Thursday, January 31, 2019

Captain Jim

The tragic loss of a life in the sinking of the workboat Captain Jim on January 29 has thrown a shadow over the waterfront community in Halifax. The several companies that work on the water would have known the boat and its owners well.

The company, RMI Marine has operated the Captain Jim in a variety of roles around the harbour for many years. The boat was named for Jim Ritcy a co-founder of Dominion Diving and the father of RMI's owner, who was also skipper on the boat the night it sank. He and a cargo surveyor survived by escaping to a life raft. The deckhand however was not able to escape the sinking. After an intensive search and rescue operation, the boat was located in about 12m of water and the deckhand's body was recovered.

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada is investigating the incident and no decision has been made as to whether the boat will be raised.

Built in 1989 by Guimond's Boats Ltd in Baie Ste-Anne, NB, the Captain Jim's lines were typical of fishing boats on the Northumberland Strait.

 The unbroken sheer line, flared bow and beaked stem are typical of Northumberland Strait boats.

 The engine is amidships with a large open, self draining deck, with a towing bit.

The boat's bow flare and lines were revealed when it was hauled out for a refit.

  The FRP hull was finished however as a crew / workboat and named Atantic Walnut by first owners, Atlantic Towing Ltd. They used the boat in Saint John as a workboat and for personnel transfers.  RMI Marine acquired the boat for use as a diving tender, workboat and for any other tasks that were needed on the water.

Some of those were tug work, such as moving construction barges during the Big Lift project on the Angus L. Macdonald bridge.

At the time of its loss it was returning from a tanker at the outer anchorages after a cargo sampling assignment conducted by the surveyor.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Mister Joe

The tug that has probably been featured in this blog more than any other is the Mister Joe. It has appeared in at least dozen posts, but continues to be of interest because of the variety of work it does.

Owned by McNally Construction Inc, the tug attends to the various dredging and marine construction projects around Atlantic Canada. Halifax has had its fair share of those projects over the years, and Mister Joe has been present for most of them.

Its latest assignment is to tend to the dredging at the Southend Container Terminal (Halterm) where the dredge Derrick No.3 is busy filling a pair of dump scows.

When a scow is fully loaded Mister Joe tows it (on the hip) the length of Halifax harbour to a disposal site in Bedford Basin. The scow S.11 is the former D.P.W.No.77, built in 1977 by McNamara in Whitby, ON.


The dump site, off Africville, is a cove formed by fill from various excavation sites around Halifax. The dredge spoil will eventually be covered with that excavated material, which is largely shale.


A recent subscription only news service referred to Mister Joe as "ancient". By that term I am sure they just meant "old" [OED: ancient: having existed, lived, long].

As one who has now entered the hallowed halls of seniordom, I attach a different slant to words related to age, and bristle at the implication that "ancient" somehow connotes decrepit, which certainly is not the case with Mister Joe. [ nor me, I hope. However I also take exception to its antonym, "spry"!] 

There is no denying that Mister Joe was built by the esteemed tug builders Russel Brothers, in Owen Sound, ON in 1964. It was delivered to its owners, Rupertsland Trading Co (Hudson's Bay Co) for service in Moosonee, ON as Churchill River. It worked all around Hudson's Bay for close to thirty years and was fitted with a sort of turtle back cowl over its foredeck to protect against seas and icing.
When the Hibernia offshore development began, a construction facility for the gravity base was established at Bull Arm, NL and the tug was acquired by Churchill River Tug Ltd of Manuel's, NL and without change of name worked around the construction site until 1997.

Ownership was transferred to Beaver Marine Ltd in 1997 and when McNally took control in 2001 the tug was renamed Mister Joe after the company founder.

Its original pair of 342bhp Cummins engines lasted until 2002. [Russel Bros had the eastern Canada license to sell and service Cummins engines, through their company Russel-Hipwell Engines Ltd].
A pair of new GM engines giving 750 bhp were installed at Brenton Gray's boatyard in Sambro [now CME.]
Then in 2014, the tug was taken to McNally's repair yard in Ontario and had its wheelhouse replaced with a new structure, built to the original drawings from 1964, but with improved windows and fittings. At the same time its accommodation was also refitted.


Sunday, January 13, 2019

Atlantic Enterprise

The first sign of things happening in Halifax for the salvage of the container ship Yantian Express is the arrival of the tug Atlantic Enterprise. Owned by Donjon Marine Co Inc of Hillside, NJ, it is part of the effort mobilized by Donjon-SMIT the North American joint venture of two of the world's largest salvage companies.

SMIT, is the well known Dutch towing and salvage company founded in Rotterdam in 1842. Then know by the founder's family name of Smit, it evolved over the years as Smit Internationale NV, but since 2010 has been part of the Royal Boskalis Westminster and has been known as SMIT (all caps).
The tug SMIT Nicobar was first on scene after the Yantian Express caught fire January 4. It has continued to provide firefighting assistance but also evacuated the ship's crew and continues to care for then on board. It landed five of the crew back on the ship to attend to its machinery.

The Canadian tug Maersk Mobiliser was hired to assist in the salvage operation. After sailing from St.John's January 5, it arrived on scene January 7 and by the next day had the ship in tow for Halifax.

Donjon Marine was founded by the Witte family  and incorporated in 1966. It has wide interests in marine construction, shipbuilding, ship repair and recycling. It is also continues to be the designated provider of salvage services for the United States Navy in the western hemisphere.

The Donjon-SMIT joint venture was formed to provide marine salvage, lighterage and firefighting services in compliance with regulations emanating from OPA-90 (the US Oil Pollution Act). That act was the reaction to the grounding and oil spill form the Exxon Valdez in Alaska in 1989. One of the outcomes of that act was to require shipowners to have a designated response plan for pollution and firefighting emergencies.

The tug Atlantic Enterprise is Donjon's largest tug, and has participated in many of Donjon's recent projects. It was built in 1976 by Halter Marine Services in Moss Point, MS as Mister Pete for Jackson Marine Corp of Houston. That company evolved through mergers with Zapata, Gulf Fleet, Seahorse and Tidewater until 1999 when they sold the tug to Portland Tug Boat and Shipdocking Co of Portland, ME. Owned by the legendary Arthur Fournier, Portland renamed the tug Pete. McAllister Towing and Transportation took over the company in 2001 and kept the tug in service until 2007.
K-Sea Transportation then bought the tug and renamed it Barents Sea. K-Sea was taken over by Kirby Corp in 2011 and they continued to own the tug until 2016 when it was purchased by Donjon and renamed Atlantic Enterprise.

As with most big US tugs of the era it is powered by a pair of Alco diesels, delivering a reported 6,480 bhp. Some sources claim they are V-18s - a very rare 251 model -  but Lloyd's Register shows them as V-16s.  

Friday, January 11, 2019

Troms Sirius - first in, first to go, Plus Lundstrom Tide follows

The Platform Supply Vessel (PSV) Troms Sirius sailed this evening January 11 for Bergen, Norway. It is one of two ships brought under Canadian registry by Horizon Maritime to service a BP drilling contract off Nova Scotia. A member of the Troms Offshore fleet (a Tidewater company) it was built in 2012 by STX in the OSV Tulcea shipyard in Romania and completed at STX Soviknes in Norway.

Troms Sirius returning to Halifax for the last time, Christmas Eve.

A 4,201 gt vessel with a deadweight tonnage of 4868, it was built to the VARD PSV 09L CD class, and is fitted with numerous tanks for carrying fluids and a large cargo deck. It is also equipped with firefighting gear and DP 2, and numerous other features. Powered by four Caterpillar diesels, driving four electrical generators, it delivers 11,200 bhp to twin screws. It is also equipped with an azimuthing bow thruster and two tunnel thrusters.

It was registered in Halifax March 9, 2018 after a brief period operating under a coasting license. Followed shortly after by the similar ship Lundstrom Tide and Horizon's own Horizon Star it supported the ultra deep water semi-submersible drill rig West Aquarius. The rig was mobilized in Newfoundland and in April began to drill an exploration well, Aspy D-11, 330 km southeast of Halifax. By November the well had found no commercially viable oil or gas and demobilization began. Troms Sirius escorted the rig back to Bay Bulls, NL then returned to Halifax.

 Troms Sirius returning to Halifax Christmas Eve.

There are no exploration or development projects planned off Nova Scotia. The only work in the area is the decommissioning of the two gas fields that have both ceased production. 

Troms Sirius refueled at Irving Oil on Tuesday January 8, then tied up at the Cove with Lundstrom Tide and Horizon Enabler (ex Tidewater Enabler).  Both those vessels are also idle.


On Saturday January 12, Lundstrom Tide also left Halifax. Its destination however is Limassol, Cypress. Sailing under the Vanuatu flag, it is giving an ETA of February 2.
A similar vessel to Troms Sirius it was registered in Halifax April 4, 2018, under Horizon Maritime management. Built at the same STX OSV shipyard in Tulcea, Romania and completed in 2013 by STX Sovik, in Norway. Its gross tonnage is listed as 3943, and with 4700 deadweight tonnes, it appears to have similar characteristics. However its propulsion system is rated at 9,430bhp, and is diesel electric through Z-drives.

Lundstrom Tide arrived in Halifax for the first time April 11.

It also came to Canada to support BP's drilling program using the West Aquarius. After completing that work it moved the The Cove on about December 17.

Lundstrom Tide at The Cove (former Coast Guard base)

Troms Sirius, Lundstrom Tide and Horizon Star used Pier 9C as their base for operations. From there to the drill site was about a 20 hour trip.

  Some of the 3,000m of riser is laid out on Pier 9C ready to transport to the drill site

Both Horizon Star and Troms Sirius were certified as standby / rescue vessels. Crew changes were normally conducted by helicopter, a 1 hour 20 minute ride from the Halifax airport.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

The New Wavemaster

On the move from Shelburne, NS for seal trials to Saint John, NB is the  tug Wavemaster. Owned by Harbour Development Ltd, the dredging subsidiary of Atlantic Towing Ltd, it has re-used a name from the past.

Built for the Royal Netherlands Navy as Regge, the tug was acquired early last year and sailed to Shelburne in March. Since then it has been extensively rebuilt, and in June 2018 was renamed Wavemaster.

See Tugfax 2018/03/21   for more on the Regge.

 Irving Willow working in Yarmouth harbour has an extended wheelhouse and modified deck house.

This is the second HDL tug to be named Wavemaster. The first was built in 1958 by J.I. Thornycroft in Southampton, UK for the local Red Funnel Tug fleet. It was powered by two 6 cyl Crossleys giving 1340 bhp with twin screws. Named Dunnose it was one of four similar tugs acquired by Atlantic Towing over the years. In 1980 it was renamed Irving Willow and seems to have been attached to the dredging fleet from early days. Because some of its accommodation was below deck, and no longer permissible for Canadian tugs, the deck house and wheelhouse were modified. Sister tug Atlantic Juniper ex Irving Juniper ex Thorness was not modified and remained a day boat as a result. (It was to be broken up in the last year.)

Sister tug Atlantic Juniper remained a day boat in Saint John, NB.

 When the J.D.Irving parent company removed the "Irving" name from its tugs in 1996, Irving Willow was renamed Wavemaster. It was laid up in Dartmouth in 1998, and although drydocked in 2004, it was never in service again and was finally broken up in Dartmouth in 2005.

 The same tug, as Wavemaster worked with dredges and scows.

Harbour Development has been making do with only one large tug (and small tugs and workboats) since 1998, so it seems likely that the new Wavemaster will be replacing the veteran Swellmaster. Also a Thornycroft- built former Red Funnel tug, it was built in 1965 as the firefighting tug Atherfield. It came to Canada for Atlantic Towing Ltd in 1971 and was renamed Irving Hemlock. It has been attached to the dredging fleet from the beginning, and was renamed Swellmaster in 1996.

 Irving Hemlock still carried fire monitors which were used for washing down scows.

A twin screw tug, originally with two Crossley engines totalling 1340bhp it was re-engined with a pair of 12 cylinder Caterpillars in 1987 giving 2,000 bhp. The new Wavemaster seems to be a suitable  replacement.

Swellmaster was also equipped with a winch for towing dredges from port to port.

At Shelburne Ship Repair in Shelburne, NS - also part of J.D.Irving and Irving Shipbuilding Inc, I hear that the yard's tug/workboat SSR 3 has been broken up some time ago.

Built in 1964 for Ferguson Industries in Pictou for the Department of Public Works dredging fleet, its original name was Grand Entrée. A 380 bhp single screw boat it was stationed in the Magdalen Islands, but later transferred to Gaspé. In 1996 it was renamed T.5 when DPW put their entire dredging fleet up for sale. Harbour Development Ltd bought the boat and used it for a time. It was then laid up in Dartmouth and when Dartmouth Marine Slips was shut down it was transferred to Shelburne.
It was then renamed SSR 3 but the registered name remained T.5. The shipyard used the tug for working around the slip and as a diving tender, but it was laid up about 2005, and broken up sometime in 2017.  

The number of tugs built in the 1950s and 60s is rapidly diminishing, Although about 25 are still listed in the Atlantic Region, several of those are laid up and unlikely to return to service. There are also a few still  listed which have in fact been broken up already.