Saturday, March 23, 2019

Is it weather or is it climate

Following another day of intermittent withdrawal of pilotage services in and out of Halifax, and challenging ice conditions in the Gulf of St.Lawrence and Cabot Strait, it is fair to ask the question. Is it just that this is a bad year for weather related events or is it a new condition brought about by change in the climate?

Substitute pilot boat Captain E.T. Rogers dips it nose in a swell within the harbour, on its way outbound this afternoon.

Conventional wisdom now is that there is climate change, and one of the signs of it is more extremes in weather. Whether this will become the norm, and what can be done about it is an important issue. Certainly as a port, Halifax cannot become known as a place where you can expect delays because it is too rough for pilots. Schedule is important in container shipping, and other port users, so a solution needs to be found.

As for ice in the St.Lawrence there are several issues there as well, including the Canadian Coast Guard's ability to keep ships moving, and the adequacy of the ships themselves.

Periods of high winds and rough seas made it unsafe to embark and disembark pilots Friday and into this morning with several ships delayed or postponed.

The autocarrier Goodwood arrived early Friday morning but kept the tug Atlantic Willow alongside for the better part of the day. Whether this was due to high winds or some other issue with the ship, I have not heard. The next ship for Autoport, Boheme was due to arrive early this morning but it was put off  until noon time. Goodwood got away from the dock but went to anchorage number one, with two anchors down, where it remained until late this afternoon with a tug alongside for a time. (This suggests an engine problem.)

Goodwood weighs anchor after spending the afternoon in number one anchorage.
Boheme is tied up at Autoport in the background.

The gypsum carrier CSL Tacoma was due yesterday evening but has held off and for a time was scheduled for today, but is now due to enter tomorrow morning. It is outside the harbour drifting because the outer anchorages are not reliable in these conditions.

The container ship Zim Monaco was due to sail yesterday afternoon, but it remained in port over night and sailed this morning. The coastal container ship Nolhan Ava was due to sail yesterday afternoon, but went to anchor in Bedford Basin instead and may sail this evening. It is still under some regulatory restrictions and requires tug escort in and out of port.

Without harping on this anymore, is it possible that the port's pilot boarding arrangements make it too hazardous under certain circumstances, and if so, are there other arrangements that can be made?

Observers agree that this has been a year of very heavy ice in the Gulf of St.Lawrence. With ferry service disrupted the Canadian Coast Guard ended up delivering food stuffs by icebreaker to Strait of Belle Isle communities where many store shelves were almost empty of perishables. Milk was to be delivered by airplane. Even icebreakers could not keep the St.Barbe / Blanc Sablon ferry running.

Ice-related casualties have been rare however, there is one in the news now, The Quebec based tanker Jana Desgagnés  suffered steering failure Thursday March 21 in very heavy ice about 16 nautical wiles SW of Port aux Basques. As a result the ship was going to go where the ice took it and there were concerns since the tanker was fully laden with cargo loaded at Come by Chance and bound for Quebec.

Jana Desgagnés has an icebreaking bow and large ice knife at the stern to protect the rudder, but that was not enough in the difficult condition this winter.

The tanker, a veteran of many years of winter ice navigation on the St.Lawrence and arctic supply work, is certainly equipped for these kinds of conditions, but rudders are the most susceptible to being jammed by ice, and that it likely what happened in this case.

The ship was built in 1993 by MTW Schiffswerft, Wismar as Jadestern for Rigel Shipping. It arrived in Halifax March 5, 1994 under that name and was renamed Jade Star while docked at Ultramar, Eastern Passage. It worked for Rigel's Canadian subsidiary and on charter to Pétro-Nav, Desgagnés' tanker cmpany for Ultramar until 2010 when it was acquired by Transport Desgagnés Inc and renamed Jana Desgagnés. A small ship of 6262 gt, 10,550 dwt, itdistributes fule for Valero's (fomrerly Ultramar) refinery in Lévis, QC.

The Coast Guard response, while timely and useful, does bring to mind a number of issues. First Canada's "newest" icebreaker CCGS Captain Molly Kool the former Swedish offshore supplier Vidar Viking, in its first season of work, was on scene quickly and stopped the ship's drift.  Captain Molly Kool is still apparently fully equipped for towing, and using tow wires nestled the tanker's bow into a notch in its stern and made fast.

Sometimes referred to as a Baltic stern notch, this form of close-in towing, is rarely used in Canada for several reasons. First it is contrary to CCG policy except in direst emergency, to actually tow a ship. And secondly because no Canadian icebreakers are fitted with a Baltic stern notch.

CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent's remarkably clean fantail is totally unequipped for towing, as per CCG policy.

The last CCG icebreaker to be so equipped was CCGS Labrador (which was built to the USCG Wind class design, and originally sailed for the RCN)  which was scrapped in 1989.

CCGS Labrador emerging from the Graving Dock at Halifax Shipyards, shows the stern notch and rope work pudding to protect the escorted ship's bow.

USCG Westwind, was similarly fitted. Apparently the USCG had no strictures against towing,

It is interesting that Captain Molly Kool retained this feature, because it was exactly what was needed in this case.

Had the Captain Molly Kool been an emergency towing vessel (ETV) which it could have been, it then would have towed the Jana Desgagnés to a safe port and sent the owners a bill for services or lodged a salvage claim.
However as a Coast Guard vessel it is obliged to stand by the tanker until a civilian tug arrives. The nearest available ice class tug is apparently Océan Arctique out of Sept-Iles. It was dispatched to the scene, and CCGS Louis St-Laurent was sent off to escort it to the scene.

This seems a huge waste of resources where two CCG ships are tied up for days, when one ship (either CCG or a privately operated ETV) could have dealt with the matter in a day.

My previous cries for ETVs on this coast, that apparently fell on deaf ears, are hereby renewed.

In other CCG news Pierre Radisson has been assigned to spring break out on the Great Lakes and was the first ship up through the St.Lawrence Seaway on Thursday several days before the waterway re-opens for commercial traffic. The 'breaker is bound for Lake Superior (eventually) but has stopped off in Toronto, I hear because of engine problems.

This is ot the first time the Radisson has gone to the Lakes, nor is it the first time it has had engine problesm, despite several rebuilds and a re-engining.


Thursday, March 21, 2019

Ferry News, good and bad - Part 4: NS -CORRECTED

Controversies about ferries are nothing new in Nova Scotia, which has a small Provincial Government service that is part of the highway system and three four "extra provincial" operations.

The Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal operates seven ferry routes in Nova Scotia, four of which are cable ferries and four are self-propelled. All have had their share of issues over the years, but this year two seem to have made the headlines. Prime among these is the Englishtown to Jersey Cove cable ferry in St.Ann's Bay, Cape Breton. Engineering issues with the landing ramp sidelined the ferry for ten months last year and since it resumed service in October 2018, the Province has waved the $7.00 fare in order to lure customers back. An estimated $2.9 mn repair to the ramps escalated to $3.8 mn and resulted in the longer shutdown. And the work isn't completely done yet. Some of the work may have to be re-done since cars were bottoming out due to the slope of the ramp.

It is reported to be the busiest of the Province's cable ferries, but also the shortest route at - wait for it - 410 feet, with a voyage duration of 2 minutes.

Torquil MacLean during its 2014 refit in Pictou.

The Englishtown route is served by the ferry Torquil MacLean. That vessel has had its fair share of controversies too. Built in 2007 by A.F. Thériault in Meteghan River as Angus MacAskill II it underwent a major overhaul in 2014 that started out at $776,000 but increased by at least $280,00 before it was done.

Another cable ferry, this one on the Nova Scotia mainland, also made the headlines this winter when it stranded passengers and crew for eight hours after a mechanical breakdown. The La Have ferry crosses the river of the same name and when its bull wheel fractured February 11, the boat came to a halt 200 meters from shore.
It was not until a Coast Guard Vessel came to their aid that the boat was able to reach shore and offload its eight passengers, their vehicles and three crew. The bull wheel is the device that picks up the cable and advances the boat along its length. The ferry has no alternate means of propulsion. A ferry on the same route went adrift in an icy storm in January 2014 and eventually ran ashore. Its one passenger and two crew were rescued by Zodiac.

In the latest incident repairs took some time and the ferry has also been delayed by ice. The boat in question was Scotian built in 1983 by Ferguson Industries in Pictou. It is not the usual boat on the service. That is the Brady E. Himmelman which was off the route for refit. Scotian often moves around to different routes a substitute vessel, and in fact filled for Torquil MacLean during its 2014 refit, but was plagued by hydraulic and other problems during its tenure.

The bigger story for Nova Scotia of course is the Bay Ferries Ltd service connecting Yarmouth and Maine.
After a lengthy history of off again, on again, failed operators and changing ships and routes, it appeared that things were going too settle down in 2016 when the Province signed a ten year deal with Bay Ferries to resume sailings between Yarmouth and Portland, ME. Bay had leased a high speed catamaran vessel and resumed sailing in June.

BFL marketed the new service as The Cat,  the name used in the previous service which was abruptly cancelled when a  previous Provincial government refused to pay subsidies.  There had been no service to the US from Yarmouth since 2009* [see correction below] with devastating effect on tourism in the area, and everyone realized that it would take time to build ridership again. It had increased to more than 50,000 in 2018 but that was still below desired levels.

While the new Nova Scotia government was keen to get the service up and going the State of Maine and the port of Portland were less enthusiastic. Their opinion seemed to be that without the ferry tourists would just stay in Maine. With a ferry however they were more likely to drive right through Maine and not leave any of their money behind.

Continued issues with the condition of the Portland terminal, and Portland's desire to have cruises ships, not ferries,  finally ended up with BFL pulling the plug on Portland and signing a five year $1.3 mn lease with Bar Harbor, Maine for the US terminus, starting in 2019. The traditional US landing spot for CN Marine and Marine Atlantic's Bluenose ferry service, it had also been used by Bay's first Cat service.

However controversy erupted again when the Province refused to release financial details on BFL's management fee, citing the need for commercial confidentiality. The loyal opposition decided to sue the Province to get the information, and that is still in court. BFL got about $10.9 mn in 2018, but NS may have paid more to cover losses.

It was also revealed the the Province is paying to upgrade the Bar Harbour facilities to the tune of $8.5 mn, including the cost of salaries for US Border officials. Renovations to the terminal building are needed after ten years of idleness, and the docking facilities will need modification for the current ship.
A floating landing stage used in Portland will be towed to Bar Harbour to make the ship to shore transition.  Because of these changes The Cat will delay its  start up until June 21 at the earliest. They hope to be able start service on Memorial Day in 2020.

Upgrades are always being made in Yarmouth too, and those costs have not been mentioned lately.

The ship used for the BFL service is officially called HST-2. Leased from the United States Maritime Commission, it is the former USNS Puerto Rico and Alakai. Built in 2007 by Austal USA in Mobile, AL, it operated a ferry service between the Hawaiian islands of Oahu and Maui. When that service was discontinued in 2010 (another controversy) the ship was auctioned off and purchased the the US Department of Transportation's Maritime Administration (US MarAd). In 2012 they transferred it, and a sister ship to the US Navy for troop and equipment transport. It was renamed USNS Puerto Rico to be operated by the Military Sealift Command (US MSC).

However it was little used and in 2016 US MSC renamed it HST-2 and chartered it to Bay Ferries Ltd. Upon starting the charter however it reverted to Alakai and that is the name painted on the bow.  It remains registered in the United States under the ownership of US MSC.

Although Nova Scotians receive a discounted fare, once aboard ship, all transactions are in US dollars.

It can reach 35 knots, and is likely to cover the Yarmouth to Bar Harbor route in  3.5 hours.  Issues with the damaging wake from the previous high speed Cat forced slowdowns in Bar Harbour itself. Although the ship's route is south of the Bay of Fundy right whale protective zone, I expect there may be speed reductions required depending on whale sightings.

The other "extra provincial" ferry routes have been covered in earlier parts of this series or in previous posts:
Northumberland Ferries: Caribou, NS - Wood Islands, PE
Bay Ferries Ltd: Digby, NS - Saint John, NB
Marine Atlantic: North Sydney, NS - Port aux Basques, NL and Argentia, NL in season.

Thanks to a reader the error in this statement was brought to my attention.

Bay Ferries stopped their previous Cat service in 2009, but another operator began a new service in 2015.

Nova Star Cruises operated the ill-starred Nova Star ferry betwen Yarmouth and Portland in the summers of 2014 and 2015. The heavily subsidized service fell short of projected ridership and the company filed for bankruptcy in April 2016 with debts in excess of $15mn. It had received $39.5mn in subsidies.
The history of that ship and the service was covered by several posts in Shipfax between 2013 up until 2015 when the Province cancelled the deal.
Enter "Nova Star" in the search box on the left to read that sad story.


Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Ferry News, good and bad - Part 3: QC

Ferry woes continue in Quebec, and the Société des Traversiers du Québec (STQ) is scrambling once again to keep some sort of service operating on the lower St.Lawrence.

It all started, as reported here in December when F.-A.-Gauthier had to be removed from service for repairs. The sophisticated LNG powered ship has had continual teething problems since it was delivered by Fincantieri in Italy in 2015.  The most recent crisis resulted in the ship being sidelined December 16 due to "technical issues" involving its propulsion system. It was sent to drydock in Lévis in mid-January, for investigation, with no estimated timetable for repairs, much less return to service.

The ship provides the only year round service between the north and south shores of the St.Lawrence below Quebec City. Linking Matane with Baie-Comeau and Godbout on the north side, it forms a vital link in transportation of people and goods. Without it, a  lengthy road trip is required via Quebec City in winter. Even in summer the three seasonal ferry services farther upstream are limited by the  number of trucks they can carry (if any) .

For a time STQ was able to charter the C.T.M.A. Vacancier - the only similar ship available - from the Magdalen Island service, but it had to be returned to its owners by the end of January. They then secured its fleet mate, C.T.M.A. Voyageur for a time. Meanwhile STQ had been obliged to provide air service for passengers.

In a panic move, STQ purchased the ferry Apollo, sight unseen, from the Woodward Group. Built in 1970 it was just about to be retired from the St.Barbe - Blanc Sablon route on the Strait of Belle Isle. The new ferry Qajak Wwas rushed into service there to accommodate the Apollo's transfer to Matane in early February.

On February 25 Apollo made a hard landing in Baie-Comeau and damaged its bow visor. Repairs to the visor and incidental damage caused by those repairs took until March 7.
Then on March 16 the ship made another hard landing, this time stern BOW FIRST in Matane. Damage to the stern gate VISOR AND HULL resulted in STQ retiring the ship for good. The air shuttle for passengers was resumed and another arrangement was made with CTMA for use of C.T.M.A. Voyageur for two round trips, three days a week starting March 21.
Apollo had been in service for less than twenty days in total, and had cost $2.1 mn to purchase. But the cost of modifications and repairs has now added up to $3.5 mn. An expensive taxi.

STQ has already inspected a replacement ferry that they hope to have in service for the summer vacation season, since the earliest estimate for F.-A.-Gauthier's return is now late August. The ship is a sister to Woodwards Qajak W. Currently carrying the name Saarema it is in Cuxhaven and may be in Quebec by late April. No in-service date has been confirmed yet.

Meanwhile CTMA got some good news. In yesterday's Federal budget a promise was made to replace  Madeleine. That ship, which operates between Souris, PE and Grindstone (Cap-aux-Meules) in the Magdalen Islands, was in the news recently when Souris was so plugged with ice that the ship could not reach its dock. Instead it had to use North Sydney as its "mainland" port, again resulting in very long drives for customers, including trucks. Most of those are from Quebec, so the added five hours was a major inconvenience. It has been able to access Souris again this week.

Madeleine, built in 1981 by Verolme Cork Dockyard Ltd, was acquired in 1997 after Irish Sea service as Leinster, Isle of Inishmore and Isle of Inishturk.
The ship arrived in Halifax June 14, 1997 still with its last Irish name and sailed a week later after Canadian compliance work was completed at Halifax Shipyard. Its new name was not displayed nor was it repainted. All that work took place after it had arrived in the Magdalen Islands.

An Irish ferry in Halifax - a little off course?

Aside from plating over some side ports, the ship is little changed although it has received several  several paint schemes since.

This first paint scheme has since been superseded.

Madeleine is owned by the Federal Minister of Transport, and was registered in Ottawa, June 20, 1997 and only managed by CTMA. That is why its replacement was announced by the Minister of Finance.

CTMA's other two ferries, mentioned above, are owned by CTMA directly. There is still no news on C.T.M.A Vacancier's replacement. That potential vessel was announced by the last Quebec provincial government, but cancelled by the present one.  


Ferry News, good and bad - Part 2: NS / NF

Good news for Newfoundland ferries has been hard to find in recent months, with continuing woes for some of the government's fleet and heavy ice hampering service for private operators.

Atlantic Vision, built in 2002, was first chartered by Marine Atlantic in 2008 and has had that charter renewed continually ever since.
With no drydock in Halifax anymore, we don't expect to see the ship on its occasional refits. In the photo the ship is high and dry on the Novadock at Halifax Shipyard.

So it was a bit like good news to learn that Marine Atlantic has renewed the bareboat charter of Atlantic Vision until November 2020 with an option for two more years. The flagship of the fleet is a popular ship and has served well. Although primarily for the seasonal North Sydney - Argentia service, it has operated on the Port aux Basques run too.

Owners Tallink of Estonia may have other plans for the ship after next year, so I hope Marine Atlantic has some options if they can't renew.

Northern Ranger (dating from 1986) has been retired retired, along with the pre-historic RoRo Astron  from the passenger and cargo (respectively) service out of Lewisporte to the Labradfor coast via Cartwright.

 Astron, built in 1971 has operated on the Newfoundland and Labrador coast, but also substituted on the Halifax St-Pierre service (in 1988),  for Atlantic Searoute between Halifax and St.John's (1989) and between Black's Harbour on the Grand Manan, NB. It has also been declared a constructive total loss at least once.

Woodward's newly acquired Saaremaa  Hiiumaa (to be renamed soon) which is in process of delivery from Europe, will start a new Labrador service in June, but not from Lewisporte. Instead it will operate from Goose Bay. It will be able carry passengers and freight on the same boat, something that could not be done with the previous duo. Of course there are always critics, but I wonder how this ship will make out on the Labrador coast.

Woodward's sister ship Qajak W entered service between St.Barbe and Blanc Sablon in January and has had mixed reviews. What may be abnormally heavy ice this year has prevented the ship from operating on schedule, and store shelves on the north shore of the Strait of Belle Isle have run out of many essentials. Emergency delivery of milk by plane has become necessary and other foodstuffs are now coming in from Quebec, at huge added coast.
I don't think it is fair to blame the ferry when even heavy icebreakers can't make way on the Strait.

Newfoundland's coastal ferries continue to be troublesome. Veteran now needs a new engine and had to be removed from service, with sister ship Legionnaire transferred from Bell Island, filling in, but it had issues too. Without ferry service for a week airplanes had to be chartered to serve Fogo IslandThe Damen built ships have been lemons by all accounts and they have not solved Newfoundland's problem of aging and decrepit ships.

When Legionnaire moved to Fogo Island it left the aging Beaumont Hamel (with no serviceable elevator) and Flanders to cover the Bell Island route.


Ferry News, good and bad - Part 1: NS / PEI

Finally there was a glimmer of good news for Canada's beleaguered ferry systems in yesterday's federal budget. Supposing you had been able to hear the finance minster's presentation in the House of Commons, (it was drowned out by opposition memebers pounding their desks) you would have heard that a new ferry has been promised for the Northumberland Strait. The ferry service between Caribou, NS and Wood Islands, Prince Edward Island has been struggling in recent years with aging and inefficient craft. Both the existing ferries, Confederation and Holiday Island are owned by the federal government's Minister of Transport and operated by Northumberland Ferries Ltd, a Prince Edward Island based company.

Holiday Island built in 1971 for the Cape Tormentine, NB / Borden PE service, it was transferred to the second crossing after the opening of the Confederation Bridge in 1997, and it is the one to be replaced. 

Holiday Island is a double deck, doublend ship of fairly simple design. 

Now the not so great news. Holiday Island is to be replaced, the budget promises, with a newly built ship, but no timeline and no dollar figure was given. This means, in my mind, that if a new government comes in after the Autumn 2019 election, the process could be re-started or canceled altogether.

In view of the string of bad luck with foreign built ferries recently (see Newfoundland and Quebec in Part 2 and 3 of these posts) it is very likely that the boat will be built in Canada. The Davie shipyard in Quebec will no doubt be first in line to want that contract. Davie has now completed two new dual fuel diesel / LNG ferries that are not too different from what would be needed on the Caribou / Wood Islands run, so Davie can make a good case for itself.

As part of the budget, the current Federal subsidy to the service has been renewed until 2022. That might be long enough to get the new ferry into the construction stage, but also leaves room to open up competition for a ferry operator.

It is well known that the Woodward Group of Newfoundland would like to take on the service, and in fact it is believed they have access to a ferry that could be in service as early as this summer if wanted. Woodward has two ferries of similar design to Confederation, but ice class, in its fleet now. The first, Qajak W., has been operating between St.Barbe and Blanc Sablon this winter. Although hampered by unusually heavy ice this year, it seems to be doing well. As a used vessel acquired from Europe, it has had any bugs ironed out long ago. The advantage of a Woodward contract is that with three similar ferries in the fleet, they could rotate them out for maintenance. Particularly with the Northumberland service closed for the winter, the boat assigned to that run could operate elsewhere from December to May where its ice class rating would be of use.

However in order to extract the maximum political benefit out of the deal, the government is unlikely to go with the Woodward option.

Here's the scenario:
1. Promise the ferry now and get re-elected in October. Maybe deliver it later.
2. Build a new ferry in Canada, maybe in Quebec = votes in Quebec.
3. Renew contract with PEI company = votes in PEI.

Please remain in your seats. After a brief intermission, Part 2 of this episode will begin.


Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Spring Break in the Basin

With the first day of spring just over the horizon, it looked like spring in Bedford Basin this morning as ships came and went from Cerescorp.

YM Enlightenment arrived from New York, eastbound on the AL1 service, operated by THE Alliance and ACL.

Some very thin shore ice has broken away and is working its way out to the harbour.

The 4662 TEU ship, built in 2015 by China Shipbuilding Corp in Kaohsiung, comes in at 47,952 gt, 56,500 dwt.

YM Enlightenment had to hold off for nearly an hour as the incumbent at Cerescorp finished loading.
Brighton is on the eastbound leg for THE Alliance's EC5 service - next port Jebel Ali.

The 71,786 gt, 72,982 dwt ship, with a capacity of 6350 TEU, built in 2007 by Koyo Dockyard Co, Mihari, joined the 11 ship rotation in January. It has been chartered from Zodiac Maritime Ltd, having previously served other lines as APL London from 2007 to 2013 and Zim London from 2013 to 2015. While not a direct replacement for the fire damaged Yantian Express it the rotation, it does fill out the roster so that a weekly service is maintained. It is also assuned that it has been chartered by HAPAG-Lloyd.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Lomur revisited

When the Eimskip ship Lomur arrived this morning, I could not see any particular sign that the ship had encountered heavy weather nor had damage to containers. However that observation was made in very dim light and from a distance. [see previous post]

Today's scheduled stop (westbound) was to be a brief one, but when its departure was advanced from 10:30 to 12:00 and then it did not sail for more than an hour, it was apparent that there was more work involved than planned.

Damaged containers in the first three bays are more than evident even from a distance. Damage to the ship is harder to detect. The railing around the bow davit and the access ladder to the forward crane are certainly mangled. This could have been done by seas smashing down on the ship, or by loose or wayward containers.

As it pulled clear of Halterm there certainly was evidence of the "deformation" of containers mentioned in the casualty report.  Since the ship is westbound from Iceland to Halifax and on to Portland, I presume those damaged boxes will be dealt with in Portland. The Halifax stop normally involves unloading a few Eimskip containers, and perhaps picking up some empties.

There did not seem to be any damage to containers aft of midships, but because some of those are CMA CGM, I expect there were loaded here today.

Eimskip also operates a dedicated shuttle service from Halifax to and from New England for CMA CGM, so those boxes would have been loaded in Halifax. Export boxes from Halifax for Iceland would normally be picked up on the eastbound leg.


Coast Guard in - Coast Guard out

A sunrise arrival today was CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent a fairly rare sight in Halifax in recent years after its political transfer to Newfoundland.

Whether the ship was actually escorting the Icleandic Lomur (see yesterday's post) can't be confirmed, but that ship arrived a very few minutes later. There was no damage visible to Lomur from a great distance, and the containers I could see appeared intact.

The Louis S. St-Laurent had been on ice operations in the Cabot Strait, and tied up at Irving Oil in Woodside. Ice has retreated dramatically from the Nova Scotia coast in the past week thanks to warm temperatures and favourable winds. While there is still considerable ice in the central Gulf, even that is diminishing rapidly.

After the Louis had been tied up for a while it was time for the departure of USCG Seneca WMEC 906 that had been in port since Friday at HMC Dockyard. There are often US vessels in port to commemorate important historical dates, but I can think of none this time. Maybe St.Patrick's day? If so at least some of the 100 strong complement were able to stand on deck for the departure.

Seneca is based in Boston, but gave Portland, ME as its last port of call before arriving here.
A member of the Famous class of Medium Endurance cutters, it was laid down in 1982 and launched in 1984 by the Robert Derektor Shipyard Inc in Middletown RI. It was in service in 1986, but not formally commissioned until 1987.  Despite their age, the Famous cutters are expected to remain in service until the 2030s, thanks in part to the transfer of weapons and equipment from decommissioned Oliver Hzard Perry class frigates.


Sunday, March 17, 2019

Seeing the Light of Day - maybe

An early morning visit to Autoport was intended to get a view of Horizon Highway from the sunny side. Unfortunately my arrival coincided with sunrise and a blaring golden light washed out the colour of the ship from my usual vantage point. Moving to other locations didn't quite seem to capture the essence of the ship as it was partly blocked by construction equipment, Tim Horton's signs, railway tracks or McAsphalt tank trucks. But to paraphrase the adage of one of my early mentors - any picture is better than no picture / and you can always take a better picture.

Herewith the results.

Exhibit A

The land of the rising sun apparently arrived in Halifax along with the ship- even though it is registered in Panama.

Exhibit B

The "new" K-Line RoRo  / Car Carrier livery was the main reason for the visit, so I did manage to capture it despite the busy foreground.

Built in 2016 by Shin Kurushima, Onishi, the ship is a 7,539 CEU carrier of 75,036 gt, 20,586 dwt.

Another vessel that may or may not see the light of day in its entirety is the Defence Research and Development Canada-Atlantic (DRDC) barge that is normally anchored in Bedford Basin off Birch Cove.
It was recently moved to HMC Dockyard for refit, possibly with the intention of lifting it out of the water on the synchrolift.

Tucked at HMC Dockyard, with the tank cleaning barge YRG-62, the DRDC barge awaits a refit.

However I hear that the synchrolift is out of commission due to a burnt out lift motor, temporarily trapping HMCS Windsor in the sub barn and preventing Sackville from going in for finishing touches on its major refit.

The DRDC barge, believed to be YLP 451 and built at Halifax Shipyard in 1959, gets a refit every five years or so. It was last reported here in the spring of 2014 on the synchrolift. See: Shipfax 2014-05-22

Meanwhile its place in Bedford Basin is occupied by the Dockyard camel YC 600 which is illuminated at night and provides an alternate perch for the resident gull population during the refit.


Saturday, March 16, 2019

Lomur takes another hit.

The Gibraltar flag Lomur sailing for the Icelandic shipping company Eimskip was in Halifax on February 2 for the first time, with heavy ice built up forward. As a small ship, with very little freeboard, this was not surprising in view of the winter conditions at the time and the vessel's route between Iceland, Argentia, NL, Halifax and Portland.
I posted the following photo of its arrival, see the entire post here: 2019/02/lomur-for-eimskip.html

News has now reached me that the ship encountered more serious problems on March 11 while en route from Iceland in heavy weather. It sustained damage to 18 containers, including "deformations" and  there was damage to the ship itself including winches, deck machinery and deck fittings. Some repairs were apparently possible while the ship was underway, but one can only imagine the conditions.  There were no reports of containers lost overboard.

The ship arrived in Argentia March 14 and sailerd for Halifax today. It is due March 18. It is not clear how many of the damaged containers might have been discharged in Argentia or how much damage remains to be repaired.

This post will be updated if more becomes known.

As I observed in the previous post, this is a very small ship for winter North Atlantic.


Friday, March 15, 2019

Sampogracht and scrubbing

The Spliethoff multi-purpose carrier Sampogracht made a brief call at Fairveiw Cove this morning and sailed before noon, heading for Rotterdam.

One of the S2L class ships in the fleet, the 18,321 gt, 23,688 dwt vessel is equipped with three 120 tonne cranes. It is able to protect forest products while loading, using its three side doors, which swing up as awnings. It can carry containers too, which appears to be the case on this trip, with some spent uranium cask containers (likely empty) on the deck forward.

On leaving the Cerescorp terminal in Fairview Cove the ship made a wide turn out into Bedford Basin awaiting the inbound YM Modesty to clear the Narrows. 

Once the container ship had turned around the Seaview Point buoy Sampogracht made its way outbound.

Spliethoff converted all their "S" class ships with Alfa Laval Pure SOx exhaust gas scrubbers. It was quite a task to fit them to an existing ship, and it was necessary to build a new enclosure adjacent to the superstructure on the starboard side. A large takeoff pipe from the funnel leads to the scrubber casing and filtered exhaust emanates from the new stack on top. .

Ship owners are not usually too concerned about aesthetics, but Spliethoff decided to reduce the visual impact of the added casing by painting on false windows. The black fakes are the same size as the real windows and only on close inspection are they revealed to be imposters.

Other scrubber fittings, such as on the Irving Oil tankers and the Nolhan Ava were more difficult to conceal.

  The cement carrier NACC Quebec, which arrived earllier this week also has a scrubber, but it appear whether it is concealed in its odd looking funnel is uncertain..

 Some ships even have the scrubbers exposed, such as CSL's Spruceglen.

Scrubbers installed when ships are built are almost impossible to detect, except by their vapour plume.

In very cold or very humid conditions, the water vapour dissipates very slowly and remains visible after the ship has passed. The Algoma managed G3 Marquis shown above leaves a trail at least as long as the ship if not longer.

Scrubbers essentially wash the exhaust gas with water. Depending on the salinity of the water it will neutralize Sulphur Dioxide or Nitrous Oxide (SOx and NOx). In fresh water or areas of low salt content, caustic soda is added to the wash water.
With some scrubbers, called open loop, the wash water is released back into environment. This process has been banned in some areas, notably China, over concerns that dilution is not sufficient treatment.
Closed loop scrubbers collect the waste with ceramic or other filters and store it for disposal in port. So far no re-use has been determined for this waste.


Kurdistan remembered

On March 15, 1979 the tanker Kuridistan broke in two off Nova Scotia while loaded with crude oil. The incident resulted in one of the largest salvage operations ever undertaken in Nova Scotia, and a review of ship construction and steel design.

The bow section of the ship contained 7,000 tons of oil, all of which was lost, and the stern 16,000 tons most of which was recovered. Nevertheless the spill that came ashore, some in ice, some floating below the surface effected 700 miles of shoreline and did untold damage to wildlife including fish stocks. Oil continued to wash ashore for six months and the cleanup effort was extensive. Some of the oil was spread about by the Nova Scotia current and dispersed at sea where it could not be recovered.

The spill was not as large as that of the Arrow which struck a pinnacle and sank in Canso Strait in February 1970. It spilled about two thirds of  its cargo of  16,000 tons. Therefore the Kurdistan incident has to take second place among tanker sinkings in Nova Scotia waters.

The tanker itself had a a bit of a controversial history. It was built in 1973 by Swan Hunter's Hebburn yard and named  Frank D. Moores, after the premier of Newfoundland. It was owned by Nile Shipping Co Ltd, managed by Common Brothers Ltd and built for a charter to Shaheen Natural Resources, the developer of a refinery in Come-by-Chance, NL. When Shaheen was declared bankrupt in 1976, the charter was ended, and a new charter arranged with Golden Eagle Refining of Quebec. [Both refineries still exist but with different ownership structures.]

Kurdistan had loaded bunker C oil at Point Tupper for transport to the Golden Eagle refinery in Lévis and sailed to the Cabot Strait. Soon after encountering ice, the the hull began to crack and within a very few hours the ship was abandoned by the crew and several family members. CCGS Sir William Alexander took them all aboard except the master who was finally evacuated by helicopter. From the initial  hull cracking, reported at about 0425 hrs, through the evacuation at 0830 hrs the ship's condition continued to deteriorate until it broke in two at about 2200 hrs.

 The Halifax built CCGS Sir William Alexander (i) evacuated the ship's company and stood by the salvage operations.

Tugs from the Strait of Canso and Halifax were scrambled to assist but there was little that could be done with the ship's bow. It was taken in tow out of the ice area, but it became increasingly unmanageable. On March 28 the tow line to the tug Point Gilbert parted and CCGS Alert, which also had a tow line, cast off its line. On March 30 HMCS Margaree sailed out of Halifax and on April 1, 200 miles off Halifax, sank the bow with gunfire..
Also a Halifax built ship, HMCS Margaree was called upon to dispatch the bow section.

Tugs had also secured the stern section for towing and it was taken back to the Strait of Canso and anchored in sheltered waters quite close to the Canso Causeway off Port Hastings. A major flotilla of support craft attended the tow in on March 23. Lead tug Point Valiant was assisted by Point Viking. Point Carroll (port side) and Point Valour (starboard side) prevented the tow from yawing. CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent, CCGS Edward Cornwallis (i) and CCGS Sir William Alexander attended. 

With the work barge Genmar 132 alongside preparations were underway to remove the cargo. A number of local small craft were hired to assist in operations and the barge Genmar 132 was tethered alongside as a work platform.

More patching took place and once its remaining cargo was lightered off Irving Birch towed the hulk to Saint John, arriving April 14, where it was drydocked for more repair.

On June 2 the British tug Guardsman took the stern section in tow, arriving Ijmuiden, Netherlands June 26. A new bow section was fitted in Amsterdam and the ship sailed again November 29 with the new name Simonburn. The ship saw several years of service, under two subsequent names, Aura Bravery from 1982 and Seabravery from 1986. It eventually arrived in Alang, India, June 13, 2000 where it was broken up for scrap,

In subsequent investigations it was found that the stress of heated oil on very cold steel, coupled with some faulty welding from previous repairs was the root cause of the hull cracking. Ship designers have since taken this into account, and the advent of double hulls has lessened the risk of a repeat. Use of high tensile steel, to reduce weight, has also been revised.

The Department of Public Works boat Maces Bay heads to the anchored stern and CCGS Sir William Alexander stands by at Port Hastings. The first Sir William Alexander was built by Halifax Shipyards in 1959. It was replaced by a ship of the same name in 1987 (which is still in  service).

While the Kurdistan was the most memorable event of spring 1979 it was not the only casualty.

Among the others:
On March 2, the tanker Marilia, loaded with Venezuelan crude, was also bound for the Golden Eagle refinery in Lévis when its bow was pierced by ice in the Cabot Strait. There was no oil spill, but the ship diverted to St.George's Bay for temporary repairs. It then backtracked to Halifax, arriving March 16. CCGS Sir William Alexander had also stood by this ship, but was called away to the Kurdistan.

 A deeply laden Marilia begins to lighter off its cargo to the Golden Spray in number 5-6 anchorage in Halifax. Note the lack of oil boom.

On arrival in Halifax Marilia met with the tanker Golden Spray which had been outbound from the St.Lawrence in ballast at the time. A cargo transfer took place in the anchorages and Golden Spray sailed March 18 for Lévis with the crude. Marilia, once repaired, returned to service. 
Built in 1967 by Gotaverken, Gothenborg as Beauval, the tanker measured 48,429 gt, 85,750 dwt. City Marine Inc acquired the ship in 1978 and registered it in Liberia as Marilia. It lasted until 1984 when it was broken up in Nantong.
 Golden Spray was a much larger ship at 63,573gt, 121,185 dwt, built in 1966 by Kockums MV, Malmo as Sea Spray for Salén. It was registered Panamanian as Golden Spray in 1976 and surprisingly was broken up in Kaoshiung in June of 1979.

Also while all this was going on the Danish Partner-Ship was in trouble off Cape Race on March 19. I don't have details at hand about exactly what occurred but the ship was taking water although it had no holes below the waterline. Due to a lack of tugs in the area - many were tied up with the Kurdistan - it was taken in tow by HMCS Assiniboine and arrived in Mulgrave March 20.

Partner-Ship safely tied up at Mulgrave.

Partner-Ship was carrying an oil rig derrick on deck, and it appears that part of it collapsed, possibly holing a hatch cover or the deck itself. The load was apparently re-secured and the ship went on its way.
Starting life in 1975 at Santierul  Naval Galati in Romania. the 4998 gt, 8299 dwt ship carried the name Frendo-Partnership from 1975 to 1977. Sold in 1981 it was renamed Mari Elena under the Venezuelan flag and broken up in Brazil in August 1988. 
The ship was ice strengthened and fitted with two 22 ton and two 12 ton derricks on elaborate masts, over large hatches, suggesting that it was built for specialized loads. Note the enclosed crow's nest mounted low on the foremast, perhaps used as a conning station when visibility from the bridge was restricted by deck cargo.

To add to the shipping woes most of the Marine Atlantic ferries were stuck in ice for varying periods. Marine Atlantica was trapped for two and half days.


Thursday, March 14, 2019

Onego Elbe sails

The cargo ship Onego Elbe sailed this afternoon after discharging a cargo of rails for CN at pier 27. The ship arrived from Poland on March 9, and was unloaded by Logistec's mobile shore crane.

Onego Elbe outbound for Barranquilla, Colombia.

The ship dates from 2008 when it was built by the Damen Yichang Shipyard in China measuring 7878 gt, 11,083 dwt.  Originally named Katharina, it was renamed Marmaui in  2014 and Onego Elbe in 2018.
The ship is of the open hatch, box shaped hold type of multi-purpose carrier. Its two holds are completely accessible, without overhangs, when the hatch covers are removed. (A travelling gantry lifts and stows the covers.)  The ship carries five tween deck panels that can be used to convert hold number one or in various combinations to create tween decks if needed. It is also fitted with a pair of 80 tonne cranes that can be combined for a 150 tonne lift.

Onego Shipping and Chartering is based in the Netherlands and specializes in cross-Atlantic bulk and breakbulk industrial cargoes. Its St.Petersburg branch, Onego Shipping Ltd, specializes in the Baltic, and Onego Shipping Inc has its office in Houston and half a dozen ships working in the Americas. Onego in total currently controls about 25 ships, all under time charter.


Port Security

People have if  I have a permit from the Port of Halifax to take pictures of ships?

The answer to the question is a definite no. I have certainly been quizzed by Port security people on several occasions as to what I am doing, since I am clearly on Port Property. However I do not intrude on secure areas which are usually marked with signs.  When I explain I am taking a picture of a ship that seems to be a satisfactory - as long as I am not a "professional photographer".

I have to add that the security people are unfailingly polite, even when they have to explain to me where the magic (and sometimes invisible to me) security line is located. Now I know. Aside from some grammatical errors, the signs are clear.

 I am also told they do not like people taking photos of the secure areas. Why this should be must remain a bit of a mystery - not that I would want to take pictures of chain link fences with signs on them. However you will frequently see my photos are framed by fence posts and sometimes by the edges of chain link fencing.

My defense - if I have any at all - is that unless the area is posted as secure, I can be there. This may be a weak argument since I am technically not on so-called "public" property.  I have found however that public property is inevitably owned by someone, and public really only means access is not restricted. I am therefore careful not to stray onto restricted places, even though my camera lens may project into it from time to time.

For the record, I have been taking photos of ships from Port property since 1966. When the Port had its own police force, I was well known to them and considered harmless. Since that force (the National Harbours Board Police) was disbanded, I have never rarely had occasion to speak with the Halifax police who took over, however their presence is minimal.

After 9/11 Port security ramped up and almost all working areas of the port were fenced and gated. The Port has security guards under contract from a local agency and monitors the areas with a plethora of cameras.

The reason I am posting this at all is to advise others not to wander about too freely in the port and pay attention to the signs.

The reference to MARSEC 1 comes from definitions in the ISPS Code and Canada's Marine Transportation Security  Regulations. MARSEC 1 is the base level of security requirements and may go up to MARSEC 2 or MARSEC 3 based on identifiable threats. All ships and port facilities normally operate on MARSEC level 1.