Sunday, July 13, 2014

Algoma Dartmouth - off to New York (again)

No sooner had Algoma Dartmouth finished bunkering Ocean Odyssey (see previous post) than she set sail for New York. RMI Marine's workboat Captain Jim was standing by to relieve the 'Dartmouth of her fenders, and and soon as she was clear, the tanker headed outbound.

By my count this is the fourth trip that the bunkering tanker has made to New York.Until the closing of Imperial Oil's refinery last fall, the ship had never strayed from Halifax harbour, except for refit. Now the nearest source of ship's fuel seems to be New York


Sunday roundup

Perhaps unusual for a Sunday, there was a fair amount of traffic in the harbour today. Aside from the asphalt sailings this morning (see previous post) there were the following:

 A well worn Atlantic Conveyor made a very brief call at Fairview Cove. On its eastbound leg it was alongside for little more than three hours.
 The seismic ship Ocean Odyssey arrived early this afternoon. Soon after tying up at pier 30, the bunkering tanker Algoma Dartmouth was alongside for refueling.

There was also a brief visit from the cruise ship Pearl Mist. It arrived this morning and sailed early this afternoon, on a sunny and hot day.

  Like an old time coastal schooner, it slings a skiff off its stern. Unlike those boats, this one, named Launch 7, has a landing craft type bow door.

 Arriving for the G6 Alliance, NYK Meteor made its way to Fairview Cove with the assistance of tugs Atlantic Spruce on the bow and Atlantic Oak on the stern. Built in 2007 by Hyundai Heavy Industries of Ulsan, the 55,534 grt ship has a capacity of 4922 TEU.  The port of Halifax seems to have been added to its usual Asia / US East coast route of NYK ships.

Other comings and goings included the departure of suppliers Scotian Sea (for Shell seismic ships) and Atlantic Condor (for Deep Panuke) and the wood chip carrier Taiho Maru dropping off its pilot on return from Sheet Harbour. The tug Atlantic Willow had gone to Sheet Harbour yesterday to berth the ship and unberth it today. It also returned to port this afternoon.


Saturday, July 12, 2014

Cargo Transfer in the Basin - Updated

Two tankers met in the Bedford Basin this morning for a transfer operation. Bunkering happens frequently in the Basin, but this is different.

First to arrive was the handymax tanker Asphalt Eagle owned by Chronos Shipping of Athens, and flying the Greek flag. A typical product of the Onomichi Dockyard in Japan, measuring 27, 284 grt, 46,178 dwt. Since it was built in 2004 it carried the names Iver Eagle to 2005 and Seto Eagle to 2009. It is understood to be under charter to Sargent Marine, of Boca Raton, FL, the world's largest asphalt tanker operation. ]The company is presently embroiled in an internecine feud between father and two sons against a third son, but that may not be relevant to this particular ship arrival.]
[For all you need to know see:  and: ]

No sooner had it secured at anchor, in came the much smaller 6,292 grt, 9,240 dwt tanker Asphalt Sailor. The Marshall Islands flag tanker was built in 2006 by Kraljevica Shipyard in Croatia, and is owned directly by Sargent Marine.  It came alongside and tied up to the anchored Asphalt Eagle and transfer operations began soon after.

No oil booms were deployed, which indicates to me that the smaller tanker may be bunkering the larger one. If it were a cargo transfer operation I assume that there would be more stringent precautions taken against a spill. However, the larger tanker's hose boom is in use, so it may in fact be a cargo transfer

I do not recall a foreign tanker ever bunkering another ship in Halifax. From the 1980s or so, only Imperial Oil provided bunkering service in Halifax. Before that Irving Oil and Foundation Maritime also did bunkering. When Imperial stopped refining in Halifax last year, Sterling Fuels took over port bunkering service, chartering the Algoma Dartmouth, which had previously been used by Imperial. Sterling has been acquiring diesel fuel from Imperial, but they send the Algoma Dartmouth to New York for heavier fuels. To date it has made three such trips.

As for cargo transfers, they are equally rare. There have been instances where ships with damage came in to Halifax and transferred their fuel to other ships, but there has not been one of those in many moons either.

Update: A closer look from a different angle reveals a transfer hose slung from Eagle's boom.

Update 2, 2014-07-13
Both tankers ailed this morning and it was obvious by the draft marks on Asphalt Sailor that it has indeed transferred cargo from the Asphalt Eagle, so it was not a bunkering operation.

Asphalt Sailor was the first to go, and it was well down on its marks, indicating that it had loaded cargo from Aspahlt Eagle. Note the elaborate heating plant amidships to keep its cargo in liquid state to allow for pumping. Its destination is Providence, RI.

Next along was the tug Roseway with two fenders, one on each side, which had been used to keep the two ships apart during the transfer. There was no oil boom used.

Asphalt Eagle took some time to weigh anchor, but once underway made its way through the Narrows, giving Portland, Maine as its destination.

As stated previously petroleum cargo transfers in Halifax are not unheard of, but are rare except in case of emergencies where casualties have to be lightered off, or for ships to reduce draft. There have been transfers to ice class tankers for transit up the St.Lawrence. It is rare however to have a transfer for what appear to be solely convenience or commercial purposes.


Thursday, July 10, 2014

Novadock for the Nackers

Sorry for the spelling, but it really looks like the end of the line for Halifax Shipyard's Panamax floating drydock Novadock. Thanks to Halifax Shipping News for breaking the story that the dock is in such poor condition that it would cost more to repair than replace.

Built at a cost of $63.5 mn in 1982, it came to Halifax in November of that year in two sections. The first, and by far the larger section, was built by Marine Industries Ltd of Sorel QC and arrived in tow of the tugs Irving Miami and Irving Cedar on November 15, 1982.

To help out local industry the Province hired Ferguson Industries Ltd of Pictou to build a smaller section. It arrived in Halifax November 21, 1982 and the two parts were joined off pier 6, with the completed unit moored to dolphins outside of the Scotiadock - a smaller floating drydock.

The  idea was that a Panamax sized drydock would bring more business to Halifax Shipyard (which had been on a downward slide under various owners) and it certainly did bring in the work. The previous floating drydock and the graving gave the yard several alternatives for docking ships.

So sure was the province that the new dock would be a success that they registered the Novadock name as a trade mark in 1979.

Magically, ownership of the Novadock was transferred from the Province to Halifax Shipyards as part of the Ships Start Here campaign, which lead to HSY being awarded the lion's share of the federal government Ships Procurement work in 2012. Maybe it wasn't such a nice gift after all.

Now thanks to Halifax Shipping News we learn that in April HSY had to refuse business because of the condition of the dock - not only because most of the rest of the shipyard was being demolished. Plans for the Shipyard modernization have been revised several times, but in the latest iteration, a floating dock will be used to "launch" ships from the new building site, by transfer and float off. A new floating dock would be needed for that work alone. Whether the yard will trouble to find another floating dock for repair work remains a good question. It is much more likely that one floating dock would be all they would need.

The nearest comparably sized facilities (and they are all graving docks) are in Quebec City, Boston and Belfast, Northern Ireland (if you don't count the Azores, southern US or the Caribbean.) Would Halifax Shipyard be happy just building new warships and not be in the ship repair business at all, leaving that work  to others, including Irving Shipbuilding's much smaller Shelburne Ship Repair facility?

It will be interesting to follow this story, which certainly isn't over yet, but it is certain that we will never see the likes of CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent perched in Novadock for its yearly (or sometimes twice yearly) refit. The ship returned to Halifax this week after drydocking in Quebec.

If the dock is beyond economical repair it will be heading to the scrapyard, joining the parade of other shis that seems to be accelerating of late.

Scrap Parade

The sale of veteran Canadian ships continues apace. Most are being sold for scrap, but there is some life left in a few of them, so they may avoid the torch for a while longer.


Latest to go is Cabot the Oceanex veteran which was finally retired at the beginning of this month. It had been retired twice before, but was brought back into service to fill in for Oceanex Connaigra  when its prop malfunctioned.
Cabot arrived in Halifax February 3, 2014 to be retired, for the second time, but was brought back into service from April until June.

I have recapped the history of the ship here before, but it ran out of Halifax to Newfoundland as Cavallo for predecessor companies Atlantic Searoute until 1987 when it went to the St.Lawrence. It occasionally filled in Halifax in subsequent years.
Built for Ellermans Wilson, but rejected, a Fednav company bought it in January 1981 and on its arrival in Halifax some of the hastily applied Fednav red had washed off, to show Ellerman's green. Fednav kept the traditional Ellerman name Cavallo, which survived into the successor company Atlantic SeaRoute Ltd. (Combining Newfoundland Container Line with Seaforth Fednav or Fednav).

 ASL operated the ship out of Halifax until 1988 when it was transferred to the St.Lawrence to work for Atlantic Container Express (ACE), a Clarke Company and it was renamed Cabot.  In 1990 ACE and ASL formed Oceanex, and in 1996 the ship was lengthened.

 The ship ran faithfully between Montreal and St.John's until September 2013 when replacement Oceanex Connaigra was delivered. Cabot was laid up in Montreal, but was pressed into service in November 2013. It came to Halifax to be laid up when Connaigra returned to service, but its problems recurred, and Cabot's sail for scrap was terminated when it went back into service again in April. By the end of June Connaigra was on its way back from Ireland, Oceanex Avlon was ready to come out of refit at Méchins, and Cabot was finally finished with engines for Oceanex.. 

Soon after tying up in St.John's it was reflagged to St. Kitts and Nevis and sailed almost immediately.The initial rumour that it was headed for scrap in Turkey, seems to have been premature. The ship has been renamed Cebu and is headed under its own power for the port of the same name in the Philippines. It is slow steaming across the Atlantic, at about 10 knots. It is due at Gibraltar in a day or two, and is giving an ETA for Cebu of August 8.


Another veteran former Canadian ship, that shared a name with the Oceanex ship is the cable layer CCGS John Cabot . On July 8 it was towed out of Grand Harbour, Valletta, Malta by the tug Sea Patron en route to Aliaga, Turkey for scrap. It is due off the beach on July 13. The two ships are unlikely to cross paths in the Med, since the cable layer has a couple of days head start.

As the world's first icebreaking cable ship, CCGS John Cabot came into service when Canada was the world's leader in telecommunications. Canadian Vickers built the 5097 grt ship in 1965 and it was fitted with a capacity of 400 nautical miles of cable. It could do multi-tasking for the Coast Guard, but was primarily on standby for cable repair in the North Atlantic under the direction of the Canadian Overseas Telecommunications Corp (COTC). Trawlers were continually ripping up cable and John Cabot was there to repair. Eventually the ship pioneered use of a seaplow that trenched  for and buried the cable. Its diesel electric drive, powerful enough for icebreaking, was also ideal for the plowing operation.

It also did cable laying, notably the shore ends of CANTAT 2.
Among the various jobs it did was in ice infested waters off Thule Greenland for the US Navy. It also worked from Ireland, where it rescued two men from the semi-submersible PISCES III when it was disabled in 500 m of water in 1973. It also assisted in recovery operations following the 1985 Air India bombing.

When it was retired by the CCG in 1994 it went to work for Teleglobe, the privatised former COTC, and was based in Halifax, with the British company Cable+Wireless as managers. It also worked out of Baltimore, Cork Ireland and in the Caribbean.

In Teleglobe colours off white over light, light blue green, it carried sea plows and semi-submersibles aft, above a tiny umbilical sheave.

 In 1996 it was sold to McDermott Subsea, and after conversion back to a cable layer (as opposed to a cable repairer) it was resold to Elettra S.p.A. of Italy and renamed Certamen. It went to work
in the ice free Mediterranean, under the management of Italcable and based in Catania.

On June 25 it sailed to Valletta,  Malta. Its name was quickly changed to Certa and it was reflagged to Belize to for the tow to the breakers.


Pioneer on its way to the scrappers, Ambassador may follow

The sad parade of ships to the scrap yards continues, so this is only one in series of ship "obits" that will appear in the coming months.

Pioneer is the latest on the list. It was one of two Canadian-built ships that were often seen in Halifax over the years that have now been removed from service. Both were built in the early 1980s - the last heyday for Canadian shipbuilding - by the same owners, in their own shipyard, for essentially the same service.



Older of the two is Pioneer, built as Canadian Pioneer in 1981 by Port Weller Drydock Ltd. The Upper Lakes Group owned both its own shipping line and the shipyard, and was always an innovative outfit, even though some of its ideas didn't work terribly well.

At 730' long x 75'-10 1/4" wide, Canadian Pioneer was of the then maximum permissible size for the St.Lawrence Seaway. Where it differed from other Great Lakes type self-unloaders was that it had a deeper hull and could load to ocean drafts, and could sail deep sea. At 24,113 gross tons, 37,448 deadweight tonnes at seagoing draft, its capacity was only 23,625 (pre-metric) tons at Seaway draft.  The intention was that the ship would sail seasonally on the lakes if needed, but mostly on coastal and ocean routes. Deep sea self-unloader capability was in its infancy then, and demand was fairly good as CSL discovered, and was also building "Salty Lakers".

The ship was fitted with a single contollable pitch prop, driven by a 9,000 bhp Doxford 76JC4R engine - the last engine built at Doxford's factory in Sunderland, England. Known for their durability and longevity, slow speed Doxfords have also been credited with ensuring the longevity of the ships they powered.

For the first few years the ship followed its intended pattern but by 1988 the demand for iron ore on the lakes had dipped, but there was work for it outside - however, not with Canadian pay scales and regulations.  On December 18, 1988 it arrived in Sorel, QC, and was re-registered in Port Vila, in the Republic of Vanuatu. That little known flag of convenience had recently come in to existence when the joint French/English territory of the New Hebrides became independent in 1980.

Renamed Pioneer by parent company Marbulk Shipping Inc (then a subsidiary of Upper Lakes Group) the ship went deep sea and only once revisited the Great Lakes. In 2002 it delivered a load of coke from Baltimore to Port Colborne. As part of Marbulk, Pioneer received the blue funnel with gold seahorse, originally the colours of Island Shipping, an Upper Lakes offshore company.

Canada Steamship Lines had formed a pool of seagoing self-unloaders with their own subsidiary CSL International Inc as operators. Pioneer joined the pool and was often seen in Nova Scotia, particularly in the Strait of Canso with coal or loading aggregate or gypsum. Halifax was also a regular port of call to load gypsum.It did go further afield, running coal from Norway to Germany for a time and also carrying aggregates on the west coast.

In 2000 CSL purchased Upper Lakes' 50% of Marbulk (Algoma had the other 50%) and the three Marbulk ships Ambassador (ex Canadian Ambassador) and Nelvana continued to work in the CSL pool.

In 2014 Pioneer made six visits to Halifax, mostly short runs from National Gypsum to Baltimore, MD or Burlington, NJ. On March 11 it experienced a propeller problem and was in port until March 23 until it was repaired. The ship was ballasted down by the bow and made an inglorious procession with tugs, from National Gypsum to pier 25-26.

The writing was on the wall for the ship as mechanical problems became more common, and it passed the thirty year mark. With a number of new ships coming into the CSL pool, it was now obsolete too. 

On June 19 it unloaded its last cargo in Cameron, LA and headed out to sea bound for Aliaga, Turkey and the scrap yard.It is due there July 18.



Fleetmate Ambassador (ex Canadian Ambassador) built in 1983 by Port Weller DD, had a parallel career, but went foreign in December 1986, when it hoisted the Vanuatu flag in Sorel, QC and took on the golden seahorse funnel marking.

It also measured 730' x 75'-10 1/4" with tonnages of 23,094 gross and 37,263 deadweight on a summer draft of 34'-5". It had a 4 cylinder Sulzer engine of 8,796 bhp and was generally similar in appearance to its fleet mate. A wider bridge, and slightly longer bulwark at the bow were the only noticeable differences.

On December 31, 1994 when unloading rock phosphate in Belledune, NB, a bearing failure in the conveyor system, ignited a rubber belt, causing a extensive damage. An estimated 25% of the accommodation was gutted and there was structural distortion. The ship was repaired and returned to service several month later.

It also worked overseas, running coal transatlantic from Norfolk for a time, and in Indonesia. It mostly worked in eastern North America however, from Newfoundland or the Strait of Canso as far as the Caribbean. The ship visited Halifax consistently for gypsum, and had several repair and refit sessions at Halifax Shipyards.

It was also notable for having delivered three cargoes of coal to Halifax -one each in 2000, 2002 and 2003. It unloaded onto the ground at pier 9D, for Canada Cement / Lafarge's Brookfield, NS plant.

On April 13, 2000 while in Halifax Shipyard, the ship was renamed Algosea and brought back under the Canadian flag, with Halifax as the port of registry. After meeting Algoma's short term need for another domestic ship, it reverted to Ambassador and the Vanuatu registry on December 31, 2000 at Trois-Rivières, QC.

In 2003 it was refitted with sliders in place of its roller swing gates at Gdansk Shipyard in Poland. On July 12, 2006 it damaged ballast tanks when it made heavy contact with an approach wall at the Canso Canal. It then seemed to enter a period of frequent repairs until late 2012 when it was sold.

Renamed Pramudita under the Indonesian flag, it was acquired by Jakarta owners to carry power plant coal. However, on September 12, 2013 in repetition of 1994, a fire broke out in the self-unloading area while discharging coal at Banten. Despite the efforts of fire tugs, the engine room and accommodation were gutted, and areas of the hull in way of the engine room and cargo holds were badly distorted. The ship was laid up, and it is unlikely that it will ever be repaired.   

Both ships were built with finer bow lines than a normal laker, however they were fitted with twin rudders and a bow thruster for improved maneuvering. They had no bridge wings, to ensure Seaway lock clearance, and continued until the end with their flimsy "fold-up" bridge wings, so they were something of a hybrid. As noted they rarely re-visited the Lakes, but they remained capable of doing so until the end.
All in all, judging by thirty or so years of service, they must have been a success.


Ernest Hemingway's first visit to Halifax

I am not sure if Ernest Hemingway (the writer) ever visited Halifax. He certainly visited Nova Scotia, one of many celebrities who fished for Bluefin tuna from Wedgeport, NS in the heyday of sport fishing for the giant fish.  It was his legendary fishing tale story The Old Man and the Sea, among others, that won him world attention and a Nobel prize. However he has been gone lo' these many years, so it was not he that visited Halifax (for the first time) today.

Instead it was the German owned, Liberian flag container ship Ernest Hemingway that called on the Zim service. Built in 2005 by Hanjin Heavy Industries in Pusan, South Korea, the 54,271 grt ship has a capacity of 4944 TEU (400 refrigerated). In September of last year, it came off a long term charter to Maersk as Maersk Davenport, hence the colours of the hull and superstructure.
The ship is owned by Norddeutsche Reederei, and is one of several ships in their fleet named for famous people. Sister ship Charles Dickens has called here for HAPAG-Lloyd.
Halterm was busy with Ocean Emerald at pier 42 and Oceanex Sanderling at pier 36, but still had three cranes available to work Ernest Hemingway.
As the major container lines shed chartered ships, we can expect to see more of these "one ofs" on short term or mid-term charters to other lines to cover for other ships in refit or to increase capacity without building new ships.