Saturday, June 15, 2019

CMA CGM Thalassa revisited

Back in February when it called here for the first time I wondered if CMA CGM Thalassa was the largest container ship to call here.

At the time I put my faith in figures recorded for CMA CGM Libra, putting it slightly ahead.

Despite the nominal 11,040 TEUs quoted, the 10,980 TEU capacity used by many sources and the 8,108 TEU if loaded to an average 14 tonnes, there is still a case to be made for the CMA CGM Thalassa because it has the larger deadweight tonnage of 131,938 tonnes, and can carry more loaded containers. Simply put CMA CGM Thalassa can carry more cargo even though it is not the bigger ship in dimensions.

The declared container capacity of a ship and the actual number of containers it can actually carry may be somewhat less. Some lines are coy and understate the capacity and others overstate it. Deadweight tonnage also varies because it depends on the allowed draft. If the calculation is made for the ship at the deepest draft condition, then that is the ultimate carrying capacity. It is not always clear without access to more detailed information whether the quoted deadweight tonnage is in fact the maximum.

No matter if it is the biggest or not, it was an impressive sight arriving this afternoon and towering over the attending tugs and the harbour tour boat Silva of Halifax.


Friday, June 14, 2019

Quitting time

It looked like quitting time at the factory late this afternoon in Halifax harbour as three ships all sailed within a few minutes of each other and all from different locations.

First off was Gerhard Schulte. The German owned ship is on temporary assignment with ACL filling in for the Atlantic Sail. That ship, one of the Chinese built G4 ConRos has been in Hamburg, Germany for repairs since April 10.

After unloading and loading at Cerescorp's Fairview Cove terminal yesterday, Gerhard Schulte made an unusual move early this morning to pier 27, probably to take fuel. Now that Halifax no longer has a bunker barge service, pier 27 has become the designated refueling stop where tank trucks deliver fuel directly to the ship.

Next to leave was Zim Luanda from Halterm.

A regular on Zim's weekly service, its next port is to be New York.

The last of the rush hour departures was the Canadian flag Nolhan Ava resuming its spot on the TMSI service to St-Pierre et Miquelon. The ship has come off a refit in Freeport, Bahamas and alongside in Halifax starting in mid-April.

While Nolhan Ava was out of service its place was taken by Lomur which was in Halifax yesterday to discharge cargo from St-Pierre. It then sailed for Portland, ME,  back again under the Eimskip banner. It came off that company's Green Line service in April to work for TMSI.

Lomur does not appear again on Eimskip's published schedule so this may be a one off trip. Eimskip operates a feeder service between Halifax and Portland, ME for CMA CGM on its Green Line ships.


Thursday, June 13, 2019

Seaspan, Davie follow up

Contrary to my previous report Seaspan did express disappointment on May 23 when the federal government gave them a sixteen ship contract and stated that a third shipyard would be added to the National Shipbuilding procurement program. I don't follow the shipyard's press campaign, so missed their release of that date.

Not only will the feds give the polar icebreaker to an as yet undesignated third shipyard (which must be Davie since there is no other substantial Canadian shipyard) but there is still some question about just what Seaspan got instead.

The initial announcement was for sixteen "Multi-Purpose Vessels" but from what I can learn this is still somewhat vaguely defined, however it is supposed to be part of a complete rebuilding of the entire Coast Guard fleet. These ships were originally to be awarded to non-NSBS shipyards, but it is apparent that there are no non NSBS shipyards of any capability to do the work, aside of course from Davie.

Giving Seaspan 16 or so smaller vessels versus one larger vessel seems sensible to me, but Seaspan is calling foul about expanding the shipbuilding strategy to three yards from two. I don't see what they lose.

This kind of sour grapes reaction can be expected, but is still inexcusable. Expanding the NSBS to a third yard to develop an arctic icebreaker capability makes sense. The result will be three 'centres of excellence' - Combat (Halifax), non-combat (Seaspan) and Arctic (Davie). This seems a logical outcome from where Canada was before the NSBS - essentially at ground zero in terms of any serious shipbuilding capability.
(Davie's bankruptcy and rebirth as a viable shipyard was happening consecutively and was very much in doubt when the NSBS was originally formulated.)

So what does the Coast Guard have now, and what will it look like after this project?

The current non-research, large vessel CCG fleet consists of 20 ships:

Heavy Icebreakers -2
Louis S. St-Laurent - to be replaced by the Polar Icebreaker -purpose built

Terry Fox - ex civilian tug/supply

Medium Icebreakers - 4
Amundsen (with research capability) - no replacement announced

Des Groseilliers to be replaced with ex Viking?
Henry Larsen to be replaced with ex Viking?
Pierre Radisson to be replaced with ex Viking?


High Endurance Multi-Task -7 (light icebreaking capability)
[two types, but with essentially the same spec]
Ann Harvey
Edward Cornwallis
George R. Pearkes
Griffon - Great Lakes

Martha L. Black
Sir Wilfrid Laurier - West Coast

Sir William Alexander

Medium Endurance Multi-Task -3 (light icebreaking capability)
Bartlett - west coast

Earl Grey - east coast

Samuel Risley -Great Lakes


Offshore Patrol -4
Cape Roger - built as fisheries protection

Cygnus -built as fisheries protection

Leonard J. Cowley - purpose built
Sir Wifred Grenfell - converted civilian tug/supply
Total 21 ships

The plan as I see it:
Heavy Icebreaker
- the Polar Icebreaker is to replace the Louis S. St-Laurent
- A second Polar Icebreaker is needed to replace Terry Fox - Davie will certainly lobby for this - Mostly because of the limitations of the the ships in the next category.
It is also possible that a secondhand civilian icebreaker can be found as a replacement. There are couple of idle candidates. Other nations are building for the arctic: Russia of course, the US has finally agreed to build new polar ships and even China is now in the game.
If Canada is to be serious about the arctic it needs more than one polar class icebreaker.

Medium Icebreaker
It is apparent that the feds think that the three ex Swedish icebreaking supply vessels will be the long term replacements for the three current medium icebreakers.
The Vikings are as yet unproven in Coast Guard service in the far north and the three boats are smaller with more limited capabilities outside of icebreaking, such as science, policing, etc., Although the horsepower of the Vikings is greater:18,300 bhp vs 17,700 bhp, their gross tonnage is much less, 3382 vs 5,775. Breaking ice is not just about power, but also about mass and momentum.
Purpose built medium/heavy icebreakers would be a better bet, and will probably be tacked on for Davie after they finish the Polar.

Capt. Molly Kool ex Vidar Viking - partially refitted, to be completed at Davie for 2021
Jean Goodwill ex Balder Viking - in refit at Davie for 2020
Vincent Massey ex Tor Viking - in refit at Davie for 2020
 Life expectancy 10 years minimum.

Halifax Shipyard will be building the two Arctic Offshore Patrol Ships (AOPS) at the end of the RCN contract, and modified for the CCG. It is unclear how these fit into the plan, since they don't replace any ships in the current roster. Delivery for 2025, 2026?

Arctic Science seems to have been left out of the equation, with no equivalent of Amundsen in the mix, which does double duty as a medium icebreaker.

High Endurance Multi-Task (HEMTV)(7)
These ships must do buoy laying, navaid maintenance, light icebreaking and SAR and pollution response.
Not currently listed specifically by Seaspan, but seems that Seaspan will get these.

Medium Endurance Multi-Task (MEMTV)(3)
All the same functions as above.
Seaspan will get these 3 ships. I am not sure what use medium endurance vessels are, when high endurance vessels can do the job, and offer a lot more flexibilty.
Last year Samuel Risley went to Greenland in the summer, but medium icebreakers were needed to open the Seaway and Great Lakes this spring because the MEMTVs could not do the job.

Offshore Patrol (OPV)(4)
Seaspan will get these replacements. Seakeeping is the primary characteristic of these ships for rescue work, and fisheries patrol/policing is the other role. Not the same specs as the above.
Maybe 4 ships?

Seaspan thinks they will be getting 16 or 17 ships to build, but I only count 14 from the above list. However their own website only shows ten ships and these appear to be patrol vessels. They list only Medium Endurance Multi-Task Vessels (MEMTV) and Offshore Patrol (OPV).

Lets hope the High Endurance class (HEMTVs) will not be watered down to MEMTV status.

The CCG needs to replace 20 vessels including Amundsen.
So far:
Davie gets 4  -the one Polar (heavy) and the three ex Vikings (medium)
Seaspan gets MEMTVs and OPVs, maybe HEMTVs, total 16?

Total 20 ships

Then Halifax gets 2 AOPs, modified RCN design for CCG use, extra and above the current fleet.

However no specific mention is made of how the capabilities of Terry Fox and Amundsen will be replaced.

Maybe the debate for a second Polar Icebreaker will start after the election.

Lots of room for timely political announcements.


Tall, taller, tall-least

Sails in Halifax harbor are usually limited to pleasure craft except for the occasional Tall Ships event and the yearly visits of Bluenose II. This year those visits will be rarer than usual as "Nova Scotia's Sailing Ambassador" will be traveling far afield.

However it is spending a few days this week in Halifax with public openings and short harbour trips under sail. It will return to Lunenburg for the weekend.This afternoon while getting away from its dock it encountered Silva of Halifax one of the many harbour tour boats, but the only one left that carries sails.

It would perhaps be uncharitable to say that the Silva is a short tall ship, but since it carries no topmasts, it appears rather stubby when seen next to the Bluenose II. Built in Sweden in 1939 as an Icelandic trading schooner, it was converted to a tour boat in 2001 and renamed (officially) Silva of Halifax. It does hoist sails during most of its harbour tours, as it did a few minutes after this photo.

Although not using topsails today, Bluenose II is always an inspiring sight when it takes to the wind.

Nova Scotians wishing to see Tall Ships have only a few days to do so. With the  June 1 arrival back in its home port of Lunenburg, the 3 master Picton Castle will be sailing again this weekend.

Built in 1928, Picton Castle has just completed the latest, and reportedly the last, of its round the world cruises. In future it will confine itself to the Atlantic Basin, but still carry on its training and other programs.

Also visiting Lunenburg is the well known Pride of Baltimore II . A miniature sail past is scheduled for Sunday when it, Picton Castle and Bluenose II depart together headed for the Tall Ships Great Lakes Challenge 2019.

For more on Bluenose II's summer schedule see:


Monday, June 10, 2019

Fine Print and Shoes

The fine print

Perhaps not wishing to look a gift horse in the mouth Seaspan did not mention the fine print involved in the recent announcement that the federal government was awarding them the work to replace the Canadian Coast Guard's fleet of icebreakers and buoy tenders.

That eighteen or nineteen ship contract has a major string attached, and that is the government has withdrawn construction of the polar icebreaker from Seaspan and will be awarding it to a third shipyard yet to be designated.

The major icebreaker has been a key part of the non-combat work at Seaspan, but had been postponed in favour of the two supply ships for the RCN.

There are some good reasons for moving this contract and some very peculiar justifications presented by observers.

First the explanations:
It is logical that a series of smaller ships will be better suited to Seaspan's abilities and will certainly make sense for one yard to build all the ships in a series. (That logic apparently doesn't work for refits of naval ships, but we will let that one pass.)

It is almost laughable to say that the third shipyard is yet to be designated. Since there are really only three shipyards of any size in Canada, and Halifax will not be getting the polar icebreaker, that leaves Davie. Why not say so?

Aside from the logic of giving the contract to a capable shipyard it is also a politically sensitive time for the current Liberal government. They need Quebec votes, and this will certainly help.

Then there is the repeated opinion that Davie is an icebreaker specialist and that this is their kind of work. This is a ludicrous statement since the last icebreaker of any size they built was CCGS Griffon in 1970 and of a heavier size the CCGS J.E.Bernier in 1967. Certainly they have built numerous ice class ships, including some very capable ferries and some tankers, but they were not icebreakers. In fact the last heavy icebreaker they built was the CCGS John A. Macdonald in 1960. To think that any of that expertise still resides in the shipyard management or its workers strains credulity.

They have certainly  been maintaining the CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent in recent years and are refitting the three ex Swedish icebreakers, but that is not new construction.

I am all in favour of Davie building the polar icebreaker. It will mean that the ship may be completed in a reasonable amount of time. Certainly they have the work force to do it and an open enough order book that it should not be delayed, thus ending the series of multi-million refits to keep CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent running.

Are the Lovely Louie's days finally numbered?

The other shoe

I am waiting for the other shoe to drop - in fact both other shoes.

Shoe #1
Canada actually needs two polar icebreakers, not just one. When will the government decide to award the second one (publicly)? Maybe not before the October election. CCGS Terry Fox is a capable vessel and was a great bargain. However its ability to carry scientists and conduct other arctic work is limited.

The second shoe is the name. The current polar icebreaker project has carried the name CCGS John G. Diefenbaker since it was announced by the Conservative prime minister in 2008. I cannot see a Liberal government delivering a ship with that name. Supposing the Liberals get in again in October, I expect to see the name change. And it will not be Lester B. Pearson (which incidentally has been my nomination, even though I would prefer his nickname of Mike to be used.)

If two icebreakers are built then there is a logical solution - but perhaps not as politically astute. However de-politicizing the naming of icebreakers is a faint hope.


Bridge Clearance

A recent photo I posted showing a ship sailing beneath the Angus L. Macdonald bridge raised the question of vertical clearance requirements (ship's air draft) and the course a ship is to take to sail under the bridge.

Granville Bridge clears the Macdonald Bridge June 8.

For those interested in learning about this in great detail, they should refer to the Port Information Guide, published annually by the Port of Halifax. The latest version can be found here:

If that provides too much detail for the average person, I will give a much abridged version

All large ships have to apply for permission to transit under the two Halifax harbour bridges. Ships with an air draft greater than 46m are of particular concern since there is a requirement that ships have a clearance between the topmost portion of their mast and the under side of the bridge of at least 1.35m. Depending on the state of the tide clearance under the bridges will vary, so permission is granted on a case by case basis in real time.

Ships know the distance between the keel and top of mast for their particular ship, but air draught will vary depending on how much cargo the ship is carrying, and thus its water draught.

The master is usually aware of the air draught, but it is calculated specifically as the ship enters port. This calculation must then be verified by attending tug and pilot by reading the ship's draught marks. The air draught is then relayed to the Port Authority and if satisfactory the ship is cleared to pass the bridge. (A similar procedure occurs when the ship sails.)

Advance notification of the intention to sail under the bridges is also required from ships so that construction activity beneath the bridge can be adjusted. There are mobile work platforms under the bridge from time to time (called travelers) and they can be relocated in time for the ship to pass.

Assuming there is adequate clearance and the ship is cleared to pass under the bridge, there are also aids to navigation to assist the pilot.

Quoted from the Port Information Guide:

BRIDGE MARKINGS The centre span is marked by fixed navigational lights installed on both sides of both bridges. Additional orange panel markers are affixed to the bridge structure to indicate to the pilot the limits of the preferred channel. Bright green square markers (with both day time and night time visibility characteristics) are positioned 55 meters on either side of the centre span denoting the 110-meter navigation channel.

The orange panels are just visible in the photo above, but seen from a different angle here:

Note there is also a white paint on the bridge structure in roughly the same line.

The centre of the bridge is also marked, but with a yellow paint.

The orange panels themselves appear to be fairly recent, and are simply sheets of plywood, painted on one side only and affixed with plastic tie wraps to the bridge fencing. Something more permanent must be planned.


Sunday, June 9, 2019

New Laker on the Block

By this time of the year there usually have been several Great Lakes ships in Halifax, sometimes with grain from the Lakehead and sometimes to load gypsum. This year is different. Not only has there been no grain from the Lakes yet, and only one cargo from the Lakes.*

One of the stalwarts for many years has been the Atlantic Huron but it has been busy elsewhere and has put in only one appearance on April 17. It arrived in ballast and loaded gypsum. Today however was the first visit to Halifax of a different CSL ship entirely, the Baie St.Paul. It docked at National Gypsum late last night and sailed early this afternoon giving a destination of Cote Ste-Catherine QC, on the St.Lawrence Seaway.

Baie St.Paul is one of a new generation of lakers, that CSL ordered from China to replace older ships. Called the Trillium class, there are several variations, or sub-classes of ships within the group.
One group of six ships was built to the maximum allowable size for the St.Lawrence Seaway locks, measuring 739'-10" x 77'-11" with a maximum draft of 30 ft.  Four of these ships were built as self-unloaders and two were built as gearless bulk carriers.
Another group are Panamax ocean going ships. There are five ships in this group, all of which work within the CSL Americas pool, with one owned by Algoma.

Baie St.Paul is one of the Seaway self-unloaders, and was built to trade within the Great Lakes / St. Lawrence estuary, but not intended to go to sea. Special reinforcing was installed in the ship to allow it to sail from China to Canada on delivery late in 2011. However that material was removed on arrival and the ship had not ventured outside of the Gulf of St.Lawrence since.

During last winter's layup/refit the ship was reinforced again, but in a different way, to permit it to make brief coastal trips. The ship reached Halifax in a quite a circuitous way. The ship loaded petcoke in Thunder Bay, sailing May 19 and passing down through Seaway exiting the system opposite Montreal on May 25. It then proceeded to Point Tupper, NS via the Canso Canal where it unloaded part of its cargo for Nova Scotia power. It then proceeded to Sydney, NS, (via the Atlantic coast route) and delivered the remainder of the cargo, also for Nova Scotia Power. Returning along the same path in ballast it loaded crushed stone at Auld's Cove, NS, hard by the Canso lock. Once that cargo was delivered to Charlottetown, PE the ship proceeded along the west coast of Cape Breton, crossing the Cabot Strait and docking at Lower Cove on Newfoundland's Port au Port Peninsula. There it loaded more crushed stone which it delivered to Summerside, PE.
That done, it proceeded to Halifax , via the Canso Canal, and the Atlantic coast.

The ship berthed stern in at National Gypsum's pier, to allow the travelling ship loader there to reach all the holds without interference from the ship's self-unloading boom.

It loaded to about 8 meters draft, representing the maximum allowable Seaway draft of 26'-6", which equates to a cargo of about 29,650 tonnes. Note that Great Lakes ships do not have a "boot topping" or defined waterline with different paint colour above and below. They do not require the same anti-fouling hull treatment as sea-going ships, and therefore there is no distinction between hull paint colour above and below the waterline. Given the extra freeboard, from the ship's maximum draft of 30 feet, that is an added safety factor to allow the ship to go to sea.

Ships built for the Great Lakes have a number of distinctive features:

- Fairleads for mooring lines are set into the forepeak of the ship, under cover, where winches and bitts are located. 
- Derricks to swing crew members ashore are required for all ships transiting the St.Lawrence Seaway. They are rarely used anymore in the locks since suction plates are now in use instead of ship's lines.
However crew are frequently landed at the approach walls when ships have to wait their turn in the lock and need someone ashore to take lines.

- Lakers have steel plate hatch covers, which are clamped in place when underway. (The clamps are visible in this photo - they are galvanized zinc colour.)The gantry travels on rails the length of the deck and is used to pick up or place and stack hatch covers.

- Long ladders, rigged forward of the wheelhouse are used to embark or disembark crew in the locks or approaches where piers are built very close to the water. The ladders are lowered by means of small electric winches until they rest on the dock - well out from the side of the ship.

The crew have readied the pilot ladder and will swing it down when it is time to disembark the pilot.
- Note the three broad steel plate straps on the hull just below the deck level in this and other photos above. These are reinforcements added to allow the ship to make short sea voyages by limiting the flexure of the hull.
- The self-unloading boom has an enclosed conveyor belt to reduce the amount of airborne dust when unloading a cargo.

*On April 9 the articulated tug / barge Leo A. McArthur / John J. Carrick delivered a cargo of asphalt from the Great Lakes to the McAsphalt dock in Eastern Passage.