Sunday, March 13, 2016

Atlantic Fir joins Halifax tug fleet

As reported in previous pages the tug Altantic Fir has joined Atlantic Towing Ltd's permanent Halifax tug fleet replacing Atlantic Larch.

 Atlantic Fir heading southbound in the Narrows this afternnon.

Built in 2005 by Eastisle Shipyard in Georgetown, PE Atlantic Fir is a near sister of the Atlantic Oak, built in 2004 for service in Halifax. Both are 5,050 bhp ASD tugs rated at 68 tonnes bollard fitted with forward shiphandling and aft towing winches and with firefighting capability.

The third tug in Halifax, Atlantic Willow is also a firefighting tug, but with no towing winch. It has 4,000 bhp which delivers a 50 tonne bollard pull.

Atlantic Oak tethered to Atlantic Compass transiting the Narrows.
All tugs were busy at work this weekend, with Atlantic Oak in its usual role as tethered stern escort for large ship in the Narrows. Atlantic Fir will also be used in a similar role for large ships.

 Atlantic Willow in a close tethered position. It has only a towing hook, and is thus not fitted with a stern roller.

Even Atlantic Willow got in a rare escort job with the 69,919 deadweight tonne tanker Overseas Jademar when it was decided not to berth at Nova Scotia Power due to high winds. The ship instead proceeded through the Narrows for an anchorage in Bedford Basin.[see also Shipfax]. The 4,000 bhp tugs are normally not used for large ship escort in the Narrows.

 Atlantic Fir moves into position to make fast forward on the 65,919 deadweight tonne NYK Constellation, with Atlantic Oak in position as stern tethered escort.

Meanwhile Atlantic Larch, which will now be used for outside towing work, is in the Bahamas Islands bound for Colon, Panama to pick up the decommissioned Royal Canadian Navy ship Protecteur  That ship is in tow of the Corbin Foss off the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. Its most recent ETA for Balboa was March 17.


Thursday, March 10, 2016

Svitzer does it

Svitzer Canada has struck a knife into the heart of the Quebec towing business by setting up shop in Montreal and going head to head against Groupe Océan in Canada's largest eastern port.

The surprise move occurred March 10 when the powerful 5,000 bhp ice class ASD tugs Svitzer Nerthus and Svitzer Njal arrived in their new home port.

Svitzer Nerthus and Svitzer Njal at the usually empty Svitzer dock in Halifax earlier this year.

There are a number of interesting aspects to this move, which I will mention in no particular order.

Since taking over Eastern Canada Towing Ltd Svitzer seemed to lose ground, having lost the Iron Ore Company of Canada contract in Sept-Iles to Océan. (Océan did buy their two old tugs however!)

In a strategic alliance with Atlantic Towing Ltd (a J.D.Irving company), they formed joint venture companies to provide towing services in Halifax and on the Strait of Canso. That saw Svitzer's tugs pull out of Halifax and go to the Strait and Atlantic taking over all tug work in Halifax.
Then there were some disastrous northern towing contracts when Point Halifax was badly damaged and eventually sold to McKeil and Svitzer Bedford suffered a serious fire.

However last year signaled a turn around when Svitzer brought in the former Chinese tug Svitzer Cartier to help out in Port Cartier, QC. (I hear that contract is about to end however)

Svitzer Wombi arrived in Halifax March 30, 2015, where it was renamed Svitzer Cartier for service in Port-Cartier.

Also Svitzer won a contract to service the Baffinland Iron Mine project and brought in Svtizer Nerthus and Svitzer Njal from the parent company in Denmark. Both tugs were built in Canada however and passed to Svitzer through other Danish owners.

The Baffinland work was originally awarded to Océan, and on the strength of it they started work on two 8,000 bhp super ice class tugs at their own yard. By the time Océan Tundra. was delivered Baffinland was restructured and  became a seasonal operation in 2015 and Svitzer got the work. Construction of the sister Océan Taiga was slowed down as there was no apparent work for it. It will be completed in 2016.

The powerful Océan Tundra was built for year-round service in Baffin Island. When that work fell through it has been used for tanker escort on the St.Lawrence, but has been underutilized.

If Svitzers two tugs, acquired for Baffinland, are now based in Montreal, will they abandon the port from July to October or does Svitzer have another plan?  Or perhaps Baffinland has slowed down again. Maybe acquiring Océan Taiga and Océan Tundra from Océan would be a good idea, but I doubt they would get any break on price! Certainly reassigning the V-S tug Svitzer Cartier to Montreal does not seem like a good fit.

Svitzer worldwide, like one of its component companies, the former Cory Towage of Liverpool, NS, have long favoured terminal contracts, where they get a long term commitment to provide dedicated tug service to an oil terminal or a particular port. Competing head to head for work has never been to their liking.

Svitzer is part of the giant AP Moller Maersk company, but with only one Maersk ship a week in Montreal, there is hardly enough ''family work'' to support two tugs.
Increased tanker traffic on Montreal, some of which may require escort tugs, might be enough to justify the move if Svitzer has contracts in hand with specific companies.

Svitzer is a deep pocket company that is far more aggressive in the rest of the world than it has appeared to be in Canada. Their world wide fleet consists of 430 vessels (which includes some pilot boats and line boats, but is mostly tugs.) is continually growing as they find work in all corners of the globe and grow their fleet. Perhaps they have bigger plans for Canada than we can imagine.

For example there are still two more Canadian built tugs in Svitzer's European fleet. Both 5,000 bhp ice class ASDs, Svitzer Nabi (built as Stevns Breaker) and Svitzer Nari (ex Stevns Battler) might be available to Svitzer Canada if there was work here.

Once unthinkable mergers and new ventures among tug companies world wide, are common these days. Long time rivals have joined forces, for example Smit and Kooren in Europe, to exercise control and eliminate costly competition. Or as did Kooren in Hamburg, they have brought in superior equipment to take work away from the established companies.

McKeil tried to break into Montreal, and even acquired a pair of Dutch V-S tugs in 2008, but the project never got across the starting line and the tugs were sold. 
Nicloe M was one of the tugs McKeil bought and reconditioned  for use in Montreal. It was never licensed for service in Canada and was sold.

It makes one wonder if tug and towing will go they way of many other industries, where local owner entrepreneurs are swallowed up or overwhelmed by large multi-nationals, with deep pockets, low margins and economies of scale.


Wednesday, March 9, 2016

More tug updates

The tugs Svitzer Njal and Svitzer Nerthus are underway again and are upbound on the St.Lawrence River, giving a March 10 destination of Montreal. Stranger and stranger.

Atlantic Fir has settled in in Halifax and will be assigned here permanently, replacing Atlantic Larch. Halifax needed more horsepower, and Fir's 5,000 bhp will allow it to do escort work., This will avoid the crazy situation where two tugs were used as stern escort, when the other 5,000 bhp tug, Atlantic Oak was not available.  See:
Fir escorted the loaded tanker Afra Oak outbound this morning.

Atlantic Larch will now be an outside tug, used for towing assignments around the region. It was built originally for use at Point Tupper. It will now be based nominally in Saint John, but will be on the move most of the time.
Larch is giving a March 17 ETA for Colon, Panama and Corbin Foss with the former Protecteur in tow is now off Acapulco, still giving a March 17 ETA for Balboa.

Ocean Foxtrot is still in Marystown, NL.


Sunday, March 6, 2016

Tug move updates - and more

I may have erred in the actual departure date of the tug Atlantic Larch from Halifax. Either that or it came back and left a second time. I caught it outbound for Colon, Panama on Saturday March 5.

Ocean Foxtrot put back to Marystown, NL in tow of Western Tugger and Coast Guard escort. After a four year layup, a day in rough seas stirred up enough sludge in its fuel thanks that it lost power. A thorough cleaning seems to be in order. However it is possible that the C.O.D. tow may have depleted the new owner's funds.Another abandonment seems possible.

The Halifax based tugs Svitzer Njal and Svitzer Nerthus sailed from Halifax March 3, bound for Sept-Iles, QC. It seems an odd destination, since there is little traffic in the port these days and Groupe Océan has all the work there having wrested away the Iron Ore Company of Canada contract from Svitzer several years ago. All I can think is that they are there to assist at Port-Cartier if needed, since ArcelorMittal is a major client. The contract for Svitzer Cartier expires shortly, so even that may be a wild guess.
Sept-Iles is relatively close to Méchins, QC, where Verreault Shipyard often services Svitzer tugs, so that may be a explanation too.

Tugfax Blogger Suffers (another) Sudden Attack of Apoplexy.

My ongoing quest for responsible ship naming suffered another setback recently when I learned about another shipowner that has abdicated the responsibility of sensible ship naming by resorting to a contest for school children. A panel of judges (who obviously didn't know any better) selected the name  Iron Guppy for a new icebreaking tug/workboat for the Port of Toronto.

This ludicrous appellation will be applied to the craft which will be completed in June by Hike Metal Products. The 750 bhp single screw ABS Ice Class C0 boat  may last as long as 45 years, which its predecessor William Rest managed to do.[]
If so, the name should be thoroughly stale by then and so outdated as to be meaningless. Even the six to twelve year olds that came up with it may be thoroughly tired of it by then. I know I am already.
For more on the process see:

Not only is the name undignified for a tug, it is an embarrassment to a Port, that has a long maritime history. Its previous vessels have carried interesting and meaningful names, often with historic antecedents or symbols. Many have also been named for notable persons, such as the Port's fireboat William Lyon Mackenzie [ or for more on the man:
or another (now retired tug) the Ned Hanlan 

If not named for a memorable person, surely a tug deserves a name indicative of force, power, activity, purposefulness, utility or dependability.
For more on the new tug see:
I am rendered speechless by Toronto's choice.

By the way the Toronto Marine Historical Society is a wonderful means of learning about that port's history, and much else related to Great Lakes shipping:


Friday, March 4, 2016

Tug Moves

Atlantic Larch has sailed from Halifax for Panama. The tug presumably will be taking over the tow of Protecteur from Corbin Foss, which is still due in Balboa March 17. The former RCN supply ship is headed for Liverpool, NS and a date with the scrappers.

Atlantic Larch is fitted with a towing winch and often works outside of Halfax harbour.
Following the tow on AIS, as of today, Corbin Foss and Protecteur were well down the Baja California peninsula of Mexico, and had been making better than 8 knots. Corbin Foss has 7200 bhp  at its disposal.

To take Atlantic Larch's place in Halifax is Atlantic Fir. It seems an odd arrangement, since Atlantic Fir is a 5,000 bhp tug and Atlantic Larch is only 4,000bhp. Also Atlantic Fir has been doing a lot of outside towing and seemed to be ATL's go to tug for that kind of work.
Interestingly when Atlantic Fir was spotted working Halifax today, it had lost the prominent SatNav dome it was porting when last seen February 7. Perhaps it was transferred to Larch. [See today's Shipfax for partial photo.]

Océan Foxtrot in Halifax fitted for cable repair work.

A former Canadian tug is disabled south of St-Pierre (46.30N x 55.57W) and has called for Coast Guard assistance. The Océan Foxtrot had been laid up in St.John's for four years, and is only one day out of port for an unknown destination. Its Canadian registry was closed October 3, 2014 and it was reported sold, but the buyers were not disclosed. I believe the boat was in fairly rough condition, so it is perhaps not surprising that it is having a problem. Once again the wisdom of setting out to sea at this time of year, with severe storms passing through, in a questionable vessel, makes one wonder who protects the foolhardy?

Built in 1971 by Cochrane + Sons, Selby, England as Polar Shore it worked for Offshore Marine until 1977 when it was acquired by Dome Petroleum's Canadian Marine Drilling and renamed Canmar Supplier VII. Groupe Océan of Quebec City acquired the tug in 1995 and it performed a whole variety of chores for them including pushing a barge, towing pulpwood barges, dive support and salvage tows. It was among the vessels that worked on recovering material form the Swiss Air crash in 1998.
It was rated at 72 tonnes bollard pull from two 12 cylinder KHDs totaling 5280 bhp.

The last rumour about Océan Foxtrot in 2014 was that it would be towing the former RCN diving support ship Cormorant from Bridgewater, NS to scrappers in the Dominican Republic. The current story has echoes of the previous unhappy experience of the tug Charlene Hunt which towed Lyubov Orlova out of St.John's for the DR, lost the tow and was itself eventually towed away.

As of this evening Océan Foxtrot was not showing up on AIS, nor was any Coast Guard vessel showing up nearby.