Friday, October 31, 2014

Tug work at the terminals

As reported in Shipfax the Woodside ferry terminal in Dartmouth is getting a new pontoon. Meanwhile the Alderney terminal in Dartmouth and the Halifax terminal are losing their distinctive eyebrow canopies that more or less have protected passengers from the rain since the terminals were built in 1979. 

To remove the canopies Waterworks Construction is using is concrete barge Commdive II with a crawler crane on deck. To move the barge around to the various terminals, they have acquired the services of Dominion Diving's tug Roseway and they are using their own boat Waterworks 1. I have featured the latter in these pages before, since it is arguably the smallest tug working in Halifax. It is also an "open-air" tug , with all the drawbacks and benefits that go with it.

 Roseway towing and Waterworks 1 providing tethered escort services to Commdive II.

Commdive II was built in 1942 in Dartmouth, by T.C.Gorman (Nova Scotia) Ltd, a large marine construction firm. Wartime steel shortages precluded building barges of that material and wood was too fragile for the rough and tumble of marine work. The barge may have had a name or number when built, but when first registered in 1965 it was named Commdive II by its owners Commercial Divers Ltd. It was classed as a houseboat at that time, and I remember it with a wooden house-like structure on deck in the late 1960s. It may even have been a live aboard for a notorious waterfront character.

Nearing the destination, Waterworks 1 swings the barge around.

The open air tug allows for good verbal communication with the barge, but the operator has no protection if the tow line parts.

 Destination is the Halifax ferry terminal, where the crane will be used to remove the weather canopy.

Easing the barge into position Waterworks 1 is almost underneath the ferry dock.

Waterworks 1 is registered by number, and its name is unofficial.

My apologies for the following, but it is possible to get a fuzzy glimpse of Commdive II in the background, tied up at pier 3, in what is now HMC Dockyard. The former minesweeper HMCS Birch Lake as it appeared when converted to the coastal freighter Aspy III is in the foreground, with just the deckhouse of Commdive II appearing in the background, and shadows. Oh for a digital camera November 2, 1968.


Thursday, October 30, 2014

Glen tugs - long may they live

 Glenside in sub-zero (Fahrenheit) temperatures on Bedford Basin.

 In 2012 when the ship procurement folks at naval HQ sounded the waters about available commercial tug designs, with limited offshore range, etc., there was some expectation that replacements for the 1976 era Glen class tractor tugs was on the horizon. See my Tugfax post:

What they soon found out was the Irving Shipbuilding had shut down their tugbuilding operation at Eastisle Shipyard in Georgetown, PEI, Industrie Océan shipyard in Quebec was busy building tugs to their own account, and no one else in Canada was building tugs of any significant size.
Recent large tug acquisitions for Canadian owners were coming from Turkey (Seaspan) the US or Holland (Smit)*

Therefore the RCN set up the Large Tug Construction program with the following timetable:
2015 definition approval
2016 implementation approval, and Request for Proposals from builders
2018 contract award
2021-2025 final delivery
budget $100 mn to $259 mn.

The six new tugs are to replace the five existing Glens and two Fire class firefloats in Halifax and Esquimalt.

Since 2012 Damen has come up with a design of naval tug for Sweden and Holland that may be a "package" for a smaller shipbuilder to buy. There  are scores of commercial tugs designs already in production around the world, and evolutionary hull designs and propulsion systems abound (many of Canadian origin). It is a bit like shopping for a car, but once the design is chosen it seems strange to me that it would take two years to sign a contract and three years to produce the first tug.
It is also interesting that they are projecting a 25 year service life for the new tugs. The Glens will be 45 years old in 2021.
* On October 29, 2014 Smit Marine Canada Ltd registered the 2009 built Smit Saba under Canadian flag to supplement their BC fleet. It is a product of Damen's Galati, Romainia yard and is a 5,000 bhp stern drive.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Hanseat - back to the shoebox

Companion blog Shipfax is featuring the year 1984 in some recent posts, so it is time to dig into the tug shoebox for some nostalgia. Tug activity was at a peak in 1984 in Halifax with constant movements of oil rigs and several coastal tows.

The non-oil related ocean tows consisted of three old Sea-Land ships that had been laid up in Halifax. Jacksonville (ex Mission Solano), Houston (ex Mission Carmel) and Tampa (ex Mission Dolores) were built as T2 tankers, and in 1968 deepened and converted to container ships. They arrived in Halifax in 1983 for removal of their barite ballast which was salvaged for re-use in drilling mud. [Barite or baryte can be used for ballast because its basic element is barium, a heavy metal, and it is largely non-toxic, insoluable and non-magnetic. In drilling mud, it is used as a weighting agent, allowing for deeper drilling.]

In February 1984 Hamburg based Petersen + Alpers sent their newly acquired Hanseat to tow two of the ships.
 Hanseat arriving off Halifax Shipyard where the tows were laid up.

The ships were initially to be sold to China for re-use, but in the end Spanish breakers bought them.  Hanseat towed out Houston and Jacksonville as a tandem tow on February 23.They arrived in Seville March 17.

Harbour tugs Point Vigour, Point Vibert and Point Vim shepherded the tows out into the fairway. When well out of the harbour they were separated and towed in line astern.

The tug had a history of short term ownerships. Built in 1977 by Georg Eides Sonner AS in Norway as Karl Oskar, it worked for Wirens Rederi of Sweden until 1978 when it went to the East German Bagger+ Bugsier as Sturmvogel. In 1980 the Dutch company Arned acquired it and renamed it Triumph.
When it arrived in Halifax it had only recently been acquired by the legendary Hamburg owners Petersen + Alpers. In fact it sailed with uncured hull paint, some of which was washed off on the trip across the Atlantic.

In 1989 it became Zamtug IV for a mystery owner, possibly with Canadian connections, but within a year passed to McAllister Towing of New York. They renamed the tug Offshore Sovereign, flagged it in Liberia, and it was back in Halifax en route to Sheet Harbour, NS. From there it established a more or less regular barge service with paper products, to the US east coast as far south as Pensacola.

In McAllister colours, Offshore Sovereign visited Halifax in 1990.

McAllister acquired another tug for the paper barge service in 1991 (Offshore Monarch the former Belgian tug Union Four) and Offshore Sovereign passed on to other owners in 1995, without change of name. At first it raised the Vanuatu and Panama flags, then in 2012 it chose the flag of Peru. Now operating on the west coast of South America, it is owned by Offshore Express LLC of Houma, LA.

Its two 9 cyl Wichmann engines generate 6600 bhp, giving a 82 tonne bollard pull. It was also fitted with a large towing winch, and extended wheelhouse with winch controls.

Offshore Sovereign's winch dominates the stern - find the deck hand (with green LEKKO hat) under the strongback,

Hanseat at pier 32. The two old ships were moved from the shipyard to pier 33 a few days before the tow out. (February in Halifax was no time to touch up the hull paint).


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Océan Foxtrot - Canadian registry closed

 Groupe Océan has sold the veteran tug-supplier and jack of all trades Océan Foxtrot. The versatile vessel served them well for nearly twenty years in a variety of tasks including barge work, offshore, seismic standby, ship assist, salvage, cable repair (photo above) and working in ice. It has ventured as far north as Greenland for Groupe Océan, and worked in the Beaufort Sea for Canmar.
Under Océan ownership, it was also available for bareboat charter, and Miller Group of Newfoundland was one such operator.
Built in 1971 by Cochrane + Sons Ltd in Selby, England, the 5280 bhp boat was originally named Polar Shore for Offshore Marine. In 1977 it went to Dome Petroleum's Canadian Marine Drilling as Canmar Supplier VII. Québec Tugs acquired it in 1995. Groupe Océan was formed in 1998, bringing toegther Québec Tugs and other marine interests.
After an extended layup in St.John's, Newfoundland, a sale was completed earlier this fall, and the boat' s Canadian registry was closed October 3.
 It is now rumoured that the as yet unnamed new owners plan to use the tug to tow the near-derelict Comorant out of Bridgewater, NS. That unfortunate ex Italian trawler and ex Royal Canadian Navy dive ship has been an eyesore on the La Have River for many years, and no one will be sad to see it go. However it could prove to be another in the string of ill-timed of late season tows gone wrong.

The laker Miner fetched up on a beach in Nova Scotia after parting its tow line from an ill-equipped tug and is costing tax payers millions to remove. The derelict cruise ship Lyubov Orlova disappeared at sea when it was towed out of St.John's - again by a poorly suited tug. The tug Craig Trans was finally sold by the Port of Halifax after it (and its crew) were abandoned here after running up costs for pilots, agents, berthing and repatriation. It has been on its way to tow away a scrap ship in December.

Lets hope that Transport Canada is able to prevail on Foxtrot's new owners and prevent another fiasco.
I have covered Océan Foxtrot before:

Océan Foxtrot worked out of Halifax off an on over the years. In 2000 it was wearing Groupe Océan's current aqua over white colour scheme as it approached pier 9.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Rescue Tugs called for (again)

Calls have resumed again for rescue tugs off Canada's coasts. The on again and off again topic becomes hot when there is a near miss or accident then cools when there is no bad news of ships in distress. Once again we are reminded that the Canadian Coast Guard is unprepared to tow even a small ship (and to be fair they are not tasked, equipped or trained for this work.)

To rehash my several previous posts on this topic, Canada Needs Emergency Towing Vessels. Granted we do not have the traffic of the North Sea or English Channel which can justify a full time fleet of emergency tugs standing by for potential disasters. Even the British could not justify the cost of their part-time Coast Guard fleet and have largely abolished it in areas where the French or commercial tugs are reasonably available.

Canada however has no one else to fall back on, except maybe the US, which is what happened this weekend on the Pacific coast. The Russian 6,540 grt cargo ship Simushir, carrying containers of solvents and mining equipment, lost power off Haida Gwai and drifted perilously close to the pristine (and protected) shore line. CCGS Gordon Reid managed to tow the ship farther off the coast, but its lines parted three times before the US flag tug Barbara Foss could reach the scene. The ship is now under tow for Prince Rupert.
The ship was bound from Washington State to Russia when its fuel heater failed and it lost power. The ship's master had to be air evac'd due to injuries, and it had ten crew left on board.The nearest suitable tug was a day's sailing time away (and that is close compared to some stretches of our shoreline)

Here are the issues: Our Coast Guard is really nothing of the sort. It is a Search and Rescue operation, a maintainer of navigation aids and an icebreaking operation. It is now being equipped with patrol boats to carry RCMP and Canadian Border Services for near shore work only, but in terms of guarding our coasts from any serious security threats, only an armed force such as the navy can really do that.
It is unequipped (and untrained) to tow ships in distress, and thus certainly can't guard our coasts from environmental disasters. It can rescue people, and does that well, and so does the navy, but it can't tow ships, and will not even attempt to do so except in extreme circumstances.

Here is what must happen:
The Coast Guard's mandate must change - it must be charged with managing Emergency Towing operations. The British model, wherein chartered ETVs were free to do commercial work from time to time would seem to be a reasonable one to me, but they must be under the direction of the CCG, so that ETVs are on station within reasonable sailing times form strategic spots.
Alternatively the new breed of CCG ships must be built as ETVs, but also can be tasked with rescue, patrol and other duties, but they must be available to tow, at least until commercial tugs arrive. The typical offshore supply/anchor handling type AHST is ideal for this type of work. It would require little modification to a standard design and is relatively inexpensive compared to the usual over-designed government ship.

I won't rant on about this, but in a few days the issue will die down and be forgotten for six months or a year when another incident occurs. Let's hope it doesn't take a serious accident to waken the powers to be to this issue.


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Maersk Chignecto

With news that Maersk Gabarus arrived in Gent, Belgium for scrap on October 14, [see Tugfax October 5] it was a pleasant surprise to see sister vessel Maersk Chignecto arrive in Halifax today.

Built by Hyundai, Ulsan in 1982 as Chignecto Bay it was one of the six AHTSs for Husky/Bow Valley.

All six boats went to Maersk in 1988, and were simply renamed. Since then they have worked out of Newfoundland, with assignments to Nova Scotia and the North Sea.When built their 10,880 bhp made them among the most powerful AHTSs in the area. Now with boats approaching twice that power, Maersks's three remaining Huskys find other work such as diving support vessels, with submersibles or ROVs.

Maersk Chignecto is now fitted with a stern gantry, a couple of SeaCans for control rooms and shops and a huge array of low level deck lights.

For the past few months the boat has been conducting seabed surveys at Hibernia and White Rose (for Husky). Last winter and spring it was working out of the Netherlands in the North Sea, for a rate of UKPds 22,000 per day.
Its visit to Halifax today may be related to the passing of Hurricane post tropical storm Gonsalvo well offshore from Nova Scotia, but bound directly for the Avalon Peninsula Grand Banks of Newfoundland. Halifax may have been the most convenient port of refuge from the former hurricane.


Thursday, October 9, 2014

Scotian Sea back in harness

Secunda Canada's supplier Scotian Sea headed to the Bedford Basin this afternoon for trials after being "reassembled" at pier 9. In April the boat was refitted to support BP's seismic exploration program off Nova Scotia. Work included removing the boats Fast Rescue craft and associated davits and other gear, and the fitting of large fenders. Scotain Sea and Mainport Pine ran a shuttle for supplies back and forth to the seismic ships working south and east of Sable Island.
Now that the seismic work is completed for the year, Scotian Sea has reacquired its FRCs and other gear.

 Kvaerner Kleven of Lervik, Norway built the ship in 1997 as Rescue Saga for K/S/Rem Seismic, but it was soon sold to Havila Offshore and renamed Havila Runde in 1998. Secunda bought the ship in 2012 and renamed it. It is classed as a platform supply/ oil recovery vessel/ fire fighting.It is also capable of standby and other services.

Secunda is 50% owned by Siem Offshore of Norway and has moved many of its operations to Newfoundland, although most of its six vessel fleet still work in Nova Scotia waters. It has on order a new UT782WP supplier which will work for Hibernia and Hebron on a 5yr+15 year charter. The ship is expected late next year.


Sunday, October 5, 2014

Maersk Gabarus - soon to be history

The Anchor Handling Tug Supplier Maersk Gabarus sailed from St.John's, NL, on October 4 [TO BE CONFIRMED] for an appointment with the shipbreakers in Gent, Belgium

Maersk Gabarus in the Narrows of Halifax harbour en route to Bedford Basin for trials.

Thanks to Dean Porter's blog for bringing this news to our attention.

Husky Oil Marketing Ltd and Bow Valley Resource Services Ltd, ushered in a new age of sophisticated and large offshore boats for Canadian waters when they ordered six new suppliers. Previously offshore work in Atlantic Canada was carried out by older US built boats, or European boats, designed for the North Sea or some relatively small Canadian craft.
These six boats, delivered in 1983 were purpose designed by the Vancouver firm of Cleaver & Walkingshaw* for work off Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.
Four of the boats were built by Hyundai Heavy Industries of Ulsan, North Korea and two were built in Canada. The Canadian built pair, from Bel-Aire Shipyard in North Vancouver, and Vito Steel Boats in Delta, BC, were different in detail but otherwise sisters, and all featured a distinctive hull form and highly geometric bridge. To say that they are unique is an understatement.

Maersk Gabarus was one of the Hyundai group and as Gabarus Bay** arrived in Halifax July 25, 1983 for the first time. Two other Hyundai sisters, Chignecto Bay and Mahone Bay arrived here December 27, 1983 together towing the jack-up rig Rowan Gorilla 3  from the Gulf of Mexico. The last in the group, Trinity Bay arrived around December 31, 1983.
The Canadian pair Placentia Bay (Bel-Aire) and Bonavista Bay (Vito) had already arrived together June 23, 1983.

When Husky Bow Valley went on to to other things, the boats were put up for sale and in a surprise move A.P.Moller swept them up en bloc in 1988, and established themselves in St.John's as The Maersk Co Canada Ltd, since becoming Maersk Supply Service Canada Ltd. Maersk renamed all the boats by simply adding "Maersk" and subtracting "Bay" .

Maersk had just taken over the Husky boats, renamed them, and painted Maersk funnel marks when I took this slide in St.John's, NL March 15, 1988. That is Maersk Chignecto outobard of Maersk Gabarus. They still have their unique Husky Bow Valley hull colours.

At about 2770 grt and powered by four MaKs totaling 10,800 bhp, the boats developed 125 tonnes bollard pull, and were fully fitted for anchor handling, towing and supply work.

Over the years their paths began to diverge:
  •  Maersk Bonavista: 2007: Drive Bonavista (Norway) reported in Bengal Bay June 2014
  •  Maersk Chignecto: still operating out of St.John's
  •  Maersk Mahone: 1987: Maersk Supporter, 1998:Maersk Handler, 2002: Maersk Trinity, 2005: Misr Gulf VII, 2006: Anchorman, 2008: Ocean Supporter - last reported in Turkey (St.Kitts + Nevis flag)
  •  Maersk Placentia: 1990: Maersk Shipper, 1997: Maersk Placentia,  still operating out of St.John's.
  • MaerskTrinity: 1987: Maersk Server 1999: Maersk Helper, 2002: Maersk Mahone, 2014: Drive Mahone (Norway) last reported at Port Said, Egypt, September 2014. 
On December 27, 2004, while working off Nova Scotia, Maersk Gabarus was struck by a storm, which smashed windows and flooded the bridge. It made Halifax safely and was repaired.

Maersk Gabarus ex Gabarus Bay is the first of the boats to go for breaking up. It is due in Gent on October 14. It is replaced in St.John's by Maersk's latest new vessel Maersk Clipper a 6,490 grt behemoth with  15,000 bhp and 150 tonnes bollard pull. For more on her watch Dean's blog:

* Cleaver and Walkingshaw of Vancouver (formerly Jackson, Talbot, Walkingshaw, designers of Ocean Echo II and barges) were responsible for the design of the Canmar tug/suppliers and Arctic Transportation Ltd tug/suppliers. They became Polar Design Associates and were absorbed by Wartsila Artic, which evolved into Wartsila Marine, Kvaerner Masa Marine, Aker Yards Marine and STX Marine - designers of the CCG's new polar icebreaker and the RCN's Arctic Offshore vessels. It was announced this summer that they have now become Vard Marine Inc (a Fincantieri company).

** Gabarus Bay, on Cape Breton Island's east coast is pronounced Ga-Ba-ROOSE (rhymes with Goose).


Saturday, October 4, 2014

R.J.Ballott at the old dock

 R.J.Ballott taking stores early this morning.

A surprise visitor to the Svitzer Canada dock (formerly Ectug, formerly MIL Tug, formerly Foundation Maritime) early this morning is the R.J.Ballott. Mention has been made of this durable tug in these pages before, most recently when it received its current name:

Built in 1956 for Foundation Maritime as Foundation Victor it served Ectug as Point Victor, Pitts International as Kay Cole, McKeil as Kay Cole and Jerry Newberry and McNally as Jerry Newberry until purchased by Sealand Shipping Services Ltd of Baie Verte, NL last year. It is now named for the late father of the owner, a long time tug master for Foundation and Ectug.

A large tug for its era, with a dependable Fairbanks Morse engine (now upped to 1800 bhp) it is still a useful tug and the new owner has found a variety of work for it. Carrying rock from Wallace, NS to Caribou, PE, hauling the scrap barge for removal of the wrecked Miner at Scatarie Island and now headed for the Bay of Fundy to work on a power project, are among the many chores it is well suited for. Not just a harbour tug, it handled beautifully on its trip down to Halifax from Cape Breton last night, despite some lumpy seas and a tail wind.
Looking quite smart at the south side of the dock this afternoon.

It was storing up this morning on the north side of the Svitzer dock, and had moved around to the south side this afternoon to make room for the pilot boat. This is very familiar territory for the tug - it was based at the same dock during its Foundation and Ectug years.

 With Point Viking, Point Vim and Point Spencer in 1976 at the same dock.
Generally the outer ends of the Ectug dock were used by the duty tugs, and the inner berths by the tugs that would be on call if needed or in maintenance. 

Interestingly the only tugs to tie up at the Svitzer Canada dock in the past year have been former Ectugs, and both formerly from Sept-Iles. R.J.Ballott and Océan Basques. The latter tug supplanting Point Victor as Pointe aux Basques when it was built in 1973. Point Victor then came to Halifax where it worked sporadically. It was not as agile as the smaller 1200 bhp tugs, and was only used as a spare most of the time. When the twin screw Point Vibert came back from Baie-Comeau in 1977, on delivery of the Pointe-Comeau, Point Victor was declared surplus.

Little changed except for fendering and paint scheme, Point Victor was and is an imposing sight.

As a harbour tug, Point Victor had only a patent quick release towing hook , but was fitted with a towing winch when in McKeil ownership. Its boat has been replaced by a raft and the twin davit cranes removed. It s also now registered in St.John's.