Thursday, October 17, 2019

Storm Warnings

All week forecasters had been predicting a storm for today, so it came as no surprise that very high winds with the usual driving rain prevailed most of the day. Cruise lines are particularly aware of weather, and plan well advance with a "Plan B". Several ships deviated from their itineraries and sought shelter where they could.

Regal Princess from Saint John, NB made a U-turn and headed for New York.

Pilotage operations were suspended in Halifax this morning and will not resume until tomorrow morning at the earliest. Late evening departure times were scrubbed and ships were obliged to remain in port. Seabourn Quest, Veendam and Celebrity Summit (which had all managed to get tie up this morning - with tug assistance)  added an unaccustomed glow to the waterfront this evening with deck lights ablaze.

Some commercial traffic was also forced to hold off, including the container ship Jennifer Schepers for ZIM and the tankers Ardmore Sealifter. for Irving Oil and  BW Raven for Imperial Oil. The ConRo Atlantic Sun is also stuck here over night.

In view of these conditions Shipfax suspended outdoor operations and thus have no current photos to illustrate any of the above. However, consulting the photo archive department the publisher submits the following as a follow up to yesterday's post on harbour craft:

Louisiana Star is a 500 passenger day trip boat operated in - of all places - Hamburg, Germany. Built in 1999 it is powered by two Schottel rudder propellors. As Google translate so aptly puts it, it is modeled on an American "tailwheel steamer" and the wheel "serves only the optics."


Wednesday, October 16, 2019

No to Oceanex

The Federal Court of Appeal has ruled against Oceanex in its latest attempt to force Marine Atlantic to charge commercial rates. Oceanex has  long held that the Crown Corporation has an unfair advantage over Oceanex for Newfoundland freight because it charges less than cost. Oceanex, contends that as a private company it must recoup costs in order to stay in business and to reinvest in its fleet.

This battle has been fought before, and both sides have had victories, dating back for many years to  when Canadian National Railway, then a crown corporation, operated the Gulf service. The Canadian Transportation Commission found it guilty of predatory (non-compensatory) pricing, through its Terra Transport operation on at least two occasions.

Oceanex formed in 1991, brought together the Montreal/ Newfoundland and Halifax/ Newfoundland services of ACE (Atlantic Container Express) and ASL (Atlantic Searoute Limited) respectively. Original equal share owners Clarke (then owned by Newfoundland Capital), CSL (then owned in part by Fednav), Fednav and A. Harvey took the company public in 1998. Since 2007 the company has been privately owned.

The Montreal service continues year round with two modern ships.

Oceanex Avalon  built in 2005 by J.J.Sietas, Neuenfelde, Germany is a container only ship.

Oceanex Connaigra built in 2013 by Flensburger is a Con-Ro, that has been used on the Halifax run to cover refits.

The Halifax / St.John's weekly service is maintained by the now venerable Oceanex Sanderling.

Built in 1977 by Sasebo Heavy Industries, the 21,849 gt, 15,195 dwt CoRo can carry 1127 TEU. Originally named Rauenfels it was renamed 80: Essen, 82: Kongsfjord, 83: Onno, 87: ASL Sanderling, 08: Oceanex Sanderling.

A particularly fine ship, Oceanex Sanderling has served the route exceptionally well, but is overdue for replacement. Oceanex's Chairman (and reportedly principal if not sole owner) has been adamant that the noncompetitive environment with Marine Atlantic precludes that.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Small Craft - Part 1

This blog normally concentrates on larger ships that come and go in Halifax. However there are numerous small craft that work in the harbour and are often overlooked. These includes, work boats,  Navy, Coast Guard and research small craft.

Harbour tour boats are kept busy this time of year, not only with cruise ship passengers, but also the many "fall foliage" bus tour visitors and late season tourists who came after the summer rush.

Most of the boats have been here for many years, but some are relative newcomers.


Longtime tour boat operators Murphy's, founded by the Murphy family, was sold and in 2014 merged with the Ambassatours Gray Line bus operators. In September 2019 it was announced that Ambassatours has sold its bus operations to Coach Atlantic of Prince Edward Island, operators Maritime Bus. Murphy's, which also includes restaurants and shops, was apparently not part of the deal.

The longest serving vessel in the fleet is Harbour Queen One, the faux-Mississippi paddlewheeler is typical of similar craft operating in many ports of the world. They are out of keeping everywhere - except New Orleans, where they actually have a real one!

Another Murphy veteran the Summer Bay was retired at the end of last season and is reported to be for sale.

Back in Halifax this year after spending last summer in Saint John, NB, Theodore Too does nor seem particularly busy, but does put in an appearance at special events.

Acquired two years ago from Ontario operators, Kawartha Spirit has still not been renamed with a more local moniker. I suggest that it be named Haligonian IV as it is fourth in line of direct succession from the first tour boat operated by Murphy's.

Murphy's headquarters at the Cable Wharf is crowded with their fleet.

Murphy's also operate the stylish Peggys Cove Express built on lobster boat lines and providing very fast service and nature cruises. Its hull was painted blue in past years, but is now white in line with the rest of the fleet.

The amphibious Harbour Hoppers (there are upwards of five) are ever present in the harbour and on the streets - enough said. A Hopper was stationed in Sydney, NS last year but has not returned this year.

The "Tall Ship" Silva operates under sail or bare poles depending on conditions and continues to be popular.


Winstar Cruise operates from Alderney Landing in Dartmouth and caters to Asian visitors with seafood meals and service in Chinese. The boat was new to Halifax last year. See previous post:


There are other smaller boats in the harbour tour and Northwest Arm tour business. This is a boat I have seen only once and unable to identify by name. Vessels under 15 gross tons are not necessarily registered by name, but by number. However they commonly have unofficial names. They are also required to display the registration number. They can also be registered by name. If so the name is to be displayed.
The operators have a web site:

The 60 minute tour for six people, is billed as quietly "all electric" in a classy thirties "European river boat" style replica. The 30 footer is new this year and runs from Purdy's Wharf.

The Cameron Brothers of Stewiacke, NS built the schooner Katie Belle themselves and brought it to Halifax in 2016 with the intention of operating harbour tours, but the boat has remained idle in Mill Cove again this year.

Several boat operators in Eastern Passage offer fishing trips outside the harbour, but that is the subject of a future post.


Monday, October 14, 2019

Thanksgivinig Holiday

Canada declares a holiday on a mid-October Monday, and today (October 14) is the day this year. Traditionally it is the day that we face the inevitable and acknowledge that summer is really over, the leaves are turning and it is time to prepare for winter. Businesses are closed and most workers get a long week end.

It is called Thanksgiving and I want to give thanks to all readers who sent well wishes during my recent health crisis. I am also thankful that there do not appear to be any long term effects and that my return to "normal" is well underway.

That said it was not so obvious that it was a holiday in Halifax harbour today as most activities seemed to continue as usual.

Autoport had  the Hoegh Sydney as an early morning arrival that sailed at noon time. The ship has been here many times over the years since it was built in 2007 by Tsuneishi Cebu, in Balamban, Philippines.

Flying the Japanese flag, the ship is owned by Chijin Shipping SA and on charter to Hoegh Autoliners (a company 61.25% owned by Leif Hoegh  and 38.75% by AP Moller-Maersk). The 51,731 gt, 17,311 dwt ship has a capacity of 4379 CEU.

There was one lone cruise ship in port. Silver Wind tied up at pier 23.

A small (but luxurious) ship of only 17,235 gt, it has a capacity of 294 passengers with 208 crew. Built in 1995 by Canitiere Navale Visentini in Donada, Porto Viro, near Venice, Italy it sails for Silverseas Cruises.

Fairview Cove hosted two container ships, Atlantic Sea and YM Enlightenment, both scheduled to sail after dusk this evening.

It did not appear to be a holiday at Halifax Shipyard either  where workers were overside in a suspended crane basket touching up hull paint on AOPS 1 (Harry DeWolfe) before the ship starts trials - expected soon.

Irving Shipbuilding has extended the expected float off date for AOPS 2 (Margaret Brooke) to late November or even December.

The Norwegian flagged semi-submersible Boabarge 37 stands ready for the operation when it does occur. A new application has been made to for a coasting license to start November 23 and end December 23, 2019. The previous application was for the period October 18 to November 18.

The Royal Netherlands Navy's frigate RLNMS De Ruyter, after a visit shortened to one day, (thanks to foul weather) moved with civilian tug assistance from HMC Dockyard to pier 9 this afternoon for fueling. With no bunkering tanker in Halifax anymore, ships must go to the fuel or it must be brought to the ship by truck.

The tug Atlantic Fir side steps along with the ship as Spitfire III provides the propulsion.

Once in position off pier 9 the tugs swung the ship in the channel and placed it smartly alongside.

Wilson's Fuel's depot on Barrington Street, connected by pipeline to Pier 9, has been the fuel source of choice for offshore vessels and other smaller ships. Irving Oil also provides bunkering at its  Woodside terminal and can accommodate larger ships. To my knowledge Imperial Oil does not offer alongside bunkering, but may provide fuel by truck.


Sunday, October 13, 2019


Weather moderated considerably last evening and by today, although it was gloomy, Halifax harbour activity returned to normal. Three cruise ships put in, Norwegian Dawn, Zuiderdam and Riviera. Of these the latter two sailed before dark, in calm conditions although there was some residual swell.

Riviera makes its way outbound past a late season sailor (not making much way in fitful conditions) as the substitute pilot boat Capt A.G.Soppit paces the ship.[see below]

Only three minutes later Zuiderdam passes the end of the new pier 42 extension.
(The sailor has made little progress.)

Pilot boat operations in recent weeks have been carried out in part by Captain A.G.Soppit a boat built in 2012 by ABCO in Lunenburg, NS, and assigned to Saint John, NB. The Atlantic Pilotage Authority normally operates the two former Dutch crew boats Nova Pilot (ex SC Lynx) and Scotia Pilot (ex SC Cheetah) in Halifax. The latter is apparently out of service, and the Soppitt has been brought in to ensure that there are two boats available.

Captain A.G.Soppitt has an operating speed of 18 knots.

Nova Pilot although capable of 24 knots operates at a maximum 20 knots.

The Atlantic Pilotage Authority has back up boats available to cover refits, and they do shuffle them around as the various ports have different requirements. The run from downtown Halifax to the pilot station area off Chebucto Head, requires a boat with a reasonable turn of speed and some of the back up boats would not be able to do it in the 45 minutes to one hour that the above boats can do.

While Captain A.G.Soppitt is in Halifax, the port of Saint John is making do with  Fundy Pilot, and A.PA. No.18. The other regular Saint John boat and Soppitt sister vessel Captain E.T. Rogers appears on AIS to be in refit at Meteghan, NS.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Weather Watch

High winds and rough conditions meant that the port has been on weather watch for more than 24 hours. With pilotage operations at the pilot station suspended Friday afternoon there was little harbour activity to report Saturday. Conditions will be reviewed  again at 2130 hrs ADT Saturday.

Self-piloted vessels,  such as Oceanex Sanderling and Nolhan Ava that did not have to embark or disembark a pilot were able to sail on Friday evening, but other ships that arrived Friday and required pilots to depart, remained in port over night. Arriving ships either put back out to sea to await improvements or by-passed their Halifax call.

It was a gloomy sight that greeted overnighting cruise ship passengers this morning. Pearl Mist remained tied up at pier 23 and Serenade of the Seas loomed over at pier 22.

Driving rain probably convinced most passengers to remain aboard.

Serenade of the Seas did manage to sail late Saturday morning, but whether they carried the pilot over en route to Boston is not known to me. Container ships Zim Yokohama and Brighton also remained in port all day.

Two cruise ships opted to by-pass Halifax. Adventure of the Seas from Sydney, NS carried on for Bar Harbor and Amadea from Baie-Comeau kept on for New York.

Commercial traffic such as Maersk Patras is holding off until Sunday morning along with CMA CGM Elbe. The Netherlands warship HNLMS De Ruyter also put back to sea.

Movements within the harbour returned to normal today. The tanker BW Lynx moved from Imperial Oil to anchor in Bedford Basin Friday evening due to high winds, but returned to Imperial Oil Saturday evening.

The Halifax Police Department boat Garrett Cotter was out and about for a time this morning despite the unpleasant conditions.


Thursday, October 10, 2019

Competition for Newfoundland

Starting Friday October 11 there will be head to head competition for Newfoundland traffic out of Halifax. The route has been served exclusively by Oceanex (and its predecessors), but TSMI will now offer an alternative.

This morning TSMI's inbound Nolhan Ava passes competitor Oceanex Sanderling which was moving to anchorage.

TSMI (which stands for Transport St-Pierre Miquelon Inc or International) operates the weekly service from Halifax to the French islands. Carrying containers and RoRo it conveniently interchanges with ACL for cargo from France, at Ceres Fairview Cove, but also takes traffic for and from Canadian sources. Now it will add Argentia, NL to its route and carry domestic traffic. The added service has been in the planning stage for years, but is finally taking place.

Oceanex runs from Halifax to St.John's (it dropped Corner Brook many years ago) with Oceanex Sanderling and from Montreal to St.John's with Oceanex Avalon and Oceanex Connaigra.

TSMI will be using Nolhan Ava, which has been registered in Canada since August of 2018.

Nolhan Ava exhibiting a new funnel graphic arrives this morning.

Nolhan Ava returned last week from a month away with a new graphic on its engine casing. Built in 2001 as Shamrock for the Halifax / St-Pierre service, it was reassigned in 2004 when the original owners had financial problems. It returned to Halifax in 2015 and was fitted with an exhaust gas scrubber in 2015-2016.

It went into refit in spring of 2109, but then went into another refit in August. Its place was taken until this week by Ocean Force which now appears to have gone off charter and is anchored in Bedford Basin.

A previous announcement that Ocean Force would operate weekly or bi-weekly between St-Pierre and Argentia may or may not still be in the works. Built in 1983 by Husumer Werft, Husum as the barge carrier Condock III the ship was renamed 98: Condock, 99: Penhir, 99: Condock, 00: Condock III, 07: Ocean Force. The 384 TEU ship is still listed as a semi-submersible heavy load carrier.

Oceanex has long standing claims that Marine Atlantic provides unfair competition for Newfoundland traffic because it is heavily subsidized by the federal government, and operates below cost. Marine Atlantic, a crown corporation and successor to Canadian National Railway, provides ferry service as part of the terms of confederation agreed between Newfoundland and Canada. In 1949 Canada took over operation of the Newfoundland Railway and its "steamship and other marine services" and agreed to "relieve the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador from the public costs" to run them. As part of this Canada agreed to offer a freight and passenger service between North Sydney, NS and Port aux Basques, NL.
A federal court ruled against Oceanex's claims, but at last report an appeal ruling is outstanding.

No reaction has been reported about Oceanex's reaction to more competition.