The troubled tug Craig Trans has now been registered in Canada, as a pleasure craft. Its previous Bolivian registry was brought into question when it was abandoned by its owner in Halifax early in 2013.

On December 18, 2012 it came in to port with mechanical issues, in bad weather with an unpaid and hungry crew. The owner refused to pay the crew and they were repatriated to Honduras and San Salvador through public donations.  Finally creditors seized the tug and it was to be sold at auction June 13, 2013. Soon after it was moved to the far reaches of Wright's Cove in Bedford Basin and tied up at a the former Ultramar /Secunda  pier in Lower Burnside.

On July 18, 2014 it entered the Canadian Register, but as a pleasure craft it does not have to meet the standards of a commercial tug. I believe the new owner has purchased other ships for scrap, so it is unlikely that Craig Trans will be reconditioned for service.

Shortly after arriving in Halifax, the tug was boomed off as a precaution.

Built in 1943 by Tampa Marine Corp for the US Army it was named LT 648 (LT standing for Large Tug). The Army laid up the tug in 1960, and Foss Maritime of Seattle acquired in 1965. They rebuilt the tug at their own yard in 1966, replacing the original single 1343 bhp Fairbanks-Morse with a pair of 2,000 bhp EMDs. Renaming it Craig Foss they sent it far and wide. First hauling lumber barges to Hawaii, and latterly running to Alaska, it made numerous long tows to the Gulf of Mexico, Venezuela and got as far north as New Jersey on at least one trip.

Eventually in 2011 Foss said goodbye to the tug. Its first assignment for the new owners was to tow the ferry Queen of Saanich from Anvil Island, BC to Ensenada, MX for scrap in August. 2012. I don't have any details on its movements between then and December 2012 when it arrived in Halifax.

The eight member Honduran and Salvadoran crew on Craig Trans ran out of food three days before arriving in Halifax, but the tug was headed for Beauharnois, QC, ostensibly to tow out the Kathryn Spirit for scrap in  Mexico. However the tug was going to be too late to make to the Seaway before winter closure.
Since then the Kathryn Spirit has languished in Beauharnois, with the barge Jean-Raymond , as an eyesore and potential environmental disaster.
Just upstream of Montreal, on Lac St-Louis, the Beauharnois lower lock is in the foreground, the power dam in the middle ground and the Kathryn Spirit in the background.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Tusker - called Hailfax home for a while

A recent posting in Boatnerd brought back memories of the tug Tusker that had several far flung careers, one of which had its beginnings in Halifax on this day in 1980.
In July 1954 Rich and Smith of Port Adelaide South Australia commissioned Alexander Hall + Co to build the coastal, harbour and salvage tug at their Footdee shipyard in Aberdeen, Scotland. Hall built the tug with a traditional rivetted steel hull (one of the last ships to be so built in ) However her massive 12 foot diameter bronze prop was housed in a Kort nozzle, which was welded to the hull (a first). Also uniquely, the ship was fitted with two 8 cylinder 850 bhp 2cycle British Polar engines fitted with fluid coupling drives connected to a reverse reduction gearbox. The arrangement allowed the tug to operate economically on one engine, bringing the second engine into operation when full power was needed. Electric bridge controls allowed the engines to be run a 18 rpm up to 128 rpm. At 10 knots she was said to have a range of 1,000 miles. Her top speed was 14 to 15 knots, which was useful for racing to the scene of a casualty.
Of very conventional appearance for the time, she had what looked like a steamship funnel.(In fact numerous steam trawlers built by the yard had almost identical funnels).  Her crew of 20 were accommodated below deck aft and forward, also in a very traditional arrangement evolved from steam tugs.
Nevertheless she had an aluminum wheelhouse and aluminum lifeboats.
During  construction the Hall yard merged to form Hall Russel, and although the tug was launched in April 1955 strikes and and delays meant that she was not commissioned until January 1958. When it was discovered that her riveted hull was leaking and had hogged after installation of the heavy engines and gearbox, the yard welded in new plates between the ribs from the engines aft. A shallow water bollard pull test came up with a 24.8 ton rating, but it was acknowledged that a higher reading would have been made if the tests had been done in deeper water.
Sailing from Aberdeen February 2, 1958 en route for Gibraltar, the ship ran into bad weather within a week, and was called by the broken down T2 tanker Stanwell for assistance. Taking the tanker in tow in worsening conditions, Tusker had the tow line part once but re-connected very close to shore. When the line parted again the German tug Seefalke was called in. However her line parted and Tusker reconnected with mooring lines, safely delivering the tanker to La Coruna. No doubt a substantial salvage award was paid.The rest of the trip, through the Suez Canal was uneventful, and the tug arrived in her new home port March 29. She had logged 11,604 miles  with 47 steaming days
During the next several years, the tug carried out many long distance tows and salvage jobs, ranging well out into the Pacific and Indian Oceans, including one 4700 mile round trip salvage tow.
By the time she was retired from active service in 1977 she had ranged from Dampier in the northwest to Townsville in the northeast, ranging the west, south and east coasts (including Tasmania) en route.
After some harbour duties the tug was transferred to Abho Pty and towed to Singapore where she was sold.

With Ocean Science and Surveys funnel marking, Tusker was drydocked at the Dartmouth Marine Slips. Although difficult to see in this photo, the tug had a mammoth 12 foot diameter prop in an equally huge Kort Nozzle.

Purchased by Ocean Surveys and Studies of California, she made her way - we believe- from Singapore, then via the Mediterranean to the North American east coast. In 1979 she was seized by US Marshals after being implicated in drug smuggling into Nova Scotia. She was auctioned in South West Harbor, Maine  and acquired by McAsphalt Industries and brought to Halifax for reconditioning.

 Tusker alongside at the IEL dock where she completed modifications in July 1980.

Modifications for Canadian service included installing new accommodations above the waterline, and other safety features. In appearance however the tug remained largely unchanged.
Fitted for barge service by McAsphalt, the tug spent the next several years working the Lakes, east coast and and as far south as Florida, Alabama and the Bahamas.

 July 27, 1980 - Tusker on trials in Halifax.

Capt. Cliff Morrison takes the Tusker out on trials, July 27, 1980.

Tusker's classic funnel, mounted on a riveted deckhouse, featured McAsphalt's striking logo. The capital A represented a paved road with white broken centre line.
McAsphalt sold the Tusker in early 1985 with a charter back. However the new owners defaulted and McAsphalt were forced to find another buyer. She operated for Sandrin Bros out of Sarnia, ON until major repairs were need in 1989. While those were going on the tug was side swiped by a laker when tied up in Port Colborne and had to be drydocked to reset her Kort nozzle which was jammed against the prop.
After two years in idleness, the tug was sold to Nigerian owners and sailed in May 1992. Renamed Bode she set out towing the barge Remi ex Scurry the rebuilt hulk of the burned out tanker Hudson Transport. They apparently reached Africa, via Sydney, NS, Bahamas, Canary Islands and Dakar.
In September 1993 Bode was called to assist the ferry Jumbo in difficulties near San Pedro Ivory Coast, but stranded and was abandoned.

McAsphalt now operates two articulated tug / barge combinations,  Everlast / Norman McLeod and VictoriousJohn J. Carrick 


Friday, July 25, 2014

Miss Comeau graces the Digby waterfront

Known primarily for its scallop fishing fleet and the ferry service to Saint John, NB, Digby, Nova Scotia is also home to a handsome small tug, which finds work around the Annapolis Basin and comes in handy when there is an emergency.

Built in 2006 by its owners Comeau Marine Railway in Saulnierville, NS, the 7 gross ton twin screw tug is usually to be found at one of the floats at the Western Nova Scotia Yacht Club - and it does look jaunty enough to be a pleasure craft. However on close inspection it is all business.

Assisting boats on and off the nearby marine railway is one of is regular tasks. 

Well fendered and fitted with sturdy tow bits, I would estimate its horsepower at 350, but that figure is not posted in Transport Canada's on line list of shipping.

 On December 21, 2012 when the ferry Princess of Acadia lost the use of its thruster, the tug was called in to assist in berthing the 10,000 ton ship. The ferry must come alongside and back up to its loading ramp, and thrusters are essential - unless there is a tug nearby. [See today's Shipfax post for more on Princess of Acadia]

Miss Comeua sits ready amidst pleasure craft, fishing boats and a fast rescue RHIB.


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Return visit to Ile-aux-Coudes

I was back at Ile-aux-Coudres over the weekend and got a different slant on my previous post a couple of weeks ago.

At Industrie Océan, the two tugs Océan Echo II and Océan Basques remain on the slips. Since it was the weekend there was little activity in the yard, but I did get photos from the road above the yard.

From this angle the housing for the hydraulic ram is visible. These devices were added to the tug after it was acquired by Groupe Océan in 1996. It had been used face wires for its barges when built.

By comparison, the cut away icebreaking bow of Océan Basque is highly visible. The letters from the tug's original name Pointe aux Basques have been ground off to make way for its current name.

Meanwhile tug builders GFFM Leclerc were preparing to launch their latest boat. To be named Réjeanne Polaire, it is the latest in a line of small tugs, used mostly for barge handling in the north. Unfortunately it was still inside the builder's shed and not visible yet.

The design for the tugs has evolved from twin screw to triple screw, in order to maintain shallow draft, but increase power from 600 bhp to the current 1130 bhp.

 Ours Polaire, built in 1998, was the first in the series of powerful small shallow draft tugs.

 A twin screw boat, it features a small wheelhouse with all round visibility. It has not entered service this year.

The hull is heavily fendered for handling small lighters.Cercle Polaire, built in 2011 was the 7th and last of the first series of tugs.

The design has evolved to the present tripe screw version:
 The latest generation are still shallow draft, but have a larger all weather wheelhouse. Horizon Polaire , built in 2012 is the first of the triple screw series, which now numbers 4 tugs.

With three engines and three props, the operator has a range of choices for propulsion, using one, two or all three Cummins engines. Renard Polaire was built in 2013.

The tugs are lifted aboard supply ships and taken to remote sites in the north where there are no port facilities. They then ferry the lightering scows to shore. They are also available for bareboat charter and have worked various jobs in southern waters.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Atlantic Towing change

Atlantic Towing's roster changed in Halifax at the end of June. With Atlantic Larch sent to Newfoundland (her towing winch is in demand) the Atlantic Spruce is now the third tug.
Built in 1997, with 4,000 bhp and fire-fighting capability, she is essentially the same as Atlantic Willow built in 1998. Atlantic Oak rounds out the trio. Built in 2004, with 5,050 bhp and also fitted for firefighting, it is used for tethered escort work.

This Atlantic Spruce is the second tug of the name in the fleet. The first, and also the first in a series built in Georgetown PEI by East Isle Shipyard, was built in 1995. In 1997 it was sold to Johannes Ostensjo of Norway and renamed Felix. It is still operating for Ostensjo Rederi AS.  Also a 4,000 bhp ASD tug, it was not equipped with fire fighting gear.
 The first Atlantic Spruce pictured on the Dartmouth Marine Slip, preparing for handover to Ostensjo.

Although there have only been two Atlantic Spruces, the name was previously used by Atlantic Towing's parent company J.D.Irving Ltd. The tug Irving Spruce worked on the St. John River, at first with log booms, and later with chip barges, supplying Irving Pulp + Paper's mill at the Reversing Falls in Saint John, NB.

Built as TANAC 68 in 1944 by Central Bridge Co in Trenton, ON the standard tug is reputed to have worked for the U.S.Army, and was later renamed Quebec before joining J.D.Irving Ltd. They added the elevated wheelhouse, and made other upgrades to suit the tug to the work.
Its last job was towing a chip barge out of Grand Lake, NB (which it was doing in the above photo). It was laid up and finally taken to sea and scuttled October 25, 1991. 


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Quebec Report

A whirlwind tour over the Canada Day weekend brought me up to date on some Quebec tugs that I had been following recently, and some revisited old (tug) acquaintances.

As usual maintenance dredging was underway at Rivière-du-Loup (they can't start much before the end of June due to the freshet of spring run-off). Also as usual, the veteran 1961 tug Le Phil D was attending the dredge Océan Basque 2. Over the past several years, crews have been working away at painting the small tug in Groupe Océan colours. This year it was time for the corporate logo.

The small tugs Océan Nigiq and Océan Uannug with their mud scows were also in attendance. The tugs don't adjust their trim for loaded or empty scows, so are bow down or bow up depending on the scowload.

An early morning arrival in Quebec City was the tug-barge Mega + Motti finally in service for Groupe Océan. The pair have made at least one trip to Port Hawksbury, NS with wood for chips for the paper mill there, and and had another load upbound, before typing up at about 0800, likely to await a favourable tide.

Meanwhile, after sailing the French warship Mistral the classic 1973 tug Océan Charlie stood by for the arrival of the tanker Minerva Doxa.

It joined the big new 2013 tug Océan Tundra using its 8,000 bhp and 100 tonne bollard pull to slow and steer the tanker. (Rumours of a sister, to be named Océan Taiga are yet to be confirmed.)

The impressive tug was delivered during the winter, and has lost some of its blue hull paint in ice. However, the special undercoat paint remains intact and does not come off.

Speaking of paint, the Industrie Océan shipyard in Ile-aux-Coudres  has the tug Océan Baques (ext Pointe aux Basques )on the slipway. After wintering Halifax, the tug went to Quebec City for work by Océan's machine shop, but now it is ready for a sandblast and repaint into Groupe Océan colours. The 1972 era tug will likely go into service back in Sept-Iles when it is ready.

Also in the yard is the 1969 Océan Echo II. It had a grounding accident near Kingston, ON (ironically at Quebec Head) on May 8. No sign of that damage was visible.

Note the round bilges of the fully molded hull of Océan Echo II versus the hard chine hull of Océan Basque. Neither tug has bilge keels to allow for working in ice.

Océan Echo II has been replaced in wood chip barge service by Mega + Motti, so is likely in for a long stay at the ship yard. Just visible at the bow is one of the hydraulic rams for barge connection.