Sunday, January 22, 2017

All Quiet

It was another uneventful week in Halifax harbour. The usual comings and goings, with a possible weather delay to Monday or Tuesday, but very little else to report. [see also Tugfax]

Looking south from Bedford to the Narrows, Bedford Basin is undisturbed by any shipping traffic.

The cargo ship Thorco Liva sailed (today) Sunday morning after sitting at anchor in Bedford Basin since January 9. The ship made its first call here October 31, 2016 from Belfast, and it loaded cable tanks, then went on to Newington, NH to load the cable. Apparently now completed that work, it remained at anchor in Bedford Basin until this morning, sailing for Algeciras, Spain.

Thorco Liva's anchor cable is straight up and down as sits in Bedford Basin Saturday.
More details on the ship at:


Saturday, January 14, 2017

Frosty Saturday

It was a frosty day with temperatures plunging from plus 8C yesterday to minus 8C or colder today. It did not seem to slow down shipping activity with half a dozen arrivals and about the same number of departures.

Chebucto Pilot was busy and accumulated a bit of frozen spray as it ran back and forth to the pilot station.

An early morning move was Minerva Virgo from Imperial Oil to Irving Oil. The ship appeared to be nearly empty, by late morning and is due to sail over night. A 2006 product of the STX Shipbuilding Co in Jinhae,South Korea, the 28,960 grt, 50,921 dwt tanker is operated by Minerva Marine Inc of Athens.

A regular is Maersk Palaermo making one of the weekly calls on Maersk's Canada Express transatlantic service in conjunction with CMA CGM and NYK Line. The lightly loaded ship is certainly showing signs of the brutal conditions it experiences on that run. The heavily wrinkled bow plates are a result of constant slamming into seas.

Built in 1998 as P+O Nedlloyd Auckland it carried the name Lykes Pioneer from 2000 to 2002, then returned to its original name. Maersk acquired PONL and it became Maersk Palermo in 2006. Although ideally suited in size to its present service, one wonders how long it will stand up to the pounding.
Its capacity is 2890 TEU (including 400 reefers) on 31,333 grt, 37,842 dwt. It is one of the rare container ships built in Europe, a product of Warnowwerft, Warnemunde. It still flies the Dutch flag, as a reflection of its original owners.

As Maersk Palermo slipped away from pier 42, CMA CGM Bianca arrived and turned off the pier , with tug assistance, and backed in to pier 41.

Only the second ship to call in Halifax on the Columbus Loop service, it arrived August 31, 2015. The service was inaugurated officially the next month with the arrival of CMA CGM Melissande September 13, 2015. CMA CGM Bianca dates from 2011 when it was delivered by Shanghai Jiangnan Changxing Heavy Industries Co Ltd. The 90,500 grt, 101,433 dwt ship carries 8530 TEU, including 700 reefers, and always arrives in Halifax looking almost fully loaded.

A mid-afternoon arrival was another regular, OOCL Antwerp, looking quite trim in the low sun.

The 66,462 grt, 66,940 dwt ship, built in 2006 by Koyo Dockyard Co in Mihara, Japan can carry 5888 TEU, including 586 reefers. It did not appear to have much ice accumulation on its run up from New York.

All the above ships are typical, if not regulars in Halifax. Today however there was one unique arrival. The multi-purpose cable laying / trenching support vessel Isaac Newton would be an unusual sight no matter where it arrived.

Operated by the Luxembourg based dredging and marine construction giant Jan De Nul Group, the 16,255 grt, 13,433 dwt ship is fresh off a cable laying project between New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.

The large yellow "basket" on deck amidships carries some of the cable, more is accommodated below deck.

The ship conducted trenching and cable laying (including the use of an ROV) across the Northumberland Strait between Cape Tormentine, and Borden (the former ferry route) of a pair of 3 phase 138 kV power cables, 17 km long. The work started in October and was completed in December 2016.
An impressive ship, built by the Uljanik Shipyard in Pula, Croatia, it can carry 10,700 tonnes of cable, with turntables above and below deck, served by two large heave compensating cranes and numerous other appliances. Alternatively it can also carry 10,000 tonnes of rock for subsea rock installation work using a fall pipe, for depths up to 200m - or a combination of the two modes.
It bristles with thrusters, one retractable, and is equipped for Dynamic Positioning level 2. 

The slides fitted over the stern allow the cable to slip off as the ship progresses.
A gantry on the starboard quarter handles the ROV.

The Jan de Nul Group is multi-faceted, and its web site is very informative. Look for Isaac Newton in  the Equipment Section, under Cable and Umbilical Installation Vessels:


Thursday, January 12, 2017

Arca 1 follow up

My post on the Arca 1 has received more comments than any other post I have made on Shipfax. There are too many to publish and too many to comment on directly. And since this is my personal blog and not a forum, I have never used it as vehicle to exchange opinions one on one.

There are many things that need to be added however, and some corrections. In no particular order:

It was the RCAF's CH-149 Cormorant helicopter from 413 Squadron based in Greenwood, NS that lifted the six crew members from the Arca 1. The CCG and RCAF provide Search and Rescue jointly, but the excellent bit of close-in flying, landing two SAR techs and lifting everyone off safely was done by the Royal Canadian Air Force.

It is the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) that will be investigating the grounding, not the NTSB. The latter initials belong to the United States' organization that provides a corresponding service.
You will note that we have not heard if Panama will be participating in this investigation.

There were several observations that it was easy for me to point the finger. That is true, and I did. However it was more of a shot gun blast since I covered everyone who could possibly have been involved in sending this vessel to sea. Any one of a number of agencies, companies or individuals could have changed the course of events. And since it will be at least two years before we hear anything from the TSB, my guess (at this point) is as good as anyone's as to what might have been done differently.

I acknowledge that all eventualities cannot be covered. The ship was only an hour or so from the Sydney pilot, and could well have been overcome by fast moving weather.  Had all gone well there would have been no incident. Had the Canso Canal been open and the had the ship left Sorel early enough to go that way, things might have turned out very differently. A sister vessel, the Sillery, (pictured in a previous post) made the similar voyage without incident in October 1992 - and it had not been double hulled.

These are all what ifs and maybes, and can result in endless speculation.   The fact is that it happened, and satisfactory explanations my well be forthcoming.

The Coast Guard's response to the incident has been without fault as far as I am aware. I think they are under-resourced and their mandate is too restricted. These are political matters and are in no way a criticism of the Coast Guard employees themselves.

The same may very well be true of Transport Canada's Marine Safety people. Not their fault if their mandate is restricted to international treaties when it comes to foreign ships.

My point was that political decisions need to be made about control of shipping in our waters. Recent concerns on the west coast about tanker safety, while perhaps panic driven and not entirely rational, resulted in a political decision to develop the Ocean Protection Plan, announced in November. I see that reaction as a response to public pressure and opinion. Unless similar attention is drawn to east coast matters, we, as usual, will be ignored by Ottawa.

Shipping and marine traffic will go on, it is the lifeblood of commerce, and accidents will happen. However they should be prevented where possible, rather than subjecting the taxpayers to costly and dangerous SAR missions, and sometimes (although not likely in the case in Arca 1) even more costly cleanups.

I hope I can report a safe refloating of Arca 1 in a few days time. Weather permitting and enough pumps, and a way to melt the ice in the ballast water, the tugs Tim McKeil and Kaliutik will have delivered the ship to Sydney. The sandy shore that it landed on was about the best place that it could have happened, and so far the hull has not been breached.


Monday, January 9, 2017

Cape Flattery

Cape Flattery made a multi-stop visit to Halifax, tying up first at Irving Woodside last evening. After bunkering it moved over to pier 31 for some maintenance or other work.

The ship was built by Imabari Zosen in Imabari, Japan in 2004. It is a bulk carrier of 16,978 grt, 28,433 deadweight and is equipped with four 30 tonne cranes and stanchions to secure deck loads of timber. It was named Pamukkale when built, but was renamed soon after and is now owned by the publicly traded Pacific Basin Shipping Hong Kong Ltd, one of about 100 ships in this major fleet.

It arrived from the St.Lawrence and is headed for Veracruz, Mexico. 

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Un-tropical welcome for Tropical Shipping, and COSCO

The inaugural arrival of Tropical Shipping's first ship on its service from Halifax to the Caribbean was decidedly un-tropical. A fresh snow fall greeted Vega Omega as it tied up at pier 42, Halterm. The ship was lightly loaded, indicating that most of its current cargo is empties, and most of its business will be exports.

Vega Omega is on charter from Vega-Reederei Friedrich Dauber GmbH+Co KG of Hamburg. The ship was built in 2006 by Qingshan Shipyard in Wuhan, China. Its 9940 grt, 13,640 dwt allows it to carry 1118 TEU including 220 reefer plugs. It has two 45 tonne cranes.

Judging by the numbers of reefers plugged in at Halterm, there will be a sizable amount of perishables headed south. At peak season Tropical is expecting to move 500 TEUs out of Halifax per weekly trip. Since a lot of those will be arriving by road it will only add to downtown's traffic woes.
Tropical is an ideal candidate for Fairview if and when the two terminals merge operations, since their ships are small and will have no trouble getting under the bridges.

Tropical Shipping used the Port of Saint John for many years, but the line struck a better deal with Halifax and has moved its shipping activity here, although its business office remains in Saint John. The reason for this would seem obvious - much of their business is done with the Irving owned Cavendish farms and other Irving companies. Container stuffing in Halifax for LCL cargo is being provided by Irving-owned Midland Transport.

Tropical is upgrading its fleet with two new ships of 1100 TEU with 260 reefer capacity expected in July and September (and an option for two more). The current fleet numbers about 15 ships.
Parent company of Tropical is Saltchuck Resources of Seattle, owners of the Foss tug fleet, Totem Ocean Trailer Express (TOTE Maritime) and numerous other oil and land transportation operations in the continental US and Alaska.

Their ships are relativley small compared to the ship that was berthed at the adjacent pier 41 this afternoon.

COSCO Prince Rupert is a 91,051 grt, 102,742 dwt vessel with a capacity of 8208 TEU (including 700 reefers). The ship is owned by Seaspan International and leased to what was China Ocean Shipping Company. Now that COSCO has been merged with China Shipping Container Lines (CSCL) the new entity is China COSCO. However the operating entity which combines COSCO Container Lines and CSCL has become COSCO Shipping Lines. Saves on paint.
COSCO Prince Rupert operates as part of the Columbus Loop with CMA CGM and UASC. However that is about to change, as United Arab Shipping Company has been acquired by HAPAG-Lloyd.  CMA CGM, COSCO, Evergreen and OOCL have formed the Ocean Alliance which will maintain the Columbus Loop. I also noted a number of Hamburg-Sud containers on the ship, and that may change too, now that Maersk has bought Hamburg-Sud!

Many of these re-alignments will not happen until April or even later in the year, by which time there could be more changes in the container world.


Arca 1 doesn't make it

The bunkering tanker Arca 1 is firmly lodged on the shore just west of Sydney Mines on the coast of Spanish Bay, between Merrit Point and Bonar Head. The position is only about six miles from the entrance to Sydney Harbour. The small ship was making for Sydney when it experienced engine failure and drifted ashore in the early hours of this morning. During the day today a Canadian Coast Guard Cormorant helicopter evacuated the six crew men to safety.
According to reports, the Coast Guard is now mobilizing for an environmental clean up, as the ship's fuel is likely to start leaking out.

When I covered this small tanker's story in Shipfax January 4  I was seriously concerned about its fragile propulsion system and the necessity to travel in good weather only. I had grave reservations about the wisdom of allowing this underpowered and sub-standard craft to sail into the Gulf of St.Lawrence, let alone on its intended voyage to the Dominican Republic. It had leap-frogged down the St.Lawrence from Sorel to Quebec City, to Havre-Aubert, in the Magdalen Islands. But during the jump to Sydney it may have been overtaken by a major winter storm and could not get out of the way.
What possesses the authorities to allow this sort of thing to happen again, after the Miner experience is beyond me. It is fortunate that there was no loss of life.

The little ship was widend and deepened in 2004, but still has a barge shaped hull.

Little more than a powered barge, it was never intended for sea-going voyages, and as I reported, the previous time it visited Halifax it was towed here and towed back to Montreal.
The ship's propulsion system is called "outdrive" and it consists of two engines, mounted on the after deck in very flimsy housings. These provide power to vertical shafts, slung outboard of the stern, to steerable propellers. That the ship suffered engine failure is no surprise. The engines are very exposed, particularly to following seas, and should they fail, attempting to work on them in frigid temperatures, high winds, driving snow and rough seas is inconceivable.

This view of a sister tanker, shows the engines mounted on deck and the outdrives.

Transport Canada, responsible for Port State Control, must be held responsible for its actions (or lack thereof). How inspectors could let such a ship go to sea makes one wonder what sort of oversight they are providing to Canada and how they can justify their existence. If the simple expedient of hoisting a Panamanian flag exempts a ship from being subject to any Canadian  oversight while in Canadian waters
then something has to change.
The Laurentian Pilotage Authority must also bear some responsibility if its pilots worked the ship from Sorel to Quebec and Quebec to Les Escoumins, surely they were aware of its potential for disaster, and had a duty to report to Transport Canada Ship Safety.
If the Transportation Safety Board conducts an inquiry, it can only make recommendations, which Transport Canada is free to ignore. It has done so in the past because the NTSB has no teeth.
Then there is the Coast Guard. With no assets in the area able to assist a vessel in distress, all they can do is rescue and clean up - at great expense to the taxpayer. There are several tugs in the area that could have assisted, but the Coast Guard has no mandate to hire tugs to do rescue work, and is still a long way from having its own rescue tugs in service.
And finally, did the owner post a bond before sailing. This is a good question because the new international convention and the government's promise to institute such a regulation, may at least help to protect the taxpayer from  the clean-up and wreck removal costs. Since the ship is essentially valueless, has no cargo aboard, and is probably minimally insured, the Owner is unlikely to have very deep pockets.


Saturday, January 7, 2017

Saturday Activity

There was a fair amount of activity on the Halifax waterfront Saturday morning. Ships were hustling to get their work done in advance of a major snow storm.
At pier 31 Helga was busily unloading its nickel cargo onto rail cars and into the wharf shed.

Using its own 80 tonne cranes for the work, Helga unloads its cargo from Cuba.

Meanwhile at pier 27 opposite Margaretha was working its cargo of rail track, also using its own cranes. The ship had put in at St.John's, NL January 1 on its way from Europe, possibly to re-stow some of the cargo. It's port of registry is also in St.John's, but it is the port in Antigua.

Margaretha has the sponsoned hull form, allowing for large box shaped holds and maximum hatch size.

Both ships are products of the Netherland based Damen shipbuilding group.
Margaretha was built as Hanna C for Carisbrooke Shipping, Isle of Wight. The hull was fabricated in Galati, Romania, then towed to Hoogezand, Holland for completion in 2002. In 2002 it was renamed Corral, in 2004 Hanna C again, then in 2006 Opalace and in 2009 Hanna C.  In 2012 Rudolph Schepers, GmbH of Haren (Ems) acquired the ship and gave it its present name. The ship measures 7752 grt, 10,526 dwt.

Helga on the other hand was built at Damen's Yichang Shipyard in China. It was built as Helga, but renamed in 2010: Kent Atlas, 2012: Helga, 2013: Clipper Avalon, 2014: Thorco Tribute, reverting the Helga again in 2015. Owners are listed as VanDijk Rederij, Westerbroek, Netherlands, with Wagenborg Shipping BV as managers. It has been calling in  Halifax since 2015 for Nirint Shipping. A 8999grt, 12.044 dwt ship it is a member of the CF12000 class of combi-freighters.

Margaretha was not the only ship with a sponsoned hull. At pier 25 Atlantic Huron is in port for winter layup. The ship was widened below the level of the main deck in 2002 to take advantage of greater allowable width in the St.Lawrence Seaway locks. The modification increased the ship's deadweight capacity by about 2,000 tonnes.

A thin layer of snow along the hull projection shows were the ship was widened. Great Lakes ships take tremendous abuse entering the Seaway locks, and the numerous dented plates at the "knuckle" show how hard life can be for lakers.

The tanker Cape Brasilia was working at Imperial Oil. It arrived Thursday, but had been anchored outside since earlier in the week.

A 2008 Hyundai, Mipo - built ship of 25,108 grt,  40,237dwt, it is owned by Columbia Ship Management of Hamburg and works in the large United Product Tankers (UPT) pool.

It was a very un-Saudi Arabian scene at Fairview Cove where Bahri Abha was finishing up its work. The National Shipping Company of Saudi Arabia ship made its fir call in Halifax May 17, 2013.

In the foreground some snowy picnic tables at the Africville Museum, in the middle ground some fill stockpiling for future expansion of the Fairview Cove container terminal, and a pollutant containment mountain. In the background CN Rail's Rockingham yard.

Also this morning Atlantic Towing tugs moved Atlantic Towing Ltd's new supplier Atlantic Griffon from Halifax Shipyard to pier 9B. The cold move signified completion of the construction process and commencement of the trials period. One of tow suppliers built by Damen's Galati yard in Romania, it arrived in Halifax in two pieces in August. The superstructure was connected to the main hull over the last four months, and it is now being made ready for sea trials.

Atlantic Willlow pushes on the bow while Atlantic Oak works the stern as Atlantic Griffon is made fast alongside pier 9B.
 Immediately astern, Algoma Dartmouth has taken up a berth to shelter from the incoming storm, and astern of her Maersk Nexus is tied up at pier 9C.