Saturday, July 28, 2018

Summer Break

As usual Ship Central is taking a summer break and the blogs Shipfax and Tugfax may see only periodic posts until September. The break started a little earlier this year and without notice, so this announcement is slightly retro-active.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Groupe Océan's older tugs

In Groupe Océan's large tug fleet there are a number of older tugs. That they are still running is a tribute to their excellent maintenance, but also to the fact that many have served a lot of their time in fresh water. In early July two of their elderly tugs were on the slip at Industrie Océan in Ile-aux-Coudres undergoing major refits.

Océan Charlie dates from 1973 when is was built by Davie as Leonard W.  A 3900 bhp twin screw tug, it is ice strengthened. Original owners, were Davie, then owned by CSL, but spun off by Power Corp as Quebec Tugs (QUETUG)  and the original core of the fleet acquired by Groupe Océan. It has almost always been based in Quebec City, and is equipped to serve as a winter pilot boat.

In its Quetugs days, the tug looked particularly sharp with white gunwales.

Duga has quite a different history. Built in 1977, by Rolf Rekdal A/S and completed by Langsten Slip, Tomrefjord, Norway, it is a twin screw 4500 bhp tug. Original owners were Johann Ostensjo  but sold on to Arctic Offshore Marine Services of Hay River, NWT. They in turn sold it to Les Remorqueurs du St-Laurent (Three Rivers Boatmen) of Trois-Rivières. It also did a spell on charter to Atlantic Towing in Point Tupper. In 2002 Océan acquired the Trois-Rivières tugs, and it was later reassigned to Sorel.

Another pair of older tugs were idle in Quebec City. Oldest of these is Jerry G.  Built in 1960 by and for Davie, it is a 960 bhp single screw tug. Based in Quebec City for its earliest years, it was later moved up river and eventually into the Lakes, working out of Hamilton or Oshawa. When Océan brought in more power in its VS tugs for the Lakes, Jerry G. returned to Quebec City where it has been laid up. Now their tug La Prairie has been sent to Oshawa.

Also laid up for a couple of years in Quebec City is André H. The ex Point Valiant, Foundation Valiant dates from 1963 when it was built by Davie. A twin screw tug of 1650 bhp it was sold by ECTUG to Trois-Rivières/Three Rivers Boatmen in 1995 and entered the Océan fleet in 2002.

Sadly there is not much of a future for either Jerry G. or André H. due to their age and low power. As they exceed 50 years of age the chances of bringing them up to standard would be a daunting one for any new owner. Howevre with its own shipyard, Océan is in a better position to refit the tugs than ayne else, shold they be needed.

Another older tug with a questionable future is named Océan Brochu, but that is not the name painted on its bow. Built in 1973 as Brochu for Quebec Cartier Mining and based in Port-Cartier, QC for its entire working career, it is a 32000 bhp VS tug. Océan was in the process of acquiring the tug and sister Vachon from last owner ArcelorMittalMines Canada as part of their takeover of Port-Cartier tug services when a fire broke out in Brochu's engine room. The tug was seriously damaged and may well be a total loss. Nevertheless it still appears to be in Océan's possession, and it is said that after being parted out for its sister, now renamed Océan A. Gauthier, it will be scrapped. The Océan prefix has not been added to its name, and its funnel is still in ArcelorMittal orange, lending credence to this opinion.

With it is the Avantage, appearing in pristine condition, despite being built in 1969. The former Belgian Sealion came to Canada in 1997 for MTL Marine Tug Inc of Montreal. Remorqueuers Trois-Rivières got the tug in 1999 then it passed to Océan with the acquisition in 2002. The 2160 bhp single screw tug has proven useful in the past but again its age, power, and single screw hold against it.

Another veteran tug is Océan Echo II, also built in 1969 a 3,000 bhp twin screw built for barge work and towing.  Some its chip barge work may have been taken up by the cargo ship Jean-Joseph this summer, but it has done some stern escort on laker scrap tows.

Of course there is also the "mega" tug Mega and its bulk barge Motti laid up in Sorel-Tracy for several years. The ATB was acquired for a contract that fell through and has seen only limited use. It has even made some wood chip deliveries to Point Tupper, NS, but with the current state of the paper business,there may be few opportunities for it. Apparently the thought of converting the barge for salt or cement transport did not go very far beyond idle doodling. The tug dates from 1975 and is twin screw, diesel electric of 5500 bhp.

The erstwhile tug Océan Côte-Nord has returned to the work it was built for and is now one of two duty pilot boats in Quebec City. Built as Côte-Nord for the Escoumins pilot staton in 2001, it was renamed in 2014.

It worked as a tug in Goderich, ON last year, but has since been replaced by the Escorte, a V-S tug, dating from 1967, but again, serving mostly in fresh water.

Not an old tug, but one that should be mentioned is Océan Uannaq. One of a pair of tugs built in 2008 for the Baffinland project, it is a 12 grt boat with 770 bhp and twin screws. After service in the far north during the building of the Milne Inlet port, it returned south and was used by Océan's dredging arm to handle spoil barges. In 2015 it was reassigned to work on the Champlain Bridge project. In an unfortunate accident April 1, 2016 it capsized and sank, luckily without loss of life. Although it was soon raised it was declared a total loss. It is now resting in Quebec City, and based on looks alone it seems that it could be repaired and returned to service.

Groupe Océan also has a large fleet of smaller tugs used by its marine construction and dredging arms for a variety of tasks. Some of these may remain out of service for lengthy periods depending on demand, but are then brought back into use when need. Two such tugs are currently on the dock in Quebec City.

 Left  to Right:
- W.D.Indock, built in 192 by Zenith Steel Fabricators of Richmond, BC for Resolute Shipping, a division of Fednav, as Mokka Fjord. Used by them for barge lightering work in the far north, it passed through several owners including McKeil, while acquiring its present name. It was also rebuilt in 1998-99. Groupe Océan got the tug in 2011 after it had worked around the Thorold, ON area for several years.

My 1974 photo does not do justice to its then bright red hull. It was at pier 23 in Halifax, waiting to go north on Tundraland.

- likely a former CCG landing craft - tarped over.

- Océan A. Martin is an aluminum hull former Escoumins pilot boat. Built as A.Martin by MonArk Boats,  Monticello, AK in 1983,  it was last used as a survey boat for dredging work.

 A. Martin at speed off Escoumins as a pilot boat.
- Coucoucache is a typical Russel Bros built winder boat, one of many in the Océan stable. However, since it was built in 1937 it may be one of the oldest. 

 Despite its age, the boat appeared to be in excellent condition when it was acquired by Océan after a career in the Mauricie watershed, handling wood booms.

The boat's intriguing name derives from the Amerindian name for an owl.


Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Groupe Océan goes north and south - with 4 updates

When Groupe Océan took over Svitzer's Montreal operation last year, they also got the two tugs Svitzer was using for the Baffinland Iron Mines operation in the far north. The tugs completed their 2017 season, returned to Quebec and were handed over to Océan in October.

Svitzer Njal was renamed Océan Clovis T. and Svitzer Nerthus became Océan Raynald T and I expected both tugs would resume  their roles again this year, but apparently Océan Clovis T. has found a niche in Quebec City.

 Océan Clovis T.  off Quebec with several Desgagnés ships in the background, including their most recent, the former Jan which was in the process of renaming Miena Desgagnés.
 Tucked in to its berth at Quebec, behind Océan Arctique and Océan Tundra.
Océan Raynald T. has sailed for the north, but it will be the turn of Océan K. Rusby to work with it this year. Built to essentially the same spec, Océan K. Rusby is a 5000 bhp ASD, but is four years older, built in 2005. It also has a high ice spec and is equipped with fire fighting gear.

The reason the Rusby was given the task this year may be apparent from a close look at the photos. Note the yellow tipped pilot boarding gangways fitted on Rusby, Arctique and Tundra. Working from the top of the deck house allows pilots to board well clear of any ice that may be built up closer to water level  - a useful feature in heavy conditions.

Océan K.Rusby returning to its berth in Bassin Louise.

However Océan Clovis T.  did make a strange trip toward Sept-Iles in mid-June and returned to Quebec, so perhaps there was some other reason for it to remain in the Quebec.

Meanwhile the second tug assigned to their new Jamaica operation (there are supposed to be three according to press releases) will arrive in Halifax later this evening - in thick fog and likely after dusk.
Océan Stevns has had a strange six months or more, spending some of the time idle in Port Hawksbury under foreign flag on "bareboat" charter. However it then moved to St.John's NL for drydocking. This was apparently the only nearby available drydock, since Océan's own shipyard is full up.

Océan Stevns was built in 2002 as Stevns Océan for Nordane Shipping of Denmark. Builders were the Industrie Océan shipyard in Ile-aux-Coudres, but the yard became financially over extended and was closed. Ownership was reformed and the yard re-opened later under Groupe Océan ownership. Stevns Arctic lay partially built at the time and in 2004 it was launched then Atlantic Teak towed it to Halifax where it was completed by Halifax Shipyard in 2005 - the only ship to be "unlaunched" by the yard - it was hauled up the slipway into the old building hall, then re-launched after completion.

In 2013 Groupe Océan brought Stevns Océan and sister tug Stevns Arctic back to Canada  under a charter with purchase option. The tugs were re-registered and re-named becoming the current Océan Stevns and Océan Arctique and the purchase option taken up.

The morning after its return from Denmark, Stevns Océan waits its turn at Ile-aux-Coudres while its sister tug undergoes drydocking and survey at the yard where they were built.

If the pattern of the past two Groupe Océan calls in Halifax is followed, Océan Stevns will spend a few days storing and fueling before heading south. I will add any photos I am lucky enough to get as Updates to this post.

Looking at Kingston Harbour Jamaica on AIS, Océan Taiga is tied up adjacent to two Columbia flag tugs from Intertug. Both appear to be Rob Allen design ASDs. One, called Capidahl is a 5,432 bhp, 75 tonne BP ASD built in 2009 by Sanmar. The other, named Sirocco is a Chinese built ASD dating from 2013 likely around 4500 bhp to 5,000 bhp. Océan is unlikely to find an idle tug of equal capability in its existing fleet, so perhaps they will service the three tug contract using one of the Intertug boats. 

To my mind it would be a shame to lose Océan Taiga to a long term Jamaica bareboat contract, since it is built for work in the Canadian arctic, and except for its great power, it is wasted in the tropics. I didn't think Océan had a surplus of operational tugs, but apparently they do since they are keeping some of their old dogs working. - see a subsequent post.  

Groupe Océan has a acquired a nearly new tug to service the Kingston contract. The Robert Allen designed RAmparts 2400SX was built in Turkey by Sanmar in 2015 as Bogacay IX. Sanmar builds tugs to own account but sells them on to meet short delivery requirements of clients. The 80 tonne BP ASD is powered by a pair of Cats totaling 6300 bhp, and is equipped for firefighting. Renamed Ocean Kingston Pride, the tug is currently in Istanbul, fyling the Jamaica flag.

Some alongside views of Océan Stevns turn  up a few points of interest.

 A number of fenders and tires are lashed down on deck and the towing winch is tarped.

 While the St.Vincent and the Grenadines registry is often considered an interim one,  someone made certain this was a more long term arrangement, by making up cast metal "Kingstown". This may not have to be changed to "Kingston" when it arrives in Jamaica.

  There did not appear to be much activity on board, but some servicing was underway, since a technician van was parked at the foot of the gangway. Just above that gangway is the pilot boarding gangway, similar to that on other tugs, as noted above.

Update #3
2018-07-14 This afternoon Océan Stevns made a one hour trials trip to Bedford Basin and returned to pier 9B.

Whatever adjustments were made must have been acceptable as the tug has ordered a pilot for 1800 departure tomorrow.  

It was goodbye to Océan Stevns at 12800 this afternoon as the tug got away from pier 9B for Kingston, Jamaica, giving an ETA of July 25.

The Jamaica contract is for ten years, and it will be interesting to see if this tug ever returns to Canada. My opinion? Despite its seakeeping ability and extra accommodations for a larger crew, in a very few years 5,000 bhp will not be enough for the larger ships now coming in to service and 85 to 100t BP will be demanded. Therefore the  tug will be back within 5 years or less. 
Note the Quebec City type pilot boarding gangways are still fitted, and Quebec has only been painted out not burned off under the ship's name.


Friday, July 6, 2018


The annual sealift supply of northern Canadian settlements takes place during a short navigation season from July to October. One of the major operators is Groupe Desgagnés through their Desgagnés Transartik subsidiary. Ships load at various ports on the St.Lwrence River and head to ports in northern Quebec, Nunavik and Nunavut.

Many of the outports do not have piers or other port infrastructure due to the severe winter ice conditions, and thus ships going north frequently carry small tugs and scows to transship cargo from offshore anchorage to the beach.

On June 30 I was fortunate enough to catch some of the preparations for that work.
The ship Sedna Desgagnés had loaded most of its cargo upriver, then proceeded down to an anchorage off Ile-aux-Coudres. There it was met by a small flotilla of tugs, both company owned and those chartered from GFFM Leclerc, an Ile-aux-Coudres based builder and fleet owner of rental tugs.

Sedna Desgagnés came to anchor off the pier at St-Bernard, Ile-aux-Coudres.

Lead by the Eclipse Polaire four tugs get underway from the small marina.
Eclipse Polaire is typical of the latest generation of GFFM Leclerc tugs. It is a triple screw, shallow draft vessel of about 1130 bhp.
Lumaaq is a Desgagnés owned tug, of similar design, but twin screw and only about 319 bhp.

Vent Polaire is of an earlier generation Leclerc tug, 2 screw, 420 bhp. Getting away at the dock is Béluga Polaire another triple screw 1200 bhp tug.

Three other Desgagnés tugs and a large scow remain to be picked up by another ship.
Pivut, Ullakut and Ulluriaq are all twin screw, 620 bhp.
Eclipse Polaire picks up a scow from its mooring and heads out to the ship. On the scow's deck are some landing ramps.
Béluga Polaire pushes a larger scow out to the anchorage.

Tugs shepherd the larger scow alongside for the ship to hoist aboard using its heavy lift cranes.
It only takes one crane to lift the smaller scow.
While the lifting takes place, the tugs stand well off. A speed boat is also present - I assume taking photos or videos of the operation.

The small tugs remind me of ducklings.

 Once the barges are on board, it is time to lift the tugs:

The tugs takes their place among the various pick-up trucks, boats and even an ambulance heading north.
With three tugs on board (Lumaaq, Eclipse Poliare and Béluga Polaire), the ship cradles its cranes and weighs anchor. Its next port will be Rimouski where it will top off with more deck cargo.

Vent Polaire heads back to Ile-aux-Coudres with the deck crews.

When the annual sealift winds up for another season, the operation will be reversed and the tugs and scows will be returned to Ile-aux-Coudres for the winter.