Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Back to the Parking Lot

Bedford Basin is the parking lot for idle ships these days.
  • GEORGIA S. has returned to her anchorage after making one trip from Halifax to Point Tupper to load gypsum for Brunswick Georgia. After unloading she made a bee line back to Halifax. The ship will remain idle, with a full crew on board, until another contract comes up.
  • ZERAN remains at anchor waiting for work. She is reported to have a contract to carry military cargo, but not for a month or so. She recently completed a short trip to sea as part of military exercises.
  • Not in Bedford Basin, but at pier 33, is CHERRY, still idle for repairs. There was some sign of life late last week when the crew rigged one of the ship's anchors. Both anchors had been removed in Bayside, NB so that the anchor chains could be used as a towing bridle. It now seems likely that the ship will sail again despite her age. The ship's managers, Holy House Shipping of Stockholm, Sweden, specialize in operating refrigerated cargo ships of "classic design" [read old]. Ships of this age tend to experience mechanical issues - sometimes leading to unfortunate outcomes. A former fleet mate called SNOW FLOWER had engine problems last year, and her engineer made the mistake of pumping oily waste overboard off the US coast. The company was fined $(US)1million+$400,000 community service and the engineer was fined $8,000 and one year's probation. The company was put on 3 years probation and told to implement an Environmental Management Plan. Let's hope they did.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

HMCS Halifax

With some fanfare and some less than sterling line handling by the matelots on deck, HMCS Halifax got away from the Tall Ships Quay late this afternoon to return to HMC Dockyard.

The pup tug Granville worked the bow off and the tug Glenevis provided the power at the stern.

Shoreside line handlers were picked up by RHIB (rigid hull inflatible boat) and sped off with much panache.


Somebody dropped the ball on George's Island. Here is what I received by e-mail from Parks Canada........

"Dear Mr. Mackay,
Thank you for your email and for your interest in Georges Island National Historic Site of Canada. Unfortunately, there has been a misunderstandingabout the anticipated timeline for opening the island to the public. Over the coming year, Parks Canada will be undertaking a project to construct a wharf and install water, sewer and electrical services on the island. This will be followed in subsequent years by the development of visitor facilities, products and services to support visitation to the island. Parks Canada is presently consulting with the public, stakeholders and partners regarding these aspects of the project to ensure what is developed meets the needs of the local community as well as those of visitors to Halifax. It is hoped that Georges Island will open to the public within three to five years. If you have additional questions or comments regarding the development of Georges Island, please do not hesitate to contact us."

Saturday, June 27, 2009


A Nova Scotia shipbuilding success story is the aptly named Windcat series of catamaran workboats. Built by Theriault's in Meteghan River, these boats are built to service wind farms offshore Europe. So far 18 boats have been built in this series. They feature a square bow that allows them to moor at offshore wind farms so that tehnicians can service the towers from access doors near the base. On her foredeck she has an articulated crane, and her mast, which has been stowed for shipping.

The boats travel on their own hulls to Halifax, where they are craned ashore and mounted on a trailer, which in turn is wheeled aboard ships of the Atlantic Container Line.

Windcat has its own website -worth a look. www.windcatworkboats.com

Halifax in Halifax

HMCS HALIFAX lead ship in the Halifax class frigates for the RCN is based in Halifax at HMC Dockyard. However yesterday she moved to Tall Ships Quay in connection with the presentation of new Queen's colour to the RCN by the Governor General.

HMCS HALIFAX was built in Saint John NB in 1990 and was commissioned in 1992.

She is seen here boomed off and with some big Yokohama fenders and a mooring camel.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

George's Island 2010

The Halifax newspaper announced today that George's Island will be open to the public starting in March 2010. This is great news for ship watchers (and others too I am sure.)

A mentioned below, I visited the island on June 14 and was impressed by the views.

The incongruous sight of period customed people with modern office buildings in the background was priceless.

Much work is needed to make George's ready for visitors, including a water line to run from the mainland, a sewage system, a dock and safety measures to prevent falls.

George's Island is also famous for having more snakes per square foot than anywhere in Nova Scotia. This may or may not raise the island's appeal for visitors, but the snakes are garter snakes and are considered harmless.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Melfi Lines update

Melfi Lines originally announced that they would be canceling calls in Halifax in favour of Montreal. The June 15 visit was to be the last for Melfi.

However, something changed. It now seems that Melfi will only load export cargo in Halifax and will unload import cargo in Montreal. The import cargo is from Spain, and Melfi obviously feels that it can deliver faster and closer to market if it lands that cargo in Montreal.

Export cargo is mostly for Cuba, which is generally not time sensitive, and so it can be shipped from Halifax. As you can see the cargo consists of containers and vehicles - some European and some Canadian - all bound for Cuba.

Yesterday's departure of MELFI IBERIA therefore does not represent the end of the line in Halifax as orginally reported. [see May 24 below]
Update: Initial reports turned out to be correct - Melfi is no longer seen inHalifax, and all ships have been sailing from the St.Lawrence River. Stay tuned for winter!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

They're back

The herring seiners arrived back in port this morning and unloaded at pier 23 and maybe pier 9 too. These three vessels from Comeau's Seafoods in Yarmouth, LADY JANICE II, LADY MELISSA and LADY NOREEN, tied up together at Bishop's Landing, providing some interesting viewing for passengers from CARNIVAL TRIUMPH.
Other seiners were forced to tie up at pier 9 because most of the lower waterfront was given over to tour boats catering to the cruise ship passengers. HALIGONIAN III, SUMMER BAY, PEGGYS COVE EXPRESS and SILVA, in addition to BLUENOSE II, were boarding passengers at the Tall Ships Quay area.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Busy day

It was a much busier day in Halifax today, with all tugs working early in the morning to dock the autocarrier MAERSK WAVE and the containerships ZIM MEDITERRANEAN, REYKJAFOSS, STADT BERLIN and STUTTGART EXPRESS.

At noon time they were back at it with OOCL SAN FRANCISCO and STADT BERLIN asrriving amd REYKJAFOSS leaving.

It will be a repeat in reverse at 4pm as they all begin to leave!

The herring seiners are back in, but without any catch to show for their last few days.

And a treat for all is the return of BLUENOSE II for harbour tours. Due to re-construction at the Maritime Museum dock she has shifted to Bishop's Landing.

Early this afternoon the old reefer ship CHERRY (see previous posting) moved fom the Scotiadock II floating drydock to pier 26-27 as a "dead ship" with SVITZER BEDFORD and POINT CHEBUCTO providing the power. You will note in the photo that she has no anchors! These were presumably removed when she was towed from Bayside. Her anchor chains were used as a towing bridle and the anchors were likely stowed on deck.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Today in the Harbour

A quiet day today.
The US tug barge combination SEA RAVEN + ATC23 sailed early this morning and ALGOSCOTIA took her place at Imperial Oil.
Several herring seiners arrived this morning.
The Polish owned, Maltese flagged ZERAN is moving to pier 33 this morning to load military cargo for exercises in the Gulf of Maine.
Naval vessel activity is fairly high. CORNER BROOK, among others, sailed yesterday.
Pile driving has resumed at the foot of Salter Street. The barge BEAVER KAY will be driving the last of the piles for the new wharf. She was moved into position yesterday by the tug MISTER JOE.
Atlantic Towing is down to two tugs in Halifax since the weekend. The LNG terminal tugs SPITFIRE III and ATLANTIC BEAR have left port, presumably to join sister tug ATLANTIC BEAVER in Saint John.
The cruise/ sea school vessel EXPLORER spent the night in port and will be sailing this afternoon.

View From Georges

A superb view of incoming ships can be had from the seaward (south) end of George's Island, above the battlements. Here we have OOCL CALIFORNIA arriving June 14 with the tug ATLANTIC SPRUCE coming alongside. ATLANTIC OAK is tucked under the stern in the escort position. The tour boat HALIGONIAN III is following along.

Monday, June 15, 2009

From George's Island

The supply boat OCEAN FOXTROT is shown leaving Halifax Sunday afternoon. She is shown passing west of George's Island, and photographed from George's Island, a unique angle for me!

OCEAN FOXTROT is fitted with cable laying and splicing apparatus, which will be used on the Deep Panuke project off Sable Island.
In the middleground of the photo is the "Seawall" piers 20 to 22, with one of the port's cruise ship gangways, with its awning and blue tarped railing. The gangway is on wheels to move with the tide and is adjusted to suit the particular ship.
In the background the grain elevator dominates the skyline.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

George's Island

A rare opportunity today to see Halifax from a different angle. George's Island, in the middle of the harbour, was open to the public. The ferry WOODSIDE I transported passengers from the ferry terminal to the north end of the island., where a temporary wharf had been built from scows by Dominion Diving. There were views of the city and the shipping moving too and fro.

Interpreters in period costume led tours throught he moats, batteries and magazines, and we were free to wander some of the battlements to see the place for ourselves.

I will be posting photos all this week.


The crude oil tanker OLIVER JACOB, registered in Hamburg, called briefly this afternoon to load lube oil in barrels. Dominion Diving's tug ROSEWAY brought the barrels out to the ship on a small scow, and the ship's stores crane lifted the material on board.

The ship is sailing to West Africa in ballast.


Chance to take a dusk photo of the CCGS LOUIS S. ST-LAURENT in the Novadock and CHERRY in the Scotiadock II at Halifax Shipyard. The Angus L. Macdonald bridge is in the far background, and the tanker BRITISH COURTESY barely visible behind CHERRY.

Nice evening

It was a nice night for a stroll along the waterfront and a chance to see the nine herring seiners tied up for the weekend at the Tall Ships Quay. They are likely to sail early tomorrow afternoon.

New Arrival Bedford Basin

The Polish owned , Maltese registered ZERAN arrived at anchor in Bedford Basin this afternoon. The Roll-On Roll-Off cargo ship had been idle in Montreal since March 3 waiting for cargo. There is a rumour that she may load a shipment of military vehicles, that will arrive in Halifax by rail.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Pea Soup, Halifax style

Halifax is luxuriating in traditional pea soup fog today. Visibility at 8 am is nil. Thanks to AIS (see Armchair Captain for a real time AIS display) I know that ESSEN EXPRESS is docking at Fairvew Cove with the assistance of SVITZER BEDFORD. OCEANEX SANDERLING tied up at Autoport with ATLANTIC SPRUCE assisting. The tug then returned the pilot to the tug dock in Hailfax.
None of this could be seen with the naked eye - although there were some ships' fog horns to be hear.
Fog is a reality- enjoy it while you can!
As far as I can tell there are about half a dozen or more herring seiners tied up at the Tall Ships Quay at the foot of Moris Street. They left port yesterday but returned in the late afternoon. The visibility and weather conditions on the fishing grounds may have been a factor.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Today in port

Today's lineup:
Cruise ship MAASDAM in port for the day .
RICKMERS HAMBURG pier 30, arrived at midnight and will sail, tentatively, at 1300.
FEDERAL MAAS is at pier 27 unloading steel tire cores for Michelin.
ALGOSCOTIA arriving, ALGOCANADA sailing from Imperial Oil.
Tug OCEAN FOXTROT at pier 9.
Herring seiners arriving and unloading at pier 9 and pier 23 this morning, and sailing this afternoon - probably laying over at the Tall Ships quay for the morning.
DUTCH RUNNER arriving at pier 36. (St-Pierre et Miquelon service)
SWEET SARAH at Bishop's Landing and PARADIGM at Queen's Wharf. DESTINATION FOX HARB'R TOO arriving at lunch time.
Habour activivity: workboats from Dominion Diving: HALMAR, DOMINION PURSUIT and ROSEWAY, with scows, setting up for a weekend event on George's Island.

Due in the next few days, Polish owned, Maltese registerd ZERDAN, a RoRo ship which has been lying idle in Montreal for several months.


Rumours have reached me that HMCS KINGSTON may have bumped another ship while attempting to berth at HMC Dockyard late in the day yesterday. The coastal defence vessel then backed out into the harbour and awaited tugs to assist her in berthing.
KINGSTON is the first ship built in this class of vessels, which are used mostly for reserves training. She was returning to port with sisters SHAWINIGAN and GLACE BAY and the frigate ST. JOHN'S after exercising offshore.
There was slight damage to the other ship, and unknown damage to KINGSTON.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


With two tug companies in Halifax, operating a total of four tugs, one would be forgiven for thinking that they never seem to be doing anything! Well times are tough for the tugs. There is certainly less work for them, but there are still opportunities.

POINT HALIFAX recently went to Bayside, New Brunswick to dock the ship CHERRY, and SVITZER BEDFORD later went to Bayside and towed the ship to Halifax.

POINT HALIFAX went on to Bull Arm, Newfoundland helping with a float off from a submersible ship. She is expected to go to Quebec to start her summer's work running to the arctic. SVITZER BEDFORD then may go to Bull Arm to relieve POINT HALIFAX.

Meanwhile POINT CHEBUCTO has been doing a lot of the harbour work. Here she is returning to dock at sunset Monday evening after unberthing the container ship SAUDI DIRIYAH.

Sunday, June 7, 2009


The classic refrigerated cargo ship CHERRY arrived in Halifax in tow of the tug SVITZER BEDFORD on Friday. Built in 1971, she is a true classic.

Not many ships of that age are still sailing, so it is a bit of a treat to see her. She was built by Nylands of Oslo for German owners as CHERRY. She sailed as CAYMAN (1984-87) and R.P. CAYMAN (1987-1996) before reverting to her orginal name. She has sailed under various flags, and presently flies the very rare Cook Islands flag, a flag of convenience usually used by ships that are well past their life expectancies.

Her longevity may be explained by the fact that she is a refrigerated cargo ship. They are more costly to build than conventional cargo ships or bulkers, and so must retain their value over time in order to make a return on the investment.

The ship is in the Scotiadock II floating drydock at Halifax Shipyard, showing off her flowing hull lines (rarely seen on ships anymore.)

Big White Ship

It's unusual to see a crude oil tanker painted white. HELLESPONT TRINITY, with its white hull and blue diagonal stripes presented a refreshing change to the usual business-like tanker colours.

Her owners, Hellespont Shipping are an intrigiung company, with an interesting Canadian connection.

Their web site - one of the best shipping company web sites around, is well worth a visit. Look under the "Our History" label to see more at:

The ship was in Halifax on Trinity Sunday, but left after dark, so did not cooperate with the camera for an "underway" photo.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Blue Ice Anyone?

Distilled exclusively from Idaho Russet potatoes. Certified kosher and USDA Organic. America's only vodka. Produced by Distilled Resources Inc of Rigby, Idaho. The favourite of rappers, gangstas, and obviously millions of others. Blue Ice vodka.

Can there be any doubt that its profits have finded this over the top mega-yacht? A 45m Palmer Johnson, fresh from the shipyard, and bound for a summer of charter work in the Med, with a rate starting from 175,000 euros per week.

No ordinary vodka, no ordinary yacht.

She is tied up at the Queen's wharf, just north of the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic.


The tanker MARIA DESGAGNES got underway this afternoon for Come-by-Chance, Newfoundland, after a lengthy layup in Halifax. The ship arrived in March and spent some time in drydock, but has been idle ever since.

Her owners, Transport Desgagnes of Quebec (and their tanker subsidiary PetroNav), have had several of their tankers laid up during this time.

There is some speculation that MARIA DESGAGNES will be working overseas and flying a flag of convenience. Several other Desgagnes ships do this seasonally, and return to Canadian flag for summer work in the arctic, then head overseas again for the rest of the year. Their tanker fleet however have always remained Canadian flagged year round.

A drop in demand for Canadian flag tankers, an increase in the number of Canadian tankers available (Algoma bought two tankers this year alone, and Desgagnes bought one) and Ultramar's use of a tug and barge on the St.Lawrence River, all lead to this situation.

Fleet mates VEGA DESGAGNES and PETROLIA DESGAGNES remain laid up in Montreal and Quebec City respectively. THALASSA DESGAGNES was laid up until May 31 but has resumed service for a trip to the US with asphalt. SARAH DESGAGNES is trading in the Caribbean.

The three Rigel tankers, formerly chartered by Desgagnes, but purchased outright early this year, DIAMOND STAR, EMERALD STAR and JADE STAR are all still operating for Ultramar.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

SHEILA ANN arrives

The self-unloading bulk carrier SHEILA ANN arrived for bunkers at noon time. The ship was built in 1999 at Jiangnan Shipyard in Shanghai, China for the CSL Group. It can carry 70,000 tonnes of cargo and can unload at a rate of up to 5,000 tones per hour depending on the type of cargo. It usually carries coal to Point Tupper or Sydney and stone from Cape Porcupine to the US. It can also carry gypsum, phosphate rock and similar bulk cargoes.

The ship was named for the Sheila Ann Martin, whose husband was, for a time, Prime Minister of Canada, and was the owner of the CSL (Canada Steamship Lines) group of companies. Her sons now own CSL.

The pilot boat APA No.1 is shown in the mid-ground, with some of the herring seiner fleet in the foreground.

HMCS Halifax

The Canadian patrol frigate HMC HALIFAX is exercising in and out of Halifax harbour. She is shown here taking a turn around George's Island and heading outbound again.

In the foreground is the new waterfront wharf at the foot of Salter Street. Construction should be complete in time for the visit of the Tall Ships in July.

Herring Seiners

After unloading their catch Monday, the herring seiners remained in port over night, tied up in the area of the Tall Ships Quay, at the foot of Morris Street. LEROY AND BARRY NO.II (2)is typical of the medium sized steel seiners.

Monday, June 1, 2009

It's a Ford?

The yacht UNITY at Queen's Wharf. Its owner is reported to be Elena Ford, the great great grandaughter of Henry Ford.

CBC Information Morning/ Harbour Watcher

As you know I am CBC Information Morning's Harbour Watcher in Halifax.
My usual spot has been pre-empted this week due to ongoing coverage of the provincial election. I usually appear at 6:40 am on alternate Tuesdays to report on something of interest in Halifax Harbour. This week the Tuesday Information Morning broadcast will be from a remote location, and thus Don Connolly will not be in the studio for our usual session.
I will be on next week instead.
I am not sure if I will return the following week to get back on the usual schedule or if it will be two weeks later. We will see.
So what was I going to talk about tomorrow?

Topic #1 - the herring seiner fleet is back. Every year the herring fleet follows the migratory fish as they work their way up the coast. This week the fish are close enough to Halifax, to make Halifax the base for the seiners. The boats fish at night and come into port in the morning to unload to tanker trucks. The fish are pumped out of the boats into the trucks, and then driven away to the herring plants in southwestern Nova Scotia or New Brunswick.
The boats catch the fish in a purse seine, a large circular net, which is set around the fish and drawn close to gather the fish in. Each boat is equipped with a seine skiff, that takes one end of the net out and after coralling the fish, brings the end of the net back to the boat. The top and bottom of the net are drawn in - forming a purse shaped bag - which is lifted onto the boat. The fish are emptied out into the boat's fish hold.
The larger seiners are fitted with pumps and conveyors to transfer the fish to trucks, and the smaller seiners rely on mobile shore based pumps.
Herring is a versatile fish - their scales are used in paint, nail polish, and other finishes, their roe is highly valued in Japan for food and their carcasses are rendered for feed.

Topic#2 - the yacht UNITY is in port again for a visit. The luxurious 130 footer has been in port several times over the years, usually to coincide with a concert in Halifax (such as Elton John last year and Cirque de Soleil this year.)
Most of these large yachts are owned anonymously, to protect the privacy of their owners. This one one however is widely known to belong to Elena Ford, the great great gandaughter of Henry Ford. The yacht is based in Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan, and after wintering in Florida, makes the trek to the Great Lakes each summer. It is tied up at Queen's wharf, just north of the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic.

Topic#3 - shipping business. We have been following the ups and downs of the world shipping business. This week the charter rates for bulk carriers continue to rise, and there have also been many purchases of these ships, mostly by Chinese owners. China seems to be stockpiling bulk commodities such as iron ore and coal, while the prices are low.
Tanker owners are still having a hard time, with many large tankers accepting charter rates that are below operating costs. This at least gives the owners some cash flow, and is preferrable to laying up the ships. China is importing large quantities of crude oil, but the tanker market is still quite depressed.
Ship scrapping continues apace despite worries about new environmental regulations, which may prevent shipbreakers from operating on open beaches. The new regs may require them to work in enclosed docks, which would put the Indian and Pakistani breakers out of business.
Container ships are having the hardest times, with more than 10% of the world's fleet tied up for lack of work. Container lines are returning chartered ships to their owners, and there is no alternative but to put the ships in layup. The layup fleet represents 1.3 million TEUs of capacity, and consists of more than 500 ships at last count. Even though many older ships are going to the scrap yard, new ships are still being delivered and owners are cutting back capacity to meet reduced demand. Until the demand for consumer goods in the US and Europe increases, the container business will remain depressed.
Several shipping companies are in dire financial straits and many owners of tankers, container ships and bulk carriers are cancelling new build orders, and paying huge penalties. Shipyards, particularly in the west, including eastern Europe, but also Korea are facing major cutbacks in their order books.

Stay tuned!

Infomation Morning is aired on CBC Radio 1, 90.5FM in Halifax, but is also live streamed to the internet. www.cbc.ca/informationmorningns