Sunday, May 31, 2009


Another view of ROWAN GORILLA III with her flotilla of tugs.


After a full day's delay due to fog, ROWAN GORILLA III got underway this morning for Sable Island and the Deep Panuke gas field. It took a lot of horsepower to get the platform moving, with VENTURE SEA (12,280 bhp) , HEBRON SEA (8,500 bhp) and PANUKE SEA (7,200 bhp) towing and the harbour tugs POINT HALIFAX (4,200bhp) and SVITZER BEDFORD (5,000 bhp) providing braking and steering.

SEAJACKS KRAKEN was also supposed to sail today, but she's still at anchor with technicians working on various chores.

Friday, May 29, 2009


One of the delights of living in Halifax is fog season. Every year about this time, and often extending into July, fog descends upon Halifax. This wonderful atmsopheric phenomenon brings with it the greenest of grass and the amplified transmission of noise.
And so it is that ships arriving in fog emit their distinctive signals. Big ships - big deep sounds at regular intervals as they wend their way into port. Smaller ships - more shrill and higher pitched. (Missing of course is the George's Island fog signal, turned off a few years ago because hotel guests were deprived of sleep.)
These sounds do not resemble the steam powered signals still, strangley, dubbed into movies long after the death of steam, but are in fact air horns - cousins of the air horns on trucks and railway locomotives. There are horm afficionados who can identify the horn manufacturer by the sound they make and there are even some web sites devoted to this arcana.
As I wrtite this fog has "descended" once again and the big tanker HEATHER KNUTSEN can be heard on her way in to Imperial oil, with her deep, slightly asthmatic, fog signal booming away.
Earlier in the evening the fog amplified the horn of another ship. For over half an hour from about 7:10 to 7:40 she constantly repeated seven short and one long blast in quick succesion. Telephone lines lit up and VHF radios crackled with concerned citizens and knowledgeable mariners, wondering what was going on, for this is the signal for fire aboard ship.
Eventually the coastal tanker ALGOSCOTIA fessed up as the culprit. While conducting a regular fire drill, the signal button apparently stuck in the ON position and would not stop! It took most of the half hour for the electrician to find the circuit and disable the horn.
The fog transmitted the sound quite nicely to the south end of the Halifax peninsula. But the fog also concealed the source, as it was impossible to see any ships from land. ALGOSCOTIA was tied up at the Imperial Oil, Esso refinery in Dartmouth, but she sounded as if she was right in the backyard.
Harbour traffic carries on, fog or not, day and night, and the fog horns are (usually) a gentle and comforting reminder of our connection to the sea.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Lynx or Racoon?

The smallest general cargo ship to visit Halifax in some time is the Danish registered LYNX, measuring only 1395 gross tons.

More common in Norwegian ships, but also seen on some Canadian ships and others is the black paint around the wheelhouse windows, giving it the racoon look. This treatment is said to cut down on glare, particularly when navigating in ice. Confirming that this ship may do some work in northern waters is the full width bridge. The enclosed bridge wings allow the watch to keep an eye on things without resorting to frigid trips outdoors.

We may see more smaller ships with breakbulk cargo if Halifax suceeds in attracting this type of business. With container tonnages down dramatically, the port is seeking new business wherever it can be found.

LYNX is scheduled to sail at 2200 hrs this evening.

Swellmaster is back

The veteran tug SWELLMASTER returned to Halifax yesterday afternoon. Built way back in 1956, this tug just keeps on trucking for Harbour Development Ltd ( ), towing dredges and scows and performing other duties.

The tug was built orginally for service in Southampton, England, and was a state of the art, twin screw, fire fighting tug stationed at the Fowey refinery. She was replaced there by more modern tugs and arrived in Canada on her own bottom, to work for Harbour Development. In this service she was re-engined with Caterpillar diesels.

She was orginally named ATHERTON, and was renamed IRVING HEMLOCK when she crossed to this side of the pond. She took on the name SWELLMASTER to fall into line with the naming scheme of the other Harbour Development vessels.


I have been asked to fill in the details on the NT DARTMOUTH and the Atlantic speed record (see below.)
In 1985, the adventurer Richard Branson, founder of Virgin airlines, attempted a record transatlantic crossing in his power boat VIRGIN ATLANTIC CHALLENGER. The boat, capable of 50 knots left New York, and refueled at sea off Halifax, from the then IMPERIAL DARTMOUTH. The attempt failed however, when the boat sank off Land's End.
In 1986 Branson had a second try with the 72 foot VIRGIN ATLANTIC CHALLENGER II. Again he left New York and did a quick refuel from IMPERIAL DARTMOUTH off Halifax. He screamed off over the horizon at 50 knots and reached the UK in 3 days and 8 hours from New York. This time was about 2 hours better than the ss UNITED STATES record set in 1952. Branson was denied the Blue Riband however, because her refueled en route.
Ever the adventurer (now Sir Richard) Branson attempted another transatlantic speed record in 2008, this one for sailing vessels. His 99 foot VIRGIN MONEY blew out several sails only 30 hours into the trip and he instead headed for Bermuda.
To the purist, the ss UNITED STATES record will hold forever since it was set by a passenger ship in regular service. All subsequent records for powered vessels, whether recognized or not, have been set by high speed catamarans on delivery trips, and although impressive, were not in the spirit of the Blue Riband.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Norwegian frigate ROALD AMUNDSEN arrived this afternoon for a visit to HMC Dockyard. The ship is the second in a class of 5 Fridtjof Nansen class frigates, fitted with Aegis combat systems and built in Spain for service in NATO's permanent Atlantic force. All ships are named for Norwegian explorers.
Although intended for the North Atlantic, the name ship of the class will see service in the EU's Gulf of Aden anti-piracy task force. FRIDTJOF NANSEN will be joining the task force in August.
The third ship in the class, OTTO SVERDUP was delivered last year, and the subsequent ships, HELGE INGSTAD and THOR HEYERDAHL, will be delivered in 2009 and 2010.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


The newest Groupe Ocean tug, OCEAN BERTRAND JEANSONNE arrived yesterday morning for trials. The tug was built by Irving Shipbuilding at their East Isle shipyard in Georgetown, PEI and is the fifth in a similar series for Groupe Ocean.

She is a 5,000 bhp ice class fire fighting tug and is a sister to two tugs delivered in 2o06, OCEAN HENRY BAIN and OCEAN RAYMOND LEMAY.

Groupe Ocean is the largest tug operator on the St.Lawrence River, with tugs based in Quebec City, Trois-Rivieres, Sorel, Montreal and Hamilton, Ontario. They also operate a large fleet of marine construction and dredging vessels and provide tug and towing services in the Gulf of St.Lawrence, in the arctic and off Newfoundland. In addition they also have a shipyard at Ile-aux-Coudres, Quebec where they build and repair smaller ships and tugs.

Irving Shipbuilding's East Isle yard has produced a steady stream of tugs, based on a similar design, but with special features depending on the operator's requirements. Once the tugs are ready for service they come to Halifax for trials, including bollard pull tests. These tests, which measure the pulling power of the tug, are part of the performance criteria established by the owners and which the builders are required to meet as part of their contract. The tug's power rating also has to be established for insurance and documentation purposes. The bollard pull tests have to be performed in deep water, and free from interference, and the the corner of pier 22/ pier 23 is an ideal location.

Groupe Ocean is expecting another tug in this class from East Isle, and they are building two smaller tugs at their own shipyard.

Monday, May 25, 2009

NT Dartmouth - now in RED!

Halifax's bunkering tanker NT DARTMOUTH returned to port this evening, sporting her new red and black paint scheme. It certainly is a distinctive change from her familiar green. I was still getting used to the green scheme!

Here is the story:

The tanker was built in 1970 at Collingwood, Ontario as the IMPERIAL DARTMOUTH, for Imperial Oil. At that time Imperial had a large tanker fleet, and this ship was built to replace a series of bunkering barges used in Halifax. Those barges required tugs to move around the harbour and were costly to operate. IMPERIAL DARTMOUTH was intended to work only inside Halifax Harbour, but she had to make the trip from Collingwood- and that was quite an adventure. She left Collingwood on December 2, 1970 and immediately encountered a fierce winter storm in Georgian Bay, during which she lost her anchor and her radio antenna. Repairs were carried out in Sarnia and she went on to Lauzon, Quebec where more repairs were carried out and some finishing work.

She was then towed to Halifax by the tug FOUNDATION VALOUR, finally arriving December 23 through more storms and with an icebreaker escort through the Gulf of St.Lawrence.

Since that time she has rarely left the confines of Halifax harbour. Twice she did go out to sea to refuel an attempted transatlantic speed record crossing. I know that in 1994 she was towed to Liverpool for drydocking.

Another adventure was during Hurrican Juan in September 2003 when she was moved to the Fairview Cove container terminal to shelter from the wind. However she was showered with debris, including some containers or parts of containers. A large gas station style illuminated "Esso" sign that she carried on her deck was swept overboard, never to be seen again.

In 2006, after Imperial Oil sold all its other tankers to Algoma, they sold IMPERIAL DARTMOUTH to Northern Transportation Ltd of Hay River, and she became NT DARTMOUTH. Her blue hull became green at that time, replacing the traditional Imperial Oil blue.

Northern Transportation Ltd was founded in 1934 and is now owned by the Unuvialuit of the western Arctic and the Inuit of Nunavuk. They specialize in Mackenzie River navigation but also operate tugs and supply vessels on this coast, mostly out of St.John's.

NT DARMOUTH has been away for the better part of a week, so I assume she went to Lunenburg for this refit and repainting, making the trip on her own, possibly the first time she has made such a trip (other than the two refueling at sea operations for the speed records.)

Rigs and More Rigs

May 25

SEAJACKS KRAKEN returned to port this morning for trials in the harbour. The new liftboat left port on Friday ostensibly for Sable Island, but apparently spent most of the weekend close to Halifax, with the launch CAPTAIN JIM shuttling technicians and others back and forth to town.

As a brand new, and untried vessel, she must be working out the bugs before she can work at Deep Panuke. Her work is associated with ROWAN GORILLA III and the development of the Deep Panuke gas field, so here they are both together again.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

More bad news
Thanks to Armchair Captain for giving the heads up on Melfi Line's decision to skip Halifax. The Cuban line is the successor to Coral and other lines that have served Cuba from Canada over the years. It is essentially a Cuban owned container line, but it also carries other types of cargo.
Over the years they have loaded innumerable used trucks, busses and other vehicles for Cuba (but most of these have orginated in Quebec.)
The last ship to call will be MELFI IBERIA June 11- June 12. After that date, the ships will sail from Montreal direct to Cuba.
Agents for Melfi are Protos Shipping Ltd.


As the Halifax Chronicle Herald Reported on Friday, Pearl Mist Cruises have cancelled the rest of the 2009 season for their ship PEARL MIST, built by Halifax Shipyards. The much delayed ship, and the US economy (where cruise companies are struggling) are both factors in this bad news.

The ship left Halifax Friday, despite reported deficiencies, and possibly still incomplete.

The photo shows her returning from one of her sea trials trips.

I hope we will see her next year when she is scheduled (for now) on a series of east coast and Great Lakes tours.

Seajacks Kraken

The liftboat SEAJACKS KRAKEN sailed on Friday May 22 to work on the Deep Panuke gas field off Sable Island. The veesel made a trials trip earlier in the week (she is brand new.)
She is seen here with the tugs ATLANTIC OAK and ATLANTIC SPRUCE assisting with steering.

German warships

The frigate Sachsen is seen here sailing Friday morning May 22. She is a new "Stealth" design intended to reduce her radar image to enemy ships. As we have heard with submarines, that are invisisible to each other - this can lead to collisions! Let's hope she has a safe trip.

German warships

Two German warships visisted Halifax this week. FRANKFURT AM MAIN is a supply vessel - just what Canada needs, but can't make up its mind to build. Here she is leaving port on Friday.

Busy, busy week

The week of May 18-22 was a very busy week in Halifax harbour. The number of ships arriving and departing was well above average, and many of the ships were unique or of special interest.

Three visiting naval vessels were among the highlights. The Chilean sail training vessel ESMERELDA arrived from Quebec City and remained alongside most of the week. The cadets were kept busy with sailor work and were overside hull painting on Friday. The boat sailed on Saturday, and despite her lofty masts was not the tallest ship in port!
The oil rig Rowan Gortilla III in the background was certainly taller, but not nearly as graceful.


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