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.

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Addenda:
 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.


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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.

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Sunday, May 28, 2017

Cowslip in Riverport

The sleepy port of Riverport, Nova Scota, at the mouth of the La Have River, and not far from Lunenburg, is one of the last places I would expect to find a tug (of any description). Once home to many fishing schooners and a bustling fish plant, it is now a much quieter place, with inshore lobster fishermen and a seasonal fish operation generating what little activity there is.


However the attractive wooden hulled Cowslip is parked on a trailer awaiting its next assignment. By the look of its neglected state that may be a while in coming.

I can provide no details except a suspicion that it may have been the tender for a marina or yacht club.

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Sunday, May 21, 2017

Cavendish Sea to the breakers

A tug with a short Canadian history has gone to the breakers in India, while still retaining its Canadian name.

Built as Ouro Preto in 1978 by Mitsui Engineering + Shipbuilding, Fujinagata Works, Osaka, Japan, it  was a small (40m x 13m) anchor handler of 877 grt, powered by a pair of 8 cylinder Pielsticks (built by IHI-Aioi) giving 8,000 bhp. At the time this was considered to be extremely powerful, particularly for its size. It had twin fixed pitch props and a bow thruster.
 In 1981 it was transferred from its first owners Brasil Offshore to Petroleo Brasiliero (Petrobras)
and renamed Boreal.
The tug was one of a pair picked up by Secunda Marine Services in 1993 and renamed Cavendish Sea. Sister tug  Bonace ex Ouro Fino was acquired in the same deal and became Tignish Sea named for resort areas on Prince Edward Island.



This was the second pair of tugs acquired by Secunda in the 1990s in South America. (Ryan Leet and Magdalen Sea were the others.)

Tignish Sea towed Cavendish Sea into Halifax May 9, 1993 from Brazil.


May 9, 1993, Tignish Sea (centre) arrives in Halifax with Cavendish Sea (left) on the hip.
Breton Sea (ex Orion Expeditor) assisted the pair into the Dartmouth Marine Slips Long Wharf.


Fully refitted and painted in Secunda colours, Cavendish Sea makes a cautious approach to pier 9.  dredging its anchor.

 Backing alongside.

Unlike the pair of big tugs however, there was not a lot of work around for the small Cavendish Sea and in 1994 its Canadian registry was closed and it was sent abroad to work. I know it worked in the North Sea for a time, but I lost track of it after that.
The tug wound up back in South America registry flying Panamanian, Brazilian and Chilean flags until arriving at the breakers in Aliaga, Turkey, May 13, 2017.


End Note 1:
This not the only tug to be broken up recently - see these pages in the following days.

End Note 2
Sister tug Tignish Sea remains in Canadian registry and has had a very different history. Paired up with a self-unloading Great Lakes bulk carrier Sarah Spencer that had been converted to a barge, the tug was fitted with hydraulic ram couplers.  Renamed Jane Ann IV it sailed for a few years as an articulated tug/barge unit. However it has been laid up in various US ports for the past several years and is unlikely to sail again.
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Sunday, April 23, 2017

More Spitfire III

The substitute tug Spitfire III (see previous post) has been getting its share of escort duties. As the most powerful tug in Halifax, it is the usual choice when two tugs are required to escort a ship to Fairview Cove.

Today it got a good workout with the 8-,274 dwt ship Mary as it transited the Narrows. Fleet mate Atlantic Oak was the second tug, and it took up position on the port bow, and does not appear in the photos.


Tucked in astern of the Mary, Spitfire III is ready to work.

Leaning into the line, the tug lists to the point of getting its deck wet.

The tug can exert 100 tonnes or so of braking and turning force to swing the ship's stern.

After straightening up a bit, the tug once more leans into the line as it rounds the pier 9 knuckle.

Spitfire III is lining up the ship to pass under the MacKay bridge.

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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Spitfire III subs for Atlantic Fir

With the tug Atlantic Fir off to Minas Basin to assist with the tidal turbine project, ATL brought in one of its big terminal tugs to fill in. Spitfire III is one of three 5,432 bhp, 70 tonne BP tugs built to service the LNG terminal near Saint John, NB. With little work at the terminal these  days, the tug is freed up for harbour duties.

Atlantic Willow has its line up near the bow, and Spitfire III is tucked in astern for tethered escort as Dalian Express transits the Narrows. The tug is about to go into a hard move to the ships starboard side and exert about 90 tonnes of pull to swing the stern.


The Cape Sharp Tidal Power project, developed jointly by Open Hydro Ltd and Emera Inc was positioned in the Minas Basin last year, but now needs adjustment and is to be raised off the seabed and barged to Saint John on its own specially built Scotia Barge assisted by the tugs Atlantic Hemlock, Atlantic Bear and  Atlantic Fir. There is about a one week window of favourable tides to do the work, so Atlantic Fir may be away from Halifax for some time.


Pull completed, the tug swings back in line with the ship. Note the escort winch is covered to protect it from winter conditions.

In the meantime the more than capable Spitfire III will perform ship docking and escort services in Halifax. Today it assisted the 1000,006 dwt tonne Dalian Express transit the Narrows in a stiff breeze, then turn the ship when it reached Bedford Basin.


Spitfire III leans into the line as it assists in turning the ship in Bedford Basin.

Unique among Atlantic Towing tugs, Spitfire III and its sisters (Atlantic Bear and Atlantic Beaver) are not named for trees. However it is indirectly. During World War II, one of the J.D.Irving businesses made specialty aircraft plywood, used to build Mosquito and Spitfire aircraft among others. K.C.Irving, himself was a World War I member of the Royal Flying Corps and was a keen pilot in peacetime, once landing his own float plane on Halifax harbour.

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