Sunday, June 24, 2012

Elbe - restoration complete

Restoration was not complete, but the tug was looking pretty good in Rotterdam in 2006. It was repainted to the traditional Smit black and white livery.

I was pleased to learn last month that restoration of the tug Elbe has been completed in the Netherlands. It is not often that we hear of success in these kinds of ventures, they usually run out of funds, and this one was not without its challenges. Nevertheless the ship is now back in prime condition.
Built in 1959 the 3160 bhp tug worked for Smit International until 1977 when it was sold. It was so highly thought of as a seakeeping vessel, that the Association of Maryland Pilots purchased the ship and converted it to a station keeping pilot vessel and renamed it Maryland. In 1985 it became Greenpeace (after a brief period called Gondwana, to conceal its ownership). It is partly thanks to the latter organization that the tug is still with us today, as they extended its life for many years.
The tug does have a connection to Halifax. In January 1965 it towed two ships from Halifax to Bilbao, Spain for scrap. These were the Canadian Observer and Canadian Highlander, two former members of the Canadian National Steamship fleet, that had been idled in Halifax for several years. Not only was this a tandem tow across the Atlantic in mid-winter, both ships had riding crews aboard. They left Halifax January 7 and arrived in Bilbao January 27, a remarkably quick crossing under the circumstances.
In 1969 Elbe towed the damaged Canadian destroyer HMCS Kootenay (DDE 258) back to Halifax after a fatal explosion aboard the ship in the English Channel. The explosion took place October 23, 1969, and HMCS Saguenay and RFA Samsonia (ex Foundation Josephine) were able to tow the ship into Plymouth. Elbe and Kootenay arrived in Halifax November 29, 1969.

Elbe was back in Halifax in 1973 when it towed the burned out Baffin Bay to Valencia, Spain for scrapping. The tow left Halifax September 8, and arrived in Valencia October 4.

Elbe at pier 30 making ready for its last tow from Halifax. By this time Smit had adopted a multi-hued colour scheme, and the now famous "shackel" funnel mark.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Coho visits Eastern Passage

Penn Maritime's articulated tug/barge Coho/Penn 92 put in at the McAsaphalt dock (formerly known as Dook's dock) in Eastern Passage today to off load asphalt.
The tug/barge are constant visitors in Saint John, running from Irving Oil to US east coast ports. Penn Maritime (formerly Morania) are specialists in carrying asphalt and have built up a sizable fleet of tugs and double hulled, heated barges.
This trip to Halifax is under a coasting license, granted by the Minister of Public Safety, since no Canadian vessels were available. It allows the tug/barge to deliver 80,000 bbls of asphalt to various (unnamed) eastern ports for Irving Oil, between June 14 and July 14.
The tug Coho, built in 2008 is powered by two 2,000 bhp Cummins engines  driving twin screws in Nautican nozzles and is fitted with a JAK 400 coupling system to connect to the barge. The barge measures 15,225 deadweight tons (US measure).
Coho is built to work form the notch at all times but is fitted with an emergency towing system. It has an elevated wheelhouse, with height of eye 51.5 feet above the water line. Unlike early articulated tugs, it does not have a lower wheelhouse.
Once alongside at McAspahlt, the tug uncoupled from the barge and lay alongside. It is fairly rare for the tug to do this, but the dock is relatively short and would present challenges to secure the tug while in the notch.
I was therefore disappointed not to get a better photo.

McAsphalt's two articulated tug/barge combinations are busy running on the Great Lakes/ St.Lawrence. They generally run from the Detroit area to Montreal, but do work farther afield as well.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Canadian Saints

Following World War II, the Canadian Navy built three Saint class tugs. These were tugs with ocean going capability, fitted for towing but which could also assist in berthing large ships, such as aircraft carriers.
Powered by a single 12 cylinder Fairbanks Morse engine developing 1950 bhp, they were also fitted with a controllable pitch propellor. Initially commissioned as RCN vessels, they were soon transferred to the Canadian Naval Auxiliary fleet, and worked with civilian crews.
The three tugs were named St.Anthony, St.Charles, and St.John.

St.Anthony was built at Saint John Dry Dock and launched November 2, 1955. Its sponsor was Mrs. R.Baker, wife of Commodore Baker, head of the RCN construction staff in Ottawa. Initially sent to Halifax, it was transferred to Esquimalt in April 1957, with pennant number ATA 531.
1. St.Anthony at Esquimalt.
 It was sold in 2009 and went to the US. I saw another sale ad for it in 2011, also in the US, but have been able to track its movements since then.

St.John was built by George T. Davie & Sons at Lauzon, QC and launched May 14, 1956. It was christened by Mme Renault St-Laurent, daughter-in-law of the Prime Minister. The tug was based in Halifax and assigned the pennant number ATA 535. It was sold in 1972 to the European Navigation Co of Panama, which was associated with Eckhardt & Co of Germany. It was renamed Dolphin X.

2. Dolphin X alongside Amvourgon in Halifax.

It was put to work towing ships to scrap in Santander, Spain.
These tows included several old lakers:
Wyandotte and Huron from Montreal September 29 and arriving Santander October 20 1973.
Col. James Pickands from Quebec November 15, 1974 arriving Santander in December 1974.
In 1975 it towed the burned out cargo ship Amvourgon from Halifax May 7, arriving Santander May 29.
In 1976 it had the distinction of participating in the tow of the VLCC Tula (ex Metula) from Brunsbuttel to Santander. The ship was the first VLCC to be broken up for scrap.
On November 27, 1980 it was towing a barge off Labrador when the tug sank. The barge was recovered, but the tug was a total loss. I have few details on this incident, other than the supplier Janie B was nearby at the time and recovered the barge. I assume the tug crew was rescued at the same time.

Final tug in the class was St.Charles. Also built in Saint John, it was launched July 10, 1956 and commissioned in November 1956 with pennant number ATA 533.

After naval service, the tug was acquired in 1994 by Secunda Marine of Dartmouth and renamed Chebucto Sea. It went to work barge towing and even figured in salvage projects. Eventually Secunda bareboat chartered the tug to haul pulpwood barges. It was aground at Rimouski in August 1996 and repaired at Ile-aux-Coudres.  In October 1998 it lost power off Corner Brook and in May 1999 it broke its tail shaft on a voyage to Stephenville. It was towed back to Halifax by fleetmate Tignish Sea and laid up. A lengthy legal dispute ensued, which was not resolved until 2005. The tug had a refit in Shelburne in 2006 but remained laid up until 2009 when it was sold. The tug Keewatin towed it to Marystown Newfoundland where it was renamed Matterhorn by new owners associated with Miller Shipping/Midnight Marine. At time of sale its controllable pitch was no functioning. Since 2009 I have seen reports of it in St.John's, but do not know what the tug is doing.
3. St.Charles with a gunnery target on deck.

Handsome looking tugs of 773 gross tons, they were underpowered by civilian standards, and the controllable pitch prop was not up to the rigors of commercial service. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Ship Docking Modules - alive and well in Spain

The unusual looking Ship Docking Module, a type of tug patented by Seabulk International and designed by the Elliott Bay Design group from a concept by Eric Hvide (founder of the predecessor of Seabulk) was once to be seen only in Florida, where Seabulk operates. In 2004 however Remolques Y Servicios Maritimos SL (Reyser) of Barcelona, Spain was licensed to to produce five of the SDMs to be built in Spain.
1. The Spanish built Willy -T serves the port of Barcelona. Here it displays its fire-fighting prowess June 1, 2012.

Originally built for Hvide  by Halter Marine in Louisiana, the first three SDMs were simple 3 man day boats, of short (90 feet) and wide (50 ft) dimensions. The shallow hulls were fitted with skegs fore and aft and an azimuthing thruster fore and aft, one offset to each side of the centre line so that they would not be in line with each other.

2. St.Johns is the second SDM built. It and the first unit, New River were powered by two Cat engines giving just over 4,000 bhp. The were delivered in 1997 and 1998. They are now both based in Port Everglades, FL. Here the tug is tucked under the bow of a ship, which it is able to do thanks to its width and large clear working deck.
3. The "business" end, or stern of the St.Johns shows the small size of the deck house and wheelhouse. This was a major cost saving compared to a full crew tractor tug such as fleet made Condor. Screens in the funnels were intended to provide visibility, but did not work well.  

4. The third Mark I SDM is Escambia. also with 4,000 bhp and Cat engines, it is still based in Tampa/ Port Manatee, FL. This is the bow end of the tug. The winch is amidships and the tug can only work over the stern.

After the first three were built in 1998-1999, another three were ordered. Called Mark II SDMs, they had slightly larger accommodation and other improvements based on operational experience. At the same time Hvide ran into financial difficulty, and could not take delivery of all three tugs when they were completed in 2000. The company was re-organized as Seabulk International and Seabulk Towing.

5. Suwanee River was delivered to Hvide in 2000. As with all the Mark IIs it is powered by Warstsila main engines.  It is also based in Tampa for Seabulk Towing. The large staple mounted right aft allows the ship to pull from close in. It can shift to push very quickly by lying up alongside the ship or shortening up.

In Tampa, former managers of Hvide's harbour operations started their own company and ended up buying the remaining two SDMs from the builders. These people had been heavily involved in the development and operation of the SDMs and believed in their merits.

6. Tug Florida was delivered to Marine Towing of Tampa. It was subsequently sold to Seabulk, renamed Mobile Point and transferred to Mobile, AB. Here it is shown alongside where it can push or pull from the same position. The tug's great width and thrusters on each end make this possible.

7. The sixth and last US built SDM was Endeavor, also delivered to Marine Towing of Tampa. It is still in service in that port. The tug is proceeding stern first, which it is able to do as easily as bow first. Sometimes it is easier to move in this mode to enter narrow slipways. Note the cutouts in the mid sections of the funnels to improve visibility from the helm position.

Since then the dust has settled somewhat. Seabulk has moved the tugs around, now with two working in Tampa, two in Port Everglades and one in Mobile.
Marine Towing of Tampa (now part of the Steinbrenner company) sold one of the SDMs to Seabulk, but continue to operate their one SDM in Tampa.
As for Reyser (if the name is familiar, it is because they are partners with Atlantic Towing in ownership of three LNG terminal tugs in Saint John, NB) operate three SDMs in Barcelona and one in El Ferrol and one in Santander, Spain.
The chief advantage of the SDM is its ability to work in tight spaces, to crab sideways, to get under the flare of large ships and its relatively low cost compared to some other types of tugs.
There may always be a limited market for SDMs, but where they are used they seem to work well. The only criticism I have heard from operators was that the accommodation is very limited. One skipper said that it had been years since he had to leave the wheelhouse and go out and deck to reach the head. There is also the issue of visibility due to the placement of the funnels. However the tug's ability to "flop" around on its own length and change from pull to push is a definite asset where narrow spaces do not permit a perpendicular hook up required by the usual ASD or tractor tugs.

 8. Willy-T spins around in its own length.
9. The tug has just done a crash stop and reversed, reaching full speed in a remarkably short distance.

The five Spanish tugs are of two classes. The first: Willy-T, Eliseo Vasques (El Ferrol) and Clara-G (Santander) are 26.5m long and provide 71.5 tonnes bollard pull. The second class: Salavador Dali and Ramon Casas (both Barcelona) are 28m long and produce 74.5 tonnes bollard pull.