Tuesday, December 19, 2017


Tugfax will be taking a break over Christmas.

The delightfully named Point Vim and Point Vigour were built in 1962 as Foundation Vim and Foundation Vigour, part of a series of six identical tugs. They served various ports in eastern Canada, but principally Halifax, until the mid-1980s when larger and more agile tugs were needed to berth larger ships.
Although kept as spares, their 1,000 bhp and single screw (in retrofitted Kort nozzle) was inadequate for most ship berthing.They were sold for further, less demanding use.
Both tugs are still operating - Point Vigour as Molly M 1 for Nadro Marine, mostly on the Great Lakes. Point Vim was sold again in 2017 by Davis Shipping of Wesleyville, NL to Les barges de Matane Inc of Matane, QC.
The photo above, taken on a very cold day in Halifax, exactly thirty-four years ago. It was sub-zero (Fahrenheit) as the rising sea smoke and freezing spray will confirm. The two tugs and fleet mates Point Carroll and Point Valiant (both also in existence but apparently retired) were returning from berthing the container ship Sea-Land Voyager. It was the first of Sea-Land's new D-9s to call in Halifax (June 26, 1983). With a  capacity of 1782 TEU on 24,337 grt, 23,308 dwt, it was a big ship in its day..


Saturday, December 9, 2017

Océan Delta sold and other deployments

Another of Groupe Océan's veteran tugs has been sold. Océan Delta has apparently gone to the same buyers that acquired Océan Hercule. Océan Delta is still in Quebec City, but its Canadian registry was closed November 30 and it now flies the Jamaican flag.

With more powerful and more modern tugs (such as Océan Tundra, at right),big single screw tugs like Océan Delta (second from left) are becoming obsolete.
Also pictured: Océan Charlie at left, and Océan Yvan Desgagnés, second from right.

Dating from 1973 when it was built by Ulstein Mek. Verksted AS in Ulsteinvik, Norway as Sistella. One of a three of similar tugs for International Transport Contractors (ITC), Tschudi and Eitzen, managers. They were ocean salvage tugs intended also for long tows associated with the oil industry. Fitted with two 16 cylinder Polar engines geared to a single controllable pitch screw, they were rated at 7,000 bhp and 65 tonne bollard pull.

Renamed Sandy Cape in 1978 and transferred to Liberian flag, by the same Norwegian/Dutch owners, it worked word wide until 1980 when it was acquired by the Power Corporation of Canada and assigned through the CSL Group to their Quebec Tugs Ltd (QUETUG) subsidiary.
It was renamed Capt. Ioannis S. for Captain Ioannis "John" Stylidiadis operator of the Quebec City tug fleet once under the direction of the Davie Shipyards. They fleet had always been involved in salvage work but this was the first big tug they had owned for many years.

Capt. Ioaanis S in QUETUG colours.
 In 1987 Océan Construction Inc acquired QUETUG and the company has since gone on to become Groupe Océan, 45 years after it was originally founded.

In 1999 Océan renamed the tug Océan Delta as part of a naming scheme that has reached "Lima" in the international signals alphabet, but has since been displaced by a new scheme recognizing individuals.
Over the years Océan has invested a lot of money in this tug with at least one major rebuild and in 2000 re-engining the vessel with a pair of 8 cylinder MaKs giving 6464 bhp.

Océan Delta in a previous GO colour scheme.
In the intervening years the tug has provided ship docking and escort services in Quebec, made many long tows to the arctic and worked around the lower St.Lawrence River and Gulf. In December 2012 it was lead tug in the aborted tow of HMCS Athabaskan from the Port Weller DryDock  for Halifax with André H.(ex Point Valiant, Foundation Valiant). The tow went wrong off Sydney and there was damage to the tugs and several perforations in the warship's hull. The tow to Halifax was later completed by Atlantic Towing Ltd.

Undergoing a "shave and a haircut" at Ile-aux-Coudres, in 2005, its rudder and prop were removed for repair.
Back for more ten years later - this time with rudder and prop intact.
Océan Delta has been listed for sale for several years and has not been active in the last two or three years.
With both Océan Hercule and Océan Delta sold to the same Jamaican owners it is possible that one will be towing the other. Let us hope this is not a repeat of another unwise late season tow out from the St.Lawrence. Too many of these have gone wrong recently to allow another foolhardy or unprepared attempt. 

Océan Hercule has also been sold to the same Jamaican buyers and has been renamed Hercule.

Meanwhile there have been some interesting deployments in the Océan fleet. The former pilot boat, converted to tug, Océan Côte-Nord, which was stationed in Goderich, ON has left that port, returning down through the St.Lawrence Seaway to Quebec. Whether this is to accommodate a winter refit or an end to the Lake Huron service has not been revealed.

Océan's recent acquisition of the two Port-Cartier tugs from ArcelorMittal Steel has resulted in two renamings. Brochu has been renamed Océan Brochu and Vachon is now Océan A. Gauthier.

 Vachon in the colours of original owners, Quebec Cartier Mining. (unknown photographer)

It was upbound in the Seaway on December 6 for its new home port of Hamilton, ON. There it joins another Voith-Schneider tug Océan A. Simard transferred this fall after working in Bull Arm, NL for a few years. The latter has also been doing ship assist at the entrance to the nearby Welland Canal.


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Groupe Océan veteran sold

Groupe Océan has sold one of its older tugs. Océan Hercule was sold November 1 to Jamaican owners and renamed Hercule at Sorel-Tracy, QC. The tug has been based at that port for several years since joining the Océan fleet in 1997.

The tug started life at the A.M.Liaaen shipyard in Aalesund, Norway in 1976 as Stril Pilot. A 499 grt ice strengthened anchor handling tug it was powered by two 12 cylinder Alcos (then part of the White Motor Co) delivering 4400 bhp to two controllable pitch screws in nozzles giving 63 tonnes bollard pull. Built for the the Simon Mokster company it was sold in 1981 and renamed Spirit Sky for the Bergvall Group. In 1985 it moved on to the Dutch company Goliath then Wijsmuller and back to Goliath, where it was renamed Ierland then in 1989 becoming Ierlandia.

Charles-Antoine in McAllister colours leaving Halifax towing the barge Marmac 15 from New York to the Gulf of St.Lawrence for the first attempt to raise the sunken barge Irving Whale

The McAllister Towing Company of Montreal acquired the tug in 1995, and it was renamed Charles-Antoine. The owners of McAllister then sold the entire operation to Océan in 1997.

Renamed Océan Hercule, as stated, it was based most recently in the port of Sorel-Tracy where its ability to work in ice made it a valuable member of the fleet.

Océan Hercule at Quebec City in its original Groupe Océan colour scheme.

 Océan Hercule at Quebec City in 2005 after refit and repainting to the new Océan colours.
Océan Hercule (left) with Océan Delta, another veteran that has also been listed for sale.

With the acquisition of newer vessels, Océan had the tug listed for sale for several years and now it has finally been sold. It was due to move to Montreal this week before heading out for Jamaica.


Thursday, November 16, 2017

Two more for Océan and a transfer

Groupe Océan has finalized the acquistion of the two ArcelorMittal tugs based at Port-Cartier, QC. Brochu and Vachon were purpose built for Port Cartier in 1972 and were among the first Voith-Schneider cycloidal prop tugs built in Canada. At 3600 bhp they were also among the most powerful for many years.

Earlier this year it was reported that Groupe Océan had been awarded the tug contract at Port-Cartier, and that the two elderly tugs would be retired as of September 30. In mid-September Brochu suffered a serious fire and was retired early. Fortunately Groupe Océan was able to send a tug from Sept-Iles to fill in.

Since Océan Yvan Desgagnés andOcéan Ross Gaudrault have taken over operations in Port-Cartier, it has been reported that Groupe Océan has purchased  Brochu and Vachon. There is no indication where they will be used, but as of this evening they were still in Port-Cartier with AIS giving a destination of Méchins for the Vachon. Although the Verreault Navigation shipyard there is a competitor of Groupe Océan's own shipyard in Ile-aux-Coudres, Verreault has been maintaining Brochu and Vachon for many years.

When Océan's Océan A. Simard (ex Alexis Simard -11)  completed its work in Newfoundland earlier this year, it returned to Quebec for refit and in July was transferred to Hamilton, Ontario.The 3290 bhp V-S tug, originally built for Alcan's operations at Port Alfred in 1980, never really found a home in the Groupe Océan fleet. There was a trial in Baie-Comeau in 2011, but that was short lived.

With two more V-S tugs joining Océan, one has to wonder if they may also head for the Great Lakes where the fresh water and seasonal operation will be kindly to their aging hulls.


Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Ocean renames two

Groupe Océan has renamed two tugs it acquired earlier this year from Svitzer. The two tugs completed their obligations with Svitzer at the end of last month and returned from Milne Inlet, Baffin Island where they had been working for the last three summers.

Undergoing  refit in Quebec the pair have now been renamed Océan Raynald T (ex Svitzer Nerthus) and Océan Clovis T (ex Svitzer Njal).

They are a good fit with the Groupe Océan fleet, as they are Georgetown-built, ice class ASD, 66 tonne bollard pull, 5,000 bhp tugs, similar to most of the modern tugs in the Ocean fleet. No assignments have been announced for the tugs yet.

They were built in 2009 by East Isle Shipyard in PEI for Nordane shipping as Stevns Iceflower (ii) and Stevns Icequeen (ii) and sailed from trials in Halifax to Denmark. They were soon chartered and eventually acquired by Svitzer and renamed the same year.

Flying the Barbados flag for the delivery trip, the two tugs arrived back in Halifax in company June 4, 2015 and tied up at the Svitzer Canada dock.

When Svitzer won the Baffinland contract in 2015, they brought the two tugs back to Canada. They were stationed in Montreal in winter and worked in Milne Inlet in the brief summer navigation season from July to October.

In January of this year Svitzer decided to shut down its Montreal operation and sold three of its tugs to Groupe Océan.. The Svitzer Cartier (ex Svitzer Wombi-125, Hai Gang 107 -14) became Océan Cartier and was refitted in Quebec City but has not been assigned any work yet.

Svitzer Nerthus and Svitzer Njal were committed to the Baffinland project for this past summer but were handed over to Ocean on return south.

The fourth tug, Svitzer Montreal although a similar Georgetown class tug, is not ice strengthened, and Svitzer re-assigned it to its Point Tupper, NS operation which has the three other Svitzer Canada tugs.

For more on the tugs and photos see Tugfax : June 6, 2015


Friday, November 10, 2017

Landlocked tug

Construction of foundations for the Queen's Marque project on the Halifax waterfront is taking place below sea level. In order to carry out the work a seawall has been built out of sheet piles to keep the water out. Pile driving for the work and placement of the sheet piles has been carried out by a crane mounted on the deck of a sectional scow, built out of smaller pontoons.

To move the scow, Dexter Construction is using one of their miniature tug boats. It and the scow are working inside the Sea Bridge floating walkway built for the Waterfront Development Corporation to allow pedestrians to bypass the construction site, from the water site. The Sea Bridge, stretching from the Cable Wharf in the north to the Maritime Museum in the south provides an excellent view of construction activity.

Dexter tug inside the Sea Bridge.

A.F.Theriault + Son of Meteghan, NS, built a pair of the tugs for the Municipal Group, parent company of Dexter Construction, and they worked first on the Halifax Shipyard pier 6 project. Since the tugs are small enough to be transported by truck, they can be used in a variety of locations not normally accessible by watercraft. Because they are under the 15 tons they are not registered by name, but only by number, in this case C20115NS.

One of two aluminum hulled tugs, that are transportable by road, powered by twin Yamaha outboard engines with a total of 230 horsepower.

Scow and crane are tucked in between the Cable Wharf and the remnants of the old timber piled Queen's Wharf.


Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Fire at Port Cartier

The tug Brochu suffered a fire at Port-Cartier, QC in mid-September and was removed from service. With its sister tug Vachon it was to be retired September 30 when Groupe Ocean is due to take over tug services in the port.

Brochu and Vachon entered service in 1973 for Quebec Cartier Mining (now ArcelorMittal) in Port-Cartier - a busy iron ore and grain transshipment port. They are 3200 bhp Voith-Schneider tugs.

See photo here: Boatnerd, Robert Talbot photo

Groupe Ocean has assigned Ocean Yvan Desgagnes and Ocean Ross Gaudreault to work in Port-Cartier. Both are 5,000 bhp ice class, fire fighting tugs, built in 2010 and 2011 respectively.
They can also call for assistance from tugs based in Sept-Iles, which is nearby.


Sunday, September 10, 2017

Hornbeck Offshore in Halifax

The first Hornbeck Offshore Services Inc (HOS) ship to call in Halifax tied up at Pier 9 C on Saturday September 9.

HOS Red Dawn  was the first of a series of supply boats in the HOSMAX 300 class and was built by Eastern Shipbuilding of Panama City, FL in 2013. With a  deadweight tonnage of 5,000 and large clear deck space, they are suitable for numerous offshore tasks.

The ship is also diesel electric powered, with a four Cat engines mounted well forward, working through a GE system to drive two Schottel Z-drives mounted aft, giving 6,704 bhp . They also power the usual transverse thrusters. The resultant lack of shafting maximizes below deck tank space for dry and liquid cargoes. The 3911 grt ship, has berthing for 50 in 17 staterooms and features DP2 and numerous other state of the art systems.

It appears that the ship is fitting out for cable transport, since a number of gray painted steel fabrications arrived at the dock at the same time. HOS has several ships that lay communication and data cabling for offshore energy projects. Since this ship is US flagged, the work will likely take place in US waters.
Several ships have loaded cable tank frames here in the last year or so, and then proceeded to Newington, NH to load fibre optic cable manufactured by Tyco.

HOS is a major US flag supply boat operator, based in Louisiana, and currently has a fleet of around 70 vessels although several may still be laid up as a result of the US oil industry slowdown. In 2016 they had reportedly "stacked" more than 30 boats, which represented 80 % of the fleet.

In 2013 HOS sold their "downstream" fleet of nine ocean tugs and tanker barges to Genesis Energy.


Saturday, September 9, 2017

Mister Joe on the move

McNally Construction's hard working tug Mister Joe made a brief visit to Halifax today. First job was to move the crane barge Canadian Argosy (951 grt, built 1978 Collingwood), from its anchorage near the MacKay bridge, in an inlet that I call Turple's Cove, to Pier 9 C with the assistance of the tug Oshawa.

Canadian Argosy has been in Halifax for a few years as McNally built various piers. Most recently it has been working on crib building for HMC Dockyard's new Arctic Offshore Patrol Ship jetty.

Mister Joe dates from 1964 when it came out of the Russel-Hipwell shipyard in Owen Sound, ON as Churchill River. McNally susibiary Beaver Marine acquired the tug in 2000 and renamed it in 2001.  It was also repowered in 2002 with a pair of GMs rated at 750 bhp, driving twin screws and extensively rebuilt, with a new pilot haouse identical to the original in 2013-2014.

Oshawa was built in 1969 by McNamara Marine in Whitby, ON and is 472 bhp twin screw.

Once the first move was completed the same tugs move the spud scow VM/S 87 from Turple's Cove to alongside Canadian Argosy.

 Later in the day Mister Joe sailed with VM/S 87 for Saint John, NB. Also built by Collingwood Shipyard, but in 1958, the scow was originally named S.L.S. 87 for first owners the St.Lawrence Seaway. Later the name was translated to French-  VM/S standing for Voie Maritime St-Laurent. McNally acquired the scow in about 2010. It measures 422 grt, and was not assigned a hull number by the builders.


Thursday, September 7, 2017

Old Navy Tugs

Canada's five Glen class tugs continue to serve, although based on the July report they will be replaced in record setting time by 2020. This date is one of several questionable aspects in what is expected to be a Request for Proposals issued this fall under the National Shipbuilding Strategy.

Firstly, the Canadian shipyards best positioned and most experienced in building tugs cannot (singly) deliver 4 tugs by 2020, even with the so called "off the shelf commercial design" that the government is calling for. What it should mean of course is that the order will be split, with two tugs going to a west coast yard or yards and two to an east coast yard or yards. If that is done then there is a chance for 2020 delivery.

What it should not mean is that some large yard (I am thinking Davie), with no tug building experience in this century, will get the job just because they built six tug in two years in 1962.

HMC Dockyard in Halifax currently has three Glen class tugs,  and Esquimalt in British Columbia has two. The expectation of the new plan is that Halifax can make do with two tugs, even though the fleet will be growing by 6 to 8 more ships after 2020. Two tugs aren't enough for Halifax, even with the availability of the small Ville class pup tugs and local commercial tugs. Experience should tell the powers that be that having three tugs gives unlimited availability in-harbour, and out-of-harbour at the same time and covers off refits. The low running hours and redundancy that result from having three tugs is one of the reasons that the current tugs are still serviceable after 40 years.
The new tugs will also have to have firefighting capability. This is now standard in most tugs built world wide,  and I suppose the thinking is that if one of the tugs is busy fighting a fire, they will hire in a civilian tug if they need one. This may be wishful thinking as emergencies do not always occur at convenient times.Again, to cover off the rare fire fighting requiurement, three tugs would be a safer bet.

Also if the tugs are to be capable of in-harbour and out-of-harbour work, what happens when one is out-of-harbour?

On Monday the tug Glenevis was spotted in Pictou with the swill barge YRG 62. I assume the barge is there for hull work, and maybe the tug is there for refit too. If so, under the proposed scheme that would leave Halifax with only one tug for an extended period.


Another interesting term in the RFP is reported to be the Near Coastal Voyage Class 2 certification (no more than 25 miles from shore) and the RFP's restricted range of 750 nautical miles from home ports.  I suspect such a classification might preclude trips to Newfoundland, for example.

The 750 n.mi. restriction would might also prevent the trip that Glenevis made in 1977 when it went to St.Catharines, ON and took delivery of the self-same YRG 62 (but then called YBZ 62), newly built by Port Weller Dry Dock and towed it to Halifax.

My suggestion is for the RCN to build three new tugs for Halifax, - fit then out with decent anti-pollution capability, (and yes fire fighting) and have them capable enough of going to sea if need be and to make long trips - maybe even to the north in summer. Just building a pair of low power, short range, docking tugs seems to me to be short sighted.


Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Océan Cartier

The latest Groupe Océan acquisition, Océan Cartier, remains in Quebec City undergoing maintenance. Since acquiring the tug from Svitzer Canada, when that company pulled out of Montreal, the tug has been to the Groupe Océan shipyard at Ile-aux-Coudres and has been repainted in GO colours.

The former Svitzer Cartier is a V-S tractor type tug, built in China in 2007 as Hai Gang 107. It was part of a group of tugs that Svitzer bought for use in Australia. However the tugs were rejected by crews due to suspected asbestos contamination. Svitzer then upgraded the tug for winter conditions, and working in ice, and brought it to Canada in early 2015 to work at Port-Cartier for ArcelorMittal. That assignment was short lived, and it was re-assigned to Montreal the same year.
Under Groupe Océan ownership it is rumoured to be headed to Hamilton, ON.

Neighbouring tugs include André H. (ex Point Valiant, Foundation Valiant, 1963: 2100bhp) 
and Océan Delta (ex Capt. Ioannis S, Sandy Cape, Sistella, 1973: 6436 bhp).

The tug is rated at 5400 bhp, 56 tonnes bollard pull and has firefighting capability.


Thursday, July 27, 2017

Paddling off

Tugfax will be paddling off on my annual summer break for a few weeks. It is possible that there will be some remote posts, but they will be rare.

Thank you for your support, additions and corrections, and to those of you who were able to attend my photo exhibit, which is now closed.  I hope to have an on-line verison in the fall.


Saturday, July 15, 2017

Firebird for sale

The Royal Canadian Navy's Halifax based fireboat Firebird YTR 561 has now been put up for sale by GCSurplus:  here

At its customary berth in HMC Dockyard, Firebird shares space with YTL 593 Merrickville and YTB 642 Glenevis, part of the tug fleet operated by the Queen's Harbour Master. 

Built in 1975, and commissioned in 1978 the boat was one of two built for the RCN (Firebrand is based in Esquimalt) by Vancouver Shipyard, North Vancouver, BC. It arrived in Halifax in August 1978, nested in a barge of traprock, and towed by the tug Ocean Crown.

Originally classified as a Yard Fire Boat (YFB) it later became a Yard Tug Rescue (YTR), but was rarely if ever used as a tug. However it has tug-like propulsion of two azimuthing stern drives, powered by a pair of 385 bhp Cats and bow thruster, giving a 7.5 ton bollard pull. It also has a pair of 365 bhp Cats driving two fire pumps of 2500 igpm capacity @ 150 psi. These serve three 3" manual monitors and a variety of deck connections. It also carries 500 igals of AFF.

The 76ft x 20.5 ft x 8'-10" (draft) vessel carried a crew of 7 which included operators and firefighters. In addition to firefighting, the tug also carried out rescue work and security calls at various port installations. However, faced with cutbacks the night shift eliminated January 29, 2014. The tug was finally retired December 4, 2014. HMC Dockyard firefighting was then left to shore crews or the harbour tugs.

Closing date for the sale is August 13, 2017 and the minimum bid is $5,000. It is expected to fetch far more than that however.

Firebird doing security rounds in the Narrows is likely heading for the Defense Research barge in Bedford Basin. 


Thursday, July 13, 2017

Merger or Aquisition

In the Mergers and Acquisitions (M+A) world the distinction between a merger and an acquisition is often what the parties want to call it.  The second Hamburg based acquisition in recent months is being termed a merger, and unlike the earlier one in which the Spanish company Boluda took over URAG and L+R, this one involves two well known Hamburg companies.

It is one is certainly an acquisition but may look like a merger because both parties (for now at least) will continue to operate under their own names.  Fairplay (Fairplay, Schleppdampschiffs-Reederei Richard Borchard Gmbh) has purchased Bugsier ( Bugsier, Reederei-und Bergungs Gesellschaft mbH + Co KG).

 The Hamburg "Tug Ballet" uses representatives of  the local fleets.

Not as well known on the  world stage as they once were, the companies are a strong presence in North Europe, and with more than 100 tugs at their joint disposal, can be expected to grow and strengthen. 

Their company histories are well known, so I will not repeat them here, but it is a sign of the times as both companies retreated from the world market over the years, they became smaller and smaller players. Now perhaps rejuvenated, we may see more of them  outside of Europe.  

Once operators of the largest tugs in the world, Bugsier has pulled back to smaller vessels.

Fairplay did their share of ocean towing. This Fairplay X towed two lakers (Charles M.White and Thomas F. Patton) from Quebec City to Karachi, Pakistan in about 100 days.

Bugsier and Fairplay have worked together in Hamburg for many years as members of the harbour tug pool, and co-operate on ETV operation. They operate a variety of modern tugs, in addition to the older ballet tugs pictured above.


Friday, July 7, 2017

Now Showing

Although I am in my sixth decade of marine photography, my current show at the Public Archives of Nova Scotia is entitled Four Decades of Marine Photography. That is because I have selected images only from the 1960s to 1990s.

They are all in black and white and were taken in Quebec and Nova Scotia (with one from New Brunswick) and show a wide range of shipping related subjects from my large archive.

On Saturday, July 8, there will be an opening reception from 1300 to 1600 in the Chase Gallery at the Public Archives of Nova Scotia, 6016 University Avenue, corner of Robie Street.

The exhibit runs until July 26. Gallery hours are Monday to Saturday 0830 -1630, Wednesdays until 2100 hrs.

All photos are professionally printed on archival water colour paper, with acid free matte and framed behind glass and are for sale. Prices range from $125 to $150.


ZIM gets bigger

ZIM is now sending larger ships to Halifax (last week's Zim Antwerp crashed through the 10,000 TEU mark) but they are also sending former post-Panamax ships through the new Panama Canal from on their Pacific service.

At this time last year Hamburg Bay was too large to use the old Panam Canal, but now it can get through with ease. The 71,786 grt, 72,982 dwt ship has a capacity of 6350 TEU, including 500 reefers. It was built in 2009 by Koyo Dockyard in Mihara, Japan to a standarad design called Imabari 6350. It started out on a charter to APL as APL Tokyo  and in 2014 became ZIM Hamburg. When that name was needed for a new ZIM ship it was renamed Hamburg Bay in 2016 by owners based in Lodon and associated with Zodiac Marine.

The tug Spitfire III has assisted the ship in turning and will swing around to the port quarter to bring it alongside. Note the open frmae type containers with standard containers on top. Thes large transpacific ships usually carry empties on the after deck.


Sunday, July 2, 2017

Return of the Coho - AMENDED

A familiar sight in Saint John, NB, the articulated tug barge (ATB) combination Coho and Penn No.92 made one of its infrequent visits to Halifax today.

The US flag tug and its 7100 grt asphalt barge usually run from Saint John to US east coats ports, but due to a shortage of Canadian tanker space*, Irving Oil received a coasting license to use the pair to deliver asphalt to Halifax and the Newfoundland ports of  Stephenville, Holyrood and Botwood. They will be making a second trip later in the month or early in August, delivering asphalt to McAsphalt.

Coho was built in 2008 by Thomasea Shipbuilders LLC in Lockport, LA one of five tugs with 51.5 ft high pilot house, specifically for ATB work. The connection is made with a JAK coupler system, which has proven to be so successful at sea that the tug can remain in the notch at all time.

Original owner of the pair was Penn Maritime, originally of Philadelphia, but by then based in Stamford, CT, and the tug carried their distinctive grey colour scheme, with black hull and white trim.  It was in those colours that they visited Halifax in 2012. The same year Penn Maritime was acquired by Kirby Corp of Channelview, TX and although they retained the names of both tug and barge, the tug has been repainted in Kirby Colours.

Docked at McAsphalt's jetty in Eastern Passage in 2012, the tug had disconnected from the barge during the unloading process.

*   The new tanker Damia Desgagnés  was originally scheduled to make these trips, but it was late being delivered. It has since run aground and may require repairs, further delaying it.

Monday July 3, 2017 
Less than 24 hours after arriving, Coho and Penn No.92 sailed from the McAsphalt dock in Eastern Passage. 
The barge is carrying 80,000 bbls of ashpalt to distrubute to the four ports it will visit, so it likely unloaded one quarter of  its cargo here.

On sailing it took the starboard side of the channel allowing a bit closer view of the tug.


Monday, June 26, 2017

Atlantic Towing visitors

Two Atlantic Towing Ltd tugs arrived in Halifax today, each visit related to barge work.

Atlantic Beech ex Irving Beech, built 1969, 2250 bhp arrived from Saint John, NB to tow away the barge Atlantic Sealion. As it has been doing for several years, the tug will likely be supporting northern supply to Baker Lake. It ferries cargo from larger ships at the entrance to Chesterfield Inlet on the western shore of Hudson's Bay in to the community of Baker Lake, 150 miles or so inland.

Atlantic Beech with Atlantic Sealion astern at  Woodside. 
On the dock at left is the disused Atlantic Chestnut.

Some of the cargo comes to Hudson's Bay via the Atlantic, largely from Quebec. Some cargo came overland to Churchuill, MB, where it was loaded for Baker Lake.
Due to rail wash outs on the Omnitrax line from The Pas, MB this spring, there will be no northern supply service from Churchill, MB this year. All cargo will have to be delivered the long way round via the Atlantic. In fact there will be cargo delivered to Churchill by sea for the town's own use. The town is in desperate need of supplies normally delivered by rail, including propane, food, fule and general merchandise.

The barge Atlantic Sealion (the former Irving Whale) has been used to shuttle components from the Woodside pier to Halifax Shipyard for the Arctic Offshore Patrol vessel construction.

Atlantic Larch arrived towing the pontoon Irving Beaver from Saint John, NB. The Larch built in 2000 and 4,000 bhp used to be stationed in Halifax but has become an "outside" tug used for towing work and now based in Saint John, but traveling widely around eastern Canada.

Atlantic Larch wangles the Irving Beaver to a berth at the old Coast Guard Base. 
The Woodside docks in the background are full up with the three Halifax based Atlantic Towing tugs, Atlantic Oak, Atlantic Willow, Spitfire III and the visiting Atlantic Beech, the supplier Atlantic Condor (at the Exxon Mobil dock), and the tanker Atlantic Pegasus  at Irving Oil.
(see today's Shipfax)

The pontoon Irving Beaver was built by Saint John DD+SB in 1973 as a floating sawmill and crew camp for work on the Saint John River. When that work ended its deck house was removed and it  became an "unmanned pontoon".  It dimensions are 68.58m x 26.52m and it is gross registered tonnage is now 2190 grt (it was 2702 as built).

I assume it will take the place of Irving Sealion on the shuttle run for shipbuilding components.
The pontoon's name was unique in the J.D.Irving fleet. Tugs were named for trees (softwood for river tugs, hardwood for seagoing, and barges named for marine animals). However all the animals were salt water species, such as Tuna, Whale, Seal, Sealion. Beavers are largely fresh water animals, and Irving Beaver's job was to chew up wood on the Saint John River, that seems an entirely logical  - dare I say whimsical? - choice.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Quebec Shakeup [amended]

See addendum at the end of this article

A major shakeup in the Quebec tug scene can be summarized as "Svitzer out / Ocean in".
Svitzer Canada, part of the multi-national tug operator, a subsidiary of the giant AP Moller-Maersk shipping conglomerate has opted to discontinue its short lived four tug Montreal operation, selling most of its local assets to Groupe Océan.

Ocean had been the sole operator in the Port of Montreal since acquiring the former McAllister business. It appears now that loyalty to Océan was strong enough that Svitzer could not gain traction.

Svitzer Montréal refitting in Halifax shortly before taking up station in Montreal in the spring of 2016. The tug was transferred from Svitzer's operation in the Dominican Republic.

When Svitzer moved in last year, it was largely on the basis of having longstanding relationships with Algoma and CSL and of course to service Maersk Lines one weekly container ship. Whether parent company Maersk's financial belt tightening was a factor or not, there apparently was not enough business to sustain the operation.

Svitzer operated its service in Montreal initially with two tugs, which did double duty, by spending the summer in the high arctic at the Baffinland iron port at Milne Inlet, serving the Mary River mine. Océan originally had the Baffinland contract, and built two 8,000 bhp super tugs, Océan Tundra and Océan Taiga especially for the work, which was expected to extend to year round. When the Baffinland project stalled and ArcelorMittal gained control of the project in 2011 Svitzer wound up with the tug contract. The completed Océan Tundra found some work as an escort tug out of Quebec City, but construction of Océan Taiga was slowed down and only completed in 2016 due to a lack of demand for the vessels.

Svitzer Nerthus and Svitzer Njal after fitting out in Halifax, are almost ready to sail for their first season at Milne Inlet.

Svitzer Njal and Svitzer Nerthus were brought back to Canada by Svitzer in 2016, but at 5,000 bhp, they would only be able to work seasonally in the far north (July - October). As ice class tugs however, they are quite suitable for year round work in Montreal. They will be fulfilling the Baffinland contract this summer too, but at the end of the season they will become Océan tugs.

Baffinland had originally planned a year round rail line operating to a port on Steensby Inlet, which would be accessible to larger ships and presumably require larger tugs for year round service. It now seems they will build the rail line to Milne River instead, replacing the present 100km tote road for trucks. This will allow the mine to reach its 12 mn tonnes per year shipping target. They also plan to bring in ships of up to capesize, which will also require larger tugs.

Of the four Montreal based tugs, only Svitzer Cartier was not built by Eastisle Shipyard in Georgetown, PE. The Chinese built tug is the only Voith-Schneider tug in the lot.

Svitzer acquired two more tugs for Quebec work. Svitzer Cartier, a Chinese built V-S tug initially arrived to provide additional tug service for Port-Cartier, where ArcelorMittal has a major iron ore and grain port, and two aging V-S tugs of its own.  Svitzer Cartier apparently did not work out well at Port-Cartier and was transferred to Montreal. Its fate is unknown at this time, but may be acquired by Océan. (see Addendum)

Océan has now also acquired the tug contract for Port-Cartier and will be moving two of its tugs there later in the year, replacing the ArcelorMittal owned tugs Brochu and Vachon. V-S tugs, they were adept at working in the tight confines of Port-Cartier, but Océan has no V-S tugs of comparable power, so it will interesting to know what tugs they will be using. They will have several tugs coming back from Newfoundland now that the Hebron gravity base project is complete.

Earlier this year Océan was awarded the operating contract for the V-S tug Pointe-Comeau, based in Baie-Comeau, and owned by Cargill Grain. The tug was under Svitzer (and previously Eastern Canada Towing) management since it was built in 1977. In fact predecessor copmay Foundation Maritime managed the Cargill owned Foundation Vibert from when it was built in 1961. It became Point Vibert under ECTUG management until replaced by Pointe-Comeau

The fourth Montreal tug, Svitzer Montreal (ex Caucedo) at 4500 bhp ASD will be sold to Océan and could be used in any one of several ports served by Océan. Three of the four tugs should be a good fit in the Océan stable, since they were built by Eastisle in Georgetown, PE to the same basic design as eight of Océan's tugs. (see Addendum)

Océan now has a tight lock on all St.Lawrence River ports, as the exclusive tug operator with tugs based in Sept-Iles, Port Cartier, Baie-Comeau, Quebec City, Trois-Rivières, Sorel and Montreal.

(In 2012 Océan won the Iron Ore Company of Canada contract at Sept-Iles held by Svitzer and predecessors since the 1950s. It also bought ECTUG's two Sept-Iles icebreaking tugs.)

Océan also operates tugs on the Great Lakes to serve Hamilton, Toronto and Oshawa and a small tug in the port of Goderich.

Business prospects for the port of Montreal in particular appear to be on the upswing, as the port shows increased container and tanker traffic. The St.Lawrence River can now accommodate much larger ships. although draft restriction still apply.

Svitzer is now reduced back to three tugs at Point Tupper, NS: Point Chebucto, Point Valiant and Svitzer Bedford. The rather surprising move to Montreal was a bit unusual for Svitzer, a company noted for negotiating long term terminal contracts, rather than speculative ventures into unknown territory.

 Since posting this blog more information has come to light.
1. Océan is not acquiring Svitzer Montréal The tug is not ice rated (it was built for the Dominican Republic) and thus will be re-assigned by Svitzer.
2. Océan has indeed acquired the Svitzer Cartier and will  be sending it to Ile-aux-Coudres for refit by Industrie Océan. This leads me to assume that it will assigned to Port-Cartier. At 5400 bhp it would certainly provide more power than the two 3600 bhp tugs in place there.
3.Océan will be supporting the Port-Cartier contract with two V-S tugs. Unknown at present what those tugs will be, however:
Océan has one other V-S tug:  Océan A. Simard ex Alexis Simard, 3290 bhp. It has been working on the Hebron project in Newfoundland, and seems a likely candidate for Port-Cartier.
At present Océan Arctique is supplementing the two ArcelorMittal tugs in Port-Cartier and will presumably remain there.


Saturday, June 3, 2017

Craig Trans - another chapter, but maybe not the last

It is time to record another chapter in the saga of the tug Craig Trans but perhaps not the last one.

To summarize the previous chapter. After appearing in Halifax in late 2012 and detained by authorities, the tug kicked around various piers until ending up in Wright's Cove (Lower Burnside) at the old Secunda Marine pier. Since its American owner abandoned the tug, and its crew, a Sheriff's sale eventually went through (for around $1,000) last year, but the tug remained there until Thursday June 1 when it was towed out of Halifax by Dominion Victory and landed yesterday morning (June 2) in the remote port of Marie Joseph on Nova Scotia's eastern shore. (About 175 km NE of Halifax, at nearly 45 degrees N).
With nothing much doing in Halifax harbour today (June 3) I made the 353 km round trip to Marie Joseph to investigate. [I have travelled farther to see a tug, but will not divulge the distance.]

The tug is now beached beside the former Canadian Coast Guard ship Tupper that has been an eyesore there since 2011. (It was also towed by the Dominion Victory).  A resident of Marie Joseph, who lives across the street (which is Nova Scotia Highway No.7), began to break up the ship, but ran into numerous legal hurdles coupled with the collapse of scrap prices. Nevertheless he acquired the Craig Trans ostensibly to scrap it, but perhaps to try to salvage something of value from it.

Local residents, mostly inshore fishermen, are quite sick of seeing the partially dismantled ex Tupper, where there has been little activity for more than a year. They told me this morning that the Craig Trans would not be broken up there in their lifetimes, so there may be another chapter in this story.

Interestingly the Canadian government announced new legislation this week to clean up derelict vessels in ports and harbours around the country (more than 600 by some accounts), but it is not clear if the laws would apply to the ex Tupper and Craig Trans which are merely unsightly.

Dominion Victory started life as the trawler Vilmont No.2 in 1965 at les chantiers maritimes de Paspebiac. It was renamed Raymond Moore in 1983 and Alcide C. Horth in 1994 and worked as a research vessel for the Quebec government and the Université de Quebec, Rimouski.
Dominion Diving acquired the vessel in 2004 and since then it has carried out a variety of chores for underwater work including operating an ROV. It has also done it share of towing work, although not strictly speaking a tug.

To summarize the CCGS Tupper's history - it was built in 1959 in Sorel, QC and retired in 1996 having worked out of Halifax (Dartmouth) and Charlottetown for most of its career. It was renamed 1998-05 and sold to an owner that had plans to convert it to an expedition yacht. It was renamed Caruso and registered in Panama, but that was as far as the conversion got. It kicked around various berths in Halifax  and Sheet Harbour, but finally caught fire in Dartmouth October 11, 2008. It was sold to the Marie Joseph scrapper and towed out June 22, 2011.

A brief recap on Craig Trans. Built in 1943 by the Tampa Marine Corp for the US Army it was named LT 648. It was laid up from about 1950 to 1965 until acquired by Foss Maritime of Seattle and rebuilt as Craig Foss. They replaced the original 1225 bhp FM engine with a pair of EMDs totaling 4,000 bhp. The tug worked the Hawaii and Alaska barge runs for Foss. It carried out other work, including a trip to the Great Lakes in 1978.
Foss finally disposed of the tug in 2011 and it became Craig Trans for shadowy owners with Haitian connections. It was involved in scrap tows to Mexico and in 2012 was headed for Beauharnois, QC to take the Kathryn Spirit in tow to scrappers in Mexico. However it was late in the season and it was doubtful if it would make it to the Seaway before winter closing as the tug was losing power. It was diverted to Halifax and detained here for numerous deficiencies by Ship Safety. The Honduran crew were eventually repatriated through charitable donations after the US based owner walked away.

By coincidence, only now is the Kathryn Spirt being demolished in situ at Beauharnois, after several years of wrangling with the scrapper, the municipality and various authorities. The ship was a similar eyesore to local residents.