Wednesday, December 31, 2014

St.Lawrence Seaway season finale brings retirements

The annual winter closure of the St.Lawrence Seaway brings to an end to memorable year. Mammoth amounts of grain, early season severe weather made for heavy traffic at times and few idled ships on the Canadian side.
The most notable events in my mind were the retirements of several veteran ships and the introduction of some new ones, with more to follow for 2015.As the largest Canadian operators, Algoma and CSL figure heavily in these developments.

Among the retirements is the last steam powered ship in commercial trade under the Canadian flag. That is the laker Algoma Montréalais, which was due to retire at the end of the 2013 season.  Its reprieve, thanks to the heavy grain run, has now ended.

The remarkable ship was built in 1962 as Montrealer, but was christened as Montréalais when it was completed. The mid-body and stern were launched by Canadian Vickers in Montreal October 19, 1961 and the bow October 25, 1961 by G.T.Davie + Sons in Lauzon. The two portions were joined in the Champlain graving dock at Lauzon, and the completed ship was christened at Canadian Vickers in Montreal.

With the opening of the St.Lawrence Seaway in 1959, new opportunities for shipping came about. Not one to miss a chance, the legendary Phrixos B. Papachristidis used a novel financing approach to create a small laker fleet. Redeeming credits form the war-built standard ships, he had shipbuilder Canadian Vickers of Montreal holding title, with Papachristidis as operator and contracts with whiskey makers Hiram Walker + Sons (a grain customer) as investor/guarantor. Meanwhile Papachristidis ordered an additional ship from Saint John Shipbuilding + Dry Dock. In 1965 the Irving owned company then established Eastern Lake Carriers Ltd jointly with Papachristidis and owned and operated his fleet until 1972.

To finance a new venture in bulk carriers and tankers, Papachristidis (and Irving) sold the fleet to subsidiaries of Upper Lakes Shipping in 1972.  The ship was not renamed, and with sister Québecois continued in operation.

When Upper Lakes Group sold its ships to Algoma Marine in 2011, the ship was renamed Algoma Montréalais. Over the winter of 2012-2013 it received the cement handling equipment from sister Québecois which went to the scrappers.

Most Great Lakes ship were moving to diesels by the 1960s, but this one was powered by a durable Canadian General Electric steam turbine plant, probably due to favourable financing from CGE. However the ship's days were numbered due to the requirement to burn heavy fuel. The new pollution regulations which will come into effect in 2015 mean the end of heavy fuel ships that can't be converted. New ships are also on the way from China for Algoma and these will take up the role of  this memorable ship.

Another Algoma ship, with closer connections to Halifax has also been removed from Canadian service, pending sale to overseas owners.The coastal tanker Algoeast arrived in Sydney, NS December 25 and moved from the government dock to Sydport on December 28.

Built in Shimoneseki, Japan by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in 1997, owners Texaco Canada Ltd had to get a special government waiver to build the ship in a non-Commonwealth country, since all eligible yards were fully occupied with work. Measuring 8545 grt and 9657 dwt, the ship was powered by a 5300 bhp B+W Hitachi engine driving a single controllable pitch prop. As Texaco Brave it traded all over eastern Canada, often to Halifax, where Texaco had a refinery in Eastern Passage.
After a brief Christmas layover at Purdy's wharf in Halifax, Texaco Brave gets under way.

In 1986 Imperial Oil took over Texaco Canada, but did not need the ship. It was leased to Sofati / Soconav (which had taken over Branch Lines) for ten years.
At pier 9 in Halifax, the newly renamed Le Brave shows off her red hull colour, with aluminum anti-fouling paint. High out of the water the bow thruster is exposed.

Renamed Le Brave in Halifax, the ship traded all over eastern Canada. Imperial had to sell the Halifax Texaco refinery to Gulf Canada, and the ship called there among other places. Sofati/Soconav was renamed Socanav, and management of the tanker was assigned to QMT Tankers in 1993. In 1996 when Sofati became insolvent, the ship was laid up in Sorel and the lease could not be renewed. Operation reverted to Imperial Oil.

Fresh out of drydock in Imperial colours, but still called Le Brave, the ship is idle at pier 25-26.

It arrived in Halifax in December 1996 and after a refit at Halifax Shipyard, it emerged in January 1997 with a blue hull and in February was renamed Imperial St.Lawrence (ii). The ship worked on the Great Lakes, but also on the St.Lawrence with some coastal operations.

Socanav was declared bankrupt, clearing the way for Imperial to rename the ship. The blue colour is the same, but appears brighter in the sunshine.

In 1998 Algoma Tankers Ltd was formed to take over the Imperial Oil fleet, along with a contract to move Imperial Esso products. Renamed Algoeast, the ship's routine changed little. Over the winter of 1999-2000 it went to Port Weller Drydock where it was converted to double hull, essentially by building another skin inside the ship's frames. Gross tonnage thus became 8471, but deadweight was unchanged. Its trade was mostly on the Great Lakes and St.Lawrence, but in the winter of 2006-2007 it worked out of Halifax.

In 2014 Algoma brought the newer tanker Algoma Hansa under Canadian flag, and with Imperial's refinery in Dartmouth closing, there is apparently not enough work to support this ship anymore. No details are available yet on the ship's new owners, flag or name.



Tuesday, December 30, 2014

HMCS Fredericton to the Med

HMCS Fredericton sailed this morning bound for the Mediterranean. It will take up its post with NATO backstopping activities related to events in the Ukraine and Crimea, or Syria or any of the other trouble spots in the region.

 Two dockyard pup tugs stand by as a Glen tug (not visible) pulls Fredericton off the jetty.

The ship's Seaking made several passes as the ship sailed outbound. There was a fairly stiff south wind, so it was not until it had rounded George's Island that the copter was cleared to land

Fredericton  will replace HMCS Toronto which will return to Halifax in due course.


Green Lake - more Autoport

Today's arrival at Autoport was the US flag Green Lake. Central Gulf Lines of Mobile, AB is one of several US operators of non-Jones Act car carriers. As US flag, but not US built, the ships are still eligible for preference in carrying US government and military cargo. They also earn their keep on regular trade routes, in this case carrying Dodge vans, which are essentially rebranded Fiats built to North American regulations.

Green Lake with ramp down at Autoport. The McAsphalt jetty is in the foreground, with its heated asphalt pipeline. Notice the boxlike deckhouse, and bridge set well back. Newer PCTCs have adopted the more streamlined appearance of yesterday's Florida Highway.

Built in 1998 by Shin Kurushima of Oshima, Japan, the 57,623 grt ship was called Cygnus Leader until 2001 when it migrated to the US flag.

How cars were handled before RoRo. This is a bit of Russian private enterprise at work in 1990. Crewmen on the fishing vessel Sergei Vasilisin bought some used North American cars to take home and sell. The fish factory had lots of derricks and deck space, so they used the old fashioned loading method.

Before there was an Autoport, cars arrived on board general cargo ships and were offloaded in Halifax using slings and derricks. There was much opportunity for damage in handling, but also from other cargo stowed nearby. In one famous case a corrosive liquid seeped onto a cargo of 1958 Morris Oxford cars, etching the paint from the roofs. They were repainted in Halifax with a darker green roof and sold for the price of of a one colour car (two-tones normally cost more.) I know about this because I learned to drive on one of these two-toners - owned by my father.

The bulk shipping operator Anders Jahre of Norway, long an innovator, installed movable car decks in his bulk carrier Jarabella. The ship brought autos to North America, then restowed the car decks and returned to Europe with bulk cargo. The cars were unloaded using conventional derricks, but the masts were set closer to the ships rails than normal to ensure a good reach ashore.
No points will be awarded for guessing the brand of cars Jarabella unloaded at pier 30 in 1966.

Jarabella, 13,173 grt, 19,650 dwt, built 1963 by Kaldnes MV of Tonsberg. lasted until 1993 when it was broken up on this day, December 30, in Nantong China. In 1972 it was renamed Atlas Counsellor and sailed for Hyundai International Inc of South Korea, long before that company was known here for its cars!

The infamous Russian Lada automobiles were imported to Canada for a number of years. They arrived at Autoport on USSR flagged ConRos, among them Ivan Derbenev*. Its 242 TEU capacity was also used, but its car decks were full of Ladas, and some heavy machinery was carried on the weather deck. Its bow door, a feature more often seen on ferries, was connected by ramps and hatches all the way to the weather deck.
Point Valour assists Ivan Derbenev on its approach to pier 31.

Once alongside the bow visor was opened and the ramp extended to the pier. On this trip, the ship also loaded containers (note they are stowed athwartships), but it did make calls at Autoport alone.

Measuring only 3987 grt (under tonnage mark regulations) it was later remeasured at 8,467 grt under new regulations when the car decks were classed as enclosed space for tonnage purposes. In May 1991 it loaded 270 used cars in Milwaukee and 50 in Detroit to take to Poland and the USSR respectively. There was quite a trade in used North American cars for time, but that seems to have faded now.
The ship was sold to Dutch operator Vanuden RoRo and operated as Delfshaven from 1999 until it was broken up in Alang May 22, 2001.

As a finale to the Autoport story, here is the scene this morning with yesterday's Audis clogging the lots.


* Lloyd's Register shows the ship as "Ivan Derbenyev". Transliteration issues persist with Russian names, but I believe that the ship's namesake was an early 20th century satirist and cartoonist, and his name is usually rendered as Ivan Ivanovich Derbenev.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Autoport going like gangbusters

Sunrise this morning - an autocarrier waiting at anchor off Halifax.

One of the less obvious activities in the port of Halifax is Autoport, located in Eastern Passage. Owned and operated by CN Rail through Autoport Ltd it is one of a chain of Autoports throughout North America which make CN the auto manufacturers' supply chain manager of choice.

At Halifax's Autoport, the emphasis is on imported cars, but they also export domestic cars and manage almost all new vehicle deliveries to Newfoundland. When an imported car arrives Autoport provides numerous servicing functions and pre-dealer inspection, including installation of accessories. They inventory the cars in their 100+ acres of storage (and some rented overflow yards) and send them out by truck or rail for just in time delivery to the dealers.

 Florida Highway at Autoport this morning. The muddy field in the foreground is often used for overflow when the fenced compound is full.

 The same ship sailing from Eastern Passage March 7, 2014.

Despite the Christmas break the past week has been a typically busy one with three ships and two more due.
Today's caller, Florida Highway is a regular and has made several calls in Halifax this year. Operated by K-Line of Japan, the ship was built in 2008 by Imabari Shipbuidling of Marugame and measures 59,493 grt. It is fitted with a stern ramp and a small starboard side ramp, and it s typically slab-sided PCTC (Pure Car and Truck Carrier), but with rounded corners to - believe it or not - improve aerodynamics.

Today's cargo consisted mostly of Audis, but more than 20 brands of car can be seen at Autoport, with numerous models of each brand. Most of the cars are  European manufacture, but that can me misleading, since Toyotas built in France are brought in through Halifax..Similary the ubiquitous Ford Transit van is built in Europe, as is Dodge's competing Ram van, which is really a lightly disguised Fiat.

While statistics are hard to come by, it is generally accepted that Autoport handles upward of 190,000 vehicles a year, but sales are up over last year, so that may be low. In 2014 Autoport handled something over 115 ships, peaking in May June July with about 15 ships in each of those months.
Canadian auto sales statistics indicate that there were 266,000 imported cars sold in Canada last year, but that figure does not include SUVs, minivans and light trucks, which would boost the figure upwards of 350,000. So Autoport has a large chunk of that, since Asian built cars are usually imported by the west coast.
Another factor is that as Canada's economy is strong, the taste for cars swings toward the higher end, so sales increase for Audis, BMWs, Volvos and Mercedes (all imported solely through Halifax) not to mention Aston Martins, Maseratis, Ferraris and the like.

When Florida Highway sails this evening, it berth will not be idle for long. The waiting Green Lake will arrive first thing tomorrow morning from its anchorage position.

Since it opened in 1971 Autoport has welcomed a variety of autocarriers, which have evolved somewhat over the years.

Among the early dedicated autocarriers were ships like Hual Akarita. Built in 1959 as a passenger / cargo ship, Amazon, it was roughly converted in 1972, with car decks replacing the passenger decks, and its bridge structure hoisted on top. Engines and accommodations were left amidships. This monstrosity plied the sea lanes until 1980, when it was broken up in Kaohsiung.

Some of the early purpose built autocarriers were not bad looking. Dyvi Oceanic was built in Norway in 1968 and had engines and most accommodation low and aft and bridge high and forward. This was found to be an inefficient arrangement, and all accommodation on later ships was built atop the garage decks so as not to interfere with loading and unloading. In the early days the various auto manufacturers ran their own shipping lines, or at least chartered in tonnage for their own use. The ship was broken up in Kaohsiung in 1987.

The Japanese perfected the autocarrier design, but not before experimenting with ramps on the sides and on the stern - on both quarters. They have now been standarized with starboard quarter aft ramp, and often starboard side amidships - see Florida Highway above.
The Datsun brand has now vanished  -  the company renamed itself Honda Nissan. Built in 1981  Yokohama Maru operated as Hual Trinita, Hual Trinity and Hoegh Trinity before it was scrapped in 2009.


Saturday, December 27, 2014

HHL Mississippi - quick visit

A little less than twelve hours was all it took for the heavy lift / general cargo ship HHL Mississippi to arrive, discharge and sail.
Built as Beluga Fantasy by Jiangzhou Union shipyard in Ruichang, China, the 9611 grt, 12,669 dwt ship is fitted with two 180 tonne cranes, which can combine to lift up to 360 tonnes. The Beluga Shipping juggernaut collapsed amid criminal charges and the fleet was sold off. This ship was briefly named OXL Fantasy in 2011 before Hanasa Heavy Lift GmbH of Hamburg acquired and renamed it late in 2011.

 A crew man prepares mooring lines on the bow. A remnant of the ship's original name shows through, indicating a hurried overpainting of the HHL red/orange on the Beluga blue. Note the hold ventilators are tarped.

The first order of business was to off load a huge 770 tonne capacity spreader from the deck, to allow the hatch to be opened. The spreader itself weighs 37 tonnes, so it was easy work for one crane.
Unfortunately the ship tied up at pier 27 where its cargo was not visible- I will have to wait until tomorrow to see what it left behind.
A a narrow slot between containers allowed for only a partial view of the ship working at pier 27.


Friday, December 26, 2014

Boxing Day activity

While still a holiday for most, there was activity in the harbour today:

As dawn broke, the container/cargo ship Zeelandia could be seen at anchor off Chebucto Head. It will wait until 2300 tonight to take its pilot, docking at pier 30-31 just after midnight. There will be no holiday overtime pay for the longshoremen, December 27 is just another working day. The ship is a regular caller for Nirint Lines.
Here is how she looked on a very hot day in June sailing up the  St.Lawrence:

Before dawn the autocarrier Hoegh Masan arrived at Auoport and began unloading the usual little white vans, but also Toyotas and other brands of cars.

Dating from 2008 the former Maersk and CSAV ship is on at least its fourth visit to Halifax this year, as the the auto trade continues to boom.

Soon after sunrise the unfortunately named FPMC 21 sailed. It arrived on the 23rd and was last here November 30. 
The pilot boat A.P.A.No.1 heads out ahead. The regular boat Chebucto Pilot is in refit.

The  Liberian flag tanker was built in 2009 and takes its name from the Formosa Plastics Marine Corp of Taipei, Taiwan.


Christmas Day activity

There were three ships came sailing in on Christmas Day, but not all in the morning. Rain, fog and high winds discouraged photography, but all were still in Boxing Day when the sun shone brightly.
First in was Atlantic Condor on its normal shuttle from Sable gas.It tied up at the Mobil dock in Dartmouth.

Next in was the tanker Mare di Genova which tied up at Imperial Oil #3 dock.
The ship was last here September 21. It flies the Italian flag and dates from 2009.

The third ship waited until 1800 hrs when the Christmas Day overtime rates for longshoremen had ended, and tied up at pier 27 to load, using its own crane.
(File Photo)

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas

Australian Spirit and storm preparations

Things are back on a more or less even keel aboard Australian Spirit at pier pier 9C.

With a couple of days of high winds, coupled with the Christmas break, the repair barge has been removed from under the ship's stern and the ship has been ballasted back to normal.
There may be more repair work to be done to the ship's rudder post, but from what can be seen from shore there doesn't seem to be any damage to the ship's propellor, so it may just be a situtaiotn of waiting until a new rudder can be delivered.

Also in advance of the weather the bunkering tanker Algoma Dartmouth moved to pier 9 this morning.

As it stands now the Oceanex Sanderling and Fusion will be spending Christmas in Halifax, but the port has been pretty well cleared out of other active shipping.


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Morning becomes Elektra + Update

A dull morning, but with some glimpse of light as the Elektra discharges some oversize cargo at pier 31.

First off were a pair of large dump trucks, the first a Terex. It may only have been moved off the ship to allow other cargo to be unloaded.

Elektra was built in 1999 and is classed as a Pure Car and Truck Carrier (PCTC) and is fitted with three hoistable car decks to allow for oversize vehicles.  Its 125 tonne capacity ramp is suited for the largest vehicles and some RoRo loads. Its capacity of 7,195 cars places it in the intermediate size range, now that 8,600 car behemoths are in service.

The ship would normally discharge automobiles at Autoport, but oversize cargo that will not be forwarded on by railroad autoracks, or distributed locally by truck comes to pier 31. It can then be loaded on trucks or flat cars.

Elektra unloaded the components for a large crane, all on MAFI type trailers, and the fleet of dump trucks was loaded back on board.

The ship then moved to Autoport where it worked its regular automobile cargo.


Sunday, December 21, 2014

Crown II - painting on the go

The transformation of the tanker Crown II from High Nefeli was not completed before the ship sailed at noon time today. Painting on the ship's new name and port of registry took place fairly promptly last week after the official handover. However the ship's funnel - its chief symbol of distinction was interrupted by rain.

At 0715 hrs this morning, and possibly most of the night, crew members were seen under spot lights working on laying out the ship's new and complex logo.

Even after the ship left the anchorage and made its way out sea there were still two crew on the port side of the funnel, just getting started on the background. I wonder how far out to sea they were still able to work.

A close examination reveals the initials of its new owners, Ancora Investment Trust, also a Greek company and owner of eleven other tankers.

Previous owners Liquimar Tankers, sold the ship for a reported $15mn (USD). It was the oldest and smallest ship in its fleet. They are investing in larger ships and ordering new ones.


Saturday, December 20, 2014

Saturday update

Much less activity in the harbour today, with Maersk Palermo the only arrival (see also Tugfax). It and the container ship Tasman Strait sailed this evening.

However there was some activity at opposite ends of the harbour:

At pier 28 Genco Thunder was turned end for end this morning and loading began in earnest. The ship was initially docked stern in so that the grain spouts could reach some awkward spot in hold#1 that could not be reached otherwise. Once that was done, the ship could be positioned normally.

Out in the Basin crews must have been taking a brunch break in their repainting project on Crown II's funnel. The ship is due to sail Sunday morning, so perhaps they got some work done this afternoon..

They have a neatly rigged rope ladder and platform stage to reach the sides of the funnel.

And at pier 9c workers have erected staging on a work float under the stern of Australian Spirit.

 There appears to be some fresh brazing work on the lower gudgeon.

The ship has been ballasted down by the bow to facilitate the work.

Rudder terminology primer:

pintles on the rudder blade fit into the gudgeons, securing the blade to the rudder post

Friday, December 19, 2014

Friday round up

A busy day in Halifax harbour:

At pier 28 the Marshal Island bulker Genco Thunder arrived to load grain. Built in 2007 as CMB Aurelie for Bocimar of Antwerp, Belgium, it acquired its present name when Genco of New York acquired the ship in 2008. It measures 41,115 grt, 76499 dwt, and will likely be taking a part cargo here, with top off elsewhere. The ship sailed for Ghent, Belgium Sunday December 21.
An usual, stern in berthing at pier 28, and a little list to starboard.

Autoport continues to see a stream of car carriers. Today's arrival, Asteria Leader is a member of the NYK fleet. Built in 2010 by Shin Kurushima shipyard in Toyohashi, Japan, it measures 62,084 grt.

A lobster boat tends is traps off Point Pleasant Park as Asteria Leader takes it tugs.

National Gypsum was the destination for Atlantic Huron . The veteran laker dates from 1984 and has been rebuilt twice. The first time in 1989 when it was converted to a self-unloader and renamed from Prairie Harvest to Atlantic Huron. In 1990-1992 it was reflagged to the Bahamas and from 1994 to 1997 it carried the name Melvin H. Baker II and was again reflagged to the Bahamas for a charter to National Gypsum. In 2002 it was widened in the mid-body to take advantage of new St.Lawrence Seaway regulations. It has been a frequent caller in Halifax over the years, often with grain in its earlier years, but recently only for gypsum. As the Seaway shipping season nears an end, this may be the last Great Lakes caller we see this year.
Atlantic Huron lines up for the A. Murray MacKay bridge as it exits the Narrows. It shows the tremendous wear and tear Lakes ships acquire in the course of a season, and years of locking through the Seaway. 
With Atlantic Larch alongside, the ship makes for National Gypsum.
Meanwhile in the other corner of Bedford Basin the tanker Crown II shows off its new name, acquired only this week. The former Greek tanker High Nefeli was renamed Thursday. It has also been reflagged to Malta.
The crew has painted out the funnel in white before applying the new owner's insignia.

The Liberian product tanker Elka Sirius did not have to go to anchor, but docked at Imperial Oil dock 4 on arrival. It was built in 2003 as Stinice by the Split Shipyard in Croatia and of handysize tonnage 30,770 grt, 45,467 deadweight. European Product Carriers Ltd of Athens acquired the ship in 2005 and gave it its current name.