Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Groupe Ocean in Jamaica

Groupe Ocean is augmenting its Kingston, Jamaica harbour tug operation with the addition of Ocean Tallawah which is currently en route from Capetown, South Africa.

Another Damen tug, this one was built in 2015 by Damen's Song Thu yard in Da Nang, and measures 268 gt. It has apparently been operating in South Africa for Damen's own rental fleet first as Njouri until 2016 and then Djouri until recently.

Ocean's Kingston fleet has been operating with two tugs, Ocean Kingston Pride and Ocean Stevns since Ocean Taiga returned to Canada this year to work in Milne Inlet. Ocean Stevns was re-registered in Canada May 2, but is still listed as bareboat chartered under Jamaica flag, so there is still the possibility that it will be heading back to Canada where its ice capability will be better utilized.


Groupe Ocean breaks into BC

Groupe Ocean has registered two new tugs in Vancouver with local Vancouver names.

Ocean Granville and Ocean Kitsilano are 381 gt vessels built by Damen's Song Cam shipyard in Vietnam. Although registered Canadian October 10, it would seem both have been chartered out to a delivery service and placed under the St.Vincent and Grenadines flag temporarily. AIS indicates both tugs are still located in Hai Phong, Vietnam.

Details are very skimpy at this point, with Canadian on line registry indicating a speed of 13 knots. This would certainly indicate an escort capability, and thus the 2525 kW (3386 BHP) figure given would be for only one engine of the two.  These tugs then are almost certainly Damen 2813 Compact Design tugs with an 85 tonne Bollard Pull (ahead), and 80 tonnes astern. They are ASD type tugs with escort skeg.

Damen ASD Tug 2813

The Dutch company Damen now builds most of its tugs in Vietnam and typically has a number of tugs in stock. Customizing, in terms of winches, and other fittings can be made quickly, and it is not unusual for new tugs to be in service within a very few months of orders.

With both tugs carrying the names of well known Vancouver neighborhoods, it is unlikely that they will serve anywhere but in Vancouver harbour. This would put them in direct competition with Seaspan (which owns Cates) and SAAM (now without Smit as a partner.) It is interesting that they may have got a jump on  Kotug Canada, the recently announced partnership with Dutch Kotug and the Canadian company Horizon Maritime. That partnership is seeking terminal operation and harbour tug opportunities in Canada.


Sunday, October 20, 2019

Triple Decker Correction

My error in my last post about Foundation's triple deckers was eventually corrected, but not until three days had passed, so may have been missed by many readers.

For the record Foundation Vera was not the first "triple decker" in the fleet. In fact Foundation had triple deckers a full ten years earlier in its operations. So, a little summary of the company history is needed. As it has been so memorably documented by the late Farley Mowat in Grey Seas Under, the Foundation Company of Canada got into the salvage business almost accidentally. During the Great Depression of the 1930s, when the company was looking for a tug to tow its marine construction equipment, they stumbled across and bought the Foundation Franklin at a distress price. It was such an exceptional vessel and so suited for salvage work that the company's east coast operation Foundation Maritime became as much a salvage company as a construction company.

It soon became apparent that having just one salvage tug was not going to be enough. The Montreal shipping and shipbuilding tycoon Frank M. Ross had acquired* four new tugs in Scotland for his company Ross Towing and Salvage, and established Nova Scotia Tug Boats Ltd, with R.W.Hendry Halifax as manger/agent in 1934 (Hendry had operated flock of antiquated tugs under various company names including Halifax Tow Boat Co) . The new tugs were to be based in Halifax in the winter and Montreal in the summer.  Ross was soon persuaded to sell two of the tugs to Foundation Maritime, and Maritime Towing and Salvage was established in 1935 to operate the tugs primarily as harbour tugs in Halifax, but to be capable of light salvage and coastal towing work.
* [It is almost certain that the tugs were originally ordered by James Towing + Dredging but either cancelled and completed on spec, or refused on delivery, due to the economic crisis.]

Bonscot, renamed Banscot and Banshee were state of the art for the day, 90 feet long steamers of 950 ihp, reinforced for working in ice and fitted with firefighting pumps and salvage gear. Builders A. Hall of Aberdeen, Scotland used a typical British tug design with open bridge. (All the better for ship's pilot, tug skipper and crews to both see and hear voice and whistle commands.)

A model of the Banscot shows a small wheelhouse built on the flying bridge, perhaps of wood.

It was not long however until it became necessary to build a rudimentary wheelhouse on the open bridge to protect the helmsman and skipper from the elements - particularly in Canadian winter. So either Banscot or Banshee must take the ribbon for the first "triple decker".

At some point the new wheelhouse was replaced by a more permanent structure and some of the navigation equipment, such as the RDF, moved up to join the standard compass and helm.

Foundation Vera and Banscot laid up in Halifax in 1966 were eventually scuttled in 1968. Their wheelhouses appear to be steel but still fairly rudimentary.

Whether the original wheelhouse remained operational is not known to me. However by the time the first of the new built trriple deckers arrived in 1956 - Foundation Victor - the second level house became accommodation for the skipper, and the top deck wheelhouse was no longer an afterthought.

The only problem with Foundation Victor's "penthouse" was that it was a tight fit to install the console for the mandatory radar.  More room was provided in the next tug in the series, Foundation Valour by extending the wheelhouse forward and eliminating the walkway in front.

The six tugs built in 1962- Point Vigour on the left is typical - were built without the added deck. 

It was a good many years before Foundation and its successors MIL Tug and ECTUG ordered any new tugs, but when they did, they were replacement "terminal" tugs for Baie Comeau and Sept-Iles and again all were triple deckers.

The company was certainly not the only one in the world to have triple decker tugs, but it is interesting to note that Cory - eventual parent company of ECTUG,  built triple decker terminal tugs for its super tanker work in Bantry Bay in the UK and used the same design of tugs for Point Tupper and Come-by-Chance in Canada. Cory never had triple deckers before that time - so where did the idea come from?

 A Cory design triple decker wedged between Point Vibert and Point Valour at the Ectug dock. (Either Point Melford or Point Tupper  is the jam in the sandwich.)

When ECTUG moved to ASD tugs, the triple decker design prevailed for Point Halifax of 1986,

and Point Chebucto of 1993.

Even though they were not terminal tugs per se they were used to dock larger ships and the elevated height of eye was extremely useful..

However as ships become even larger with greater and greater freeboard that advantage is now largely gone, even on moderate sized ships, triple deckers may not be needed for most ship berthing.
Today tugs work under ship's overhangs, use hull bollards and sometimes work virtually blind, relying on VHF communication. [Can you see autonomous tugs coming over the horizon?]

A third deck might have fouled under the stern or the bow of the YM Movement berthed in Halifax today by Atlantic Towing Ltd tugs.

Once almost a trademark of Foundation Maritime, the triple decker tug, may, like the company itself, fade from existence, just like some other quaint aspects of tug operations.


Thursday, October 17, 2019

New Home for well known tug (with revision)

Carrying the name Florence M a well known tug may be starting a new career. It has recently arrived in Thunder Bay, ON in tow of an equally well known fleet mate Molly M 1. (ex  Point Vigour ex Foundation Vigour). New owners have not been identified and no name change has been indicated.

Former Foundation fleet mates, Molly M 1 and Florence M  both went to McKeil.

Florence M is a one of a kind tug, built originally as Foundation Vibert in 1961, similar to two other Foundation "triple deckers", but unlike the original Foundation Victor of 1956 and Foundation Valour of 1958, the Vibert had a shorter hull, was twin screw, and was built in England.  P.K.Harris of Appledore, North Devon  followed the  hydroconic hull section invented by Burnett Corliss partners.
Unusual for a British built tug of the era it received a pair of small block Fairbanks Morse engines, shipped in from North America. Totaling 1332 bhp, they give a bollard pull of a reputed 20 tons.

The tug was built to serve at Baie-Comeau and Sept-Iles, QC and operated by Foundation Maritime for parent Foundation Corporation of Canada, builders of the port facilities. The shorter hull length and twin screws were needed to work within the tighter confines of the Baie Comeau terminals.

During the transition from Foundation through MIL to Eastern Canada Towing (Ectug), Cargill Grain ordered a new tug for Baie Comeau, the Voith-Schneider Pointe Comeau to be operated by Ectug. When it was delivered the word "Foundation" had been replaced by "Point". New owners Eastern Canada Towing Ltd (a Smit+Cory partnership) had renamed all Foundation tugs in 1973 and Point Vibert was transferred to Halifax in 1977.

Suitable for winter operation Point Vibert breaks through a skim of ice in Halifax's Bedford Basin.

When new ASD tugs were built Point Vibert was seldom used in Halifax, and worked in Point Tupper for a time. When Svitzer took over Ectug they soon put it up for sale.

Point Vibert carried Svitzer colours for a very short time.

Sold to McKeil in 2006 and renamed Florence M. the tug was equipped with a towing winch and used for barge work, but ran into trouble in November 2010 off Pictou, NS,  see:
In recent years it has been idle in Hamilton, ON.

In McKeil service, the tug got a towing winch.

On October 1 it was upbound in the Welland Canal in tow of Vigilant I. The tow was handed over to Molly M 1 (ex Point Vigour, ex Foundation Vigour of 1962) in Sarnia and made its way up Lakes arriving in Thunder Bay October 10.

Thunder Bay Tug Services Ltd operates former fleet mate Point Valour (ex Foundation Valour) of 1958, a big single screw tug with 1280 bhp, and seem to be the logical choice for a new owner. The company also operates the single screw Glenada built in 1944 for the wartime naval service. Although rebuilt in 1977, it is one of only four remaining Glen class tugs still in commercial operation in eastern Canada. One of those is Vigilant I (ex Glenlivet II mentioned above.) The other two, Robert John (ex Bansturdy, ex Glenlea) and George N. Carleton (ex Bansturdy, ex Gleneagle) are owned by competitor Lakehead Tugboats Inc (and coincidentally also former Foundation tugs).
[Two Glens are working in British Columbia at last report.]

Thunder Bay Tug Services operates the 1915 built ex steam tug Miseford and several smaller craft. However they are likely seeking slightly more power since competitors Lakehead Tugboats  acquired the 2,000 bhp ex USNavy tug Teclutsa in 2016. See:

Thunder Bay Tug Services operates Point Valour (1958) and Glenada (1944, rebuilt 1977).

If the Florence M goes to work in Thunder Bay, it should be very useful working between the long finger piers of the grain terminals. Lake Superior's fresh water should keep the hull in good condition almost indefinitely, and the largest ships to use the facilities do not exceed 35,000 dwt, because of St. Lawrence Seaway size restrictions.

Old style ship work with a towing line and quick release hook. 
Point Vibert in Smit +Cory colours.

A note about the use of the letter "V" in the Foundation, and later Ectug names. The first tug to have a V name was Foundation Vera built in 1945 as Rockhill, a Warrior class 1,000 ihp steam tug. It was completed by Midland Shipyards too late for war service with the British government and was declared surplus and sold. Briefly renamed Maritime Guardian in 1947, it was acquired by Foundation in 1948. Foundation's marine superintendent named the vessel after his wife.

Foundation Vera was the first another one [see note below] of Foundation's "triple decker" tugs. Skippers liked the elevated conning position, but only if it was enclosed and made weather tight. The Warriors were built with an open flying bridge which was still a feature of  British tugs. Canadian owners quickly added a wheelhouse to ensure survivability in winter conditions. Foundation Vera was laid up in Halifax in the mid 1960s and scuttled at sea in 1968.

It is believed that the next new tugs used the letter V in their names to mark the Allied victory in World War II. The names Foundation Victor and Foundation Valour certainly fit with this theory.
Foundation Vibert took another tack as it was named for the late Vibert G. Young, a recently deceased Foundation Company of Canada executive. His widow sponsored the tug when it was commissioned in Halifax.

After this the V names seemed to have been selected more or less randomly, but some were particularly appropriate for tugs such as the memorable Vim and Vigour . The last V name was the second Point Valiant. That tug is now operating on the west coast for Davies Tugboat Ltd of Burnaby, BC.

It was named after the first Foundation Valiant (of 1963) (later Point Valiant) now Groupe Océan's André H. It has been laid up in Quebec City and is unlikely to see service again.

André H  and the 1960 built Jerry G. laid up in Quebec City.

Point Vim and Point Viking (both 1962, 1000 bhp) are working for other Quebec operators. Foundation / Point Victor is operating as R.J.Ballott (see recent posts here) from Newfoundland.

The longevity of Foundation "V" tugs that left Canadian service has not been as positive. Two of the 1962 class went to Greece (Foundation Vanguard, Foundation Viscount) and one to Africa (Foundation Viceroy).  All are believed broken up years ago. Other Vs were salvage vessels, Foundation Vigilant and Foundation Venture now long gone. A small workboat, the Point Vanguard operates in Sept-Iles, QC for an unrelated company.

I was in error when I called Foundation Vera the first of Foundation's triple deckers. In fact the first harbour tugs the commany acquired when they set up in Halifax, Banscot and Banshee were triple deckers. More on this in a later post.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

KOTUG and Horizon

Halifax based Horizon Maritime has just announced an alliance with the Dutch tug company Kotug International BV to go after harbour and terminal work in Canada under the Kotug Canada banner.

In one of those huge upheavals common in European tug operations Kotug and partner Boskalis sold their Kotug SMIT tug operations earlier this year to the large Spanish operator Boluda Group.
Kotug SMIT had only been in existence since 2016, but operated in eleven ports in four countries.

Kotug had originally shaken up the European tug world by straying from their Dutch harbour tug base into Germany and France where complacent traditional operators enjoyed monopolies but were also bound by high priced labour agreements. Kotug took the companies head on and generally prevailed, in some cases despite legal challenges.

The Voith Schneider VS Hamburg and VS Rotterdam exhibited the owner's ambitions to spread beyond the Netherlands.

Among the companies shaken up by these moves was the main Dutch operator Smit. It was eventually picked off by Royal Boskalis Westminster a Dutch dredging and marine construction firm, that was not so much interested in harbour towage, but in their other assets internationally. However they did merge their European harbour tug operations with Kotug and controlled a big chunk of that tug work in Europe. However Boskalis remained more interested in its international construction work.

Note tug operating under Maltese registry in Hamburg! It could happen here.
Tractor type ZP Bulldog operating '"in reverse" as stern escort.

Kotug are also known as innovators and are certainly ambitious and when Boluda came calling they decided to cash out. By this time Kotug had also expanded internationally with terminal contracts as far afield as Australia, and opted to concentrate on those greener pastures, leaving Europe to others. They also have operations in Russia, Asia, the Caribbean and Africa and operate more than 100 tugs.

Canada does seem an odd choice (on either coast) for ambitious operators, since there are few harbour or terminal operations that might be up for grabs. The Svitzer contract at Point Tupper is about the only sizeable contract that might be in play in eastern Canada. In fact there are few terminals in Canada that have separate contracts within ports.

The trend in Europe for container lines to have exclusive berthing contracts has not taken hold in Canada since major ports usually have only one tug operator.

Certainly the established companies, Groupe Océan and Atlantic Towing Ltd seem to have  a lock on harbour work in the eastern ports. They have displaced Svitzer from all its long standing areas, and Svtizer was unsuccessful when it attempted to break into the Montreal work. Even its Strait of Canso work is in the form of a joint venture with Atlantic Towing. (So is ship berthing in Halifax, at least on paper.)

Both oil terminals in Newfoundland, Newfoundland Transshipment and North Atlantic Refining, own their own two tug fleets under long term management, altough the tugs are aging.

Horizon is a relative newcomer to the industry and until now has concentrated on offshore work. It lost out to Atlantic Towing for the west coast ETV contract, however they did cry foul on the award and may get another kick at it.

On the west coast tug, Smit also sold out to its partner SAAM in SAAM Smit. Seaspan remains a major force in Vancouver,  but new terminals of various sorts are planned or under way.

Kotug are certainly innovators, having developed and patented, the ROTOR tug. With three engines, the tugs have two omni-directional thrusters forward, in conventional tractor tug arrangement and one aft, and are thus extremely agile, and powerful. They may be able to capitalize on innovative solutions to specific harbour or terminal needs.

RT Magic, a ROTOR tug, can (and did) run circles around conventional ASD tugs...

... with two thrusters forward and one aft.

One interesting tug in the Kotug SMIT fleet was SD Jacoba, built in 1998 by East Isle Shipyard in Georgetown, PE (part of Irving Shipbuilding Inc) as Atlantic Fir (ii). It was sold after short term use  to Kotug. The first Atlantic Fir was built in 1995 and sold to J. Ostensjo of Norway and renamed Alex. The third Atlantic Fir, built in  2005, currently operates in Halifax.

Note:  All the photos above were taken before the formation of Kotug Smit, and all the tugs shown have been taken over now by Boluda, with the exception of the RT Magic which operates for Kotug International in Mozambique.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

R.J.Ballott follow up

The tug R.J.Ballott (ex Jerry Newberry, Kay Cole, Point Victor, Foundation Victor) sailed from Halifax today giving Triton, NL as its destination. It is towing the barge Kaligak, loaded with construction equipment taken on at the Waterworks Construction dock in Woodside. (In my previous post I stated that the barge was being unloaded, but in fact is was being loaded.) Some of the gear will be getting a real salt water dousing on the trip.

Since its Foundation days, the tug's exhaust stack has been extended, to reduce fumes in the wheelhouse.

The open tug/boat Waterworks 1 (a former seine skiff) stands by to remove linehandlers from the barge.

Waterworks Construction, as the name implies, specializes in building wharfs and has sent equipment to Newfoundland and Labrador before.

Incidentally the barge, although operated by NGC Nunatsiavut Marine Inc, is maintained by McKeil Marine and has been on the for sale list for some time. NGC is the business arm of the Nunatsiavut Government (the self-governed autonomous region of Labrador established by Inuit land claims). I believe the word "kaligak" refers to a specific type of sled in the Inuit language.


Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Trinity Sea

Secunda Marine's Trinity Sea remains laid up at The Cove in Dartmouth. It was replaced by the newly acquired Siem Commander (ex Stril Commander) this summer. 

Despite a slight resurgence in utilization rates among offshore supply vessels worldwide there are still more than 1,100 stacked according to recent reports. Older and "low end" vessels have the lowest utilization rates and even some higher end vessels are being cut up for scrap.

It seems unlikely that there be much of a future for Trinity Sea as an AHTS or PSV. Some alternative might be found for it, outside the offshore industry, but in the meantime it remains idle. The longer it is laid up, the more difficult it will be to bring it back into service.

Rebuilt as a virtually new vessel in 1999, on a Ice Class 1 A hull, it was built originally in 1983 as Neftegaz 2 . Some other former Neftegaz vessels are still running as research or seismic, but there would not be many as AHTs. Sister vessel Burin Sea (ex Neftegaz 1) may be the only one of its type still working. It is serving the Exxon Mobil Sable project off Nova Scotia.