Monday, December 28, 2009

Atlantic Huron- bound for the scrappers????? Update

In one of those strange ironies Atlantic Huron is also bound for the scrappers. She arrived in Halifax on Christmas Day and tied up at her usual berth at pier 26, but for the last time.
Canada Steamship Lines had the ship built as the conventional bulk carrier Prairie Harvest in 1984 at Collingwood shipyard. Demand for self-unloading ships was building at that time, and in 1989 she was converted to a self-unloader at Port Weller DryDock and renamed Atlantic Huron. The new name recognized the fact that she would be able to trade on the Atlantic as well as the Great Lakes, and she was soon put to work in a variety of trades. She frequently brought grain to Halifax - unloading at pier 26. The cargo was often loaded in Thunder Bay, ON, and then topped up with corn in Windsor, ON. The cargo was used for milling and animal feed in the Atlantic region.
In 1990 she was shifted to Nassau registry and traded under that flag until 1992, but was back under the Bahamas flag a short time later.
When the original Melvin H. Baker retired [see the story below] Atlantic Huron was renamed Melvin H. Baker II arriving in Halifax April 16, 1994 with that name. She took up the gypsum run from Dartmouth until 1997 when she returned again to Canadian flag and refitted at Lauzon, QC. She reverted to Atlantic Huron at that time, and was fitted out to carry magnetite slurry, with special pumping gear fitted on her bow. Most of the work was done in Dartmouth. The slurry, a mixture of water and heavy iron ore, was loaded in Newfoundland and taken out to sea to ballast down the Hibernia gravity base. The special pumping gear and pipelines permitted the material to be delivered precisely into the cells of the base. After this operation the ship came back to Dartmouth, where the gear was removed and the ship restored to her previous condition and trades.
In December 2000 she arrived in Halifax for bottom rebuilding in preparation for widening. That work was done at Port Weller starting in December 2002. Prefabricated hull sections were grafted to the ship to take advantage of new regulations on the St.Lawrence Seaway allowing ships to be 78 feet wide, an increase from the previous 75 feet.
And now, as they say on the Lakes she is "done." Sold to Chinese breakers, for the same price per tonne as her illustrious predecessor.
There will be a major exodus of ships from the Great Lakes (it has actually already started) reflecting a major drop in business in the past year. The demand for iron ore for steel making (and then for automobiles) has dwindled and many ships are no longer earning their keep. Most will be bound for the scrappers, either under their own power or under tow.
The aging Canadian Great Lakes fleet needs renewal, and the governments stated intention of dropping the duty on ships built overseas, will spur shipowners to rid themselves of older ships and buy some new or used vessels from abroad. However the numbers of ships needed will be small in comparison to the size of the present fleet. Many familiar names will soon be gone, and their likes will never be seen again.
Photos show:
Melvin H. Baker II, October 18, 1995 with black hull.
Atlantic Huron, July 8, 2003 showing her widened hull.
Atlantic Huron, December 28, 2009 in her present bedraggled condition.

Oldie from the shoebox....Melvin H.Baker

It had to happen eventually, but it was a remarkable record. The self-unloading bulk carrier Melvin H. Baker has finally gone to the scrap yard after a lengthy career of 53 years.

This pioneering vessel was built in 1956 by A.G. Weser of Bremen to a conceptual design by the visionary Ole Skaarup. Skaarup, a New York shipowner, conceived of a bulk carrier with an octagonal shaped hold, and a conveyor system, which would speed unloading. Although given credit for this concept, it was not original- Great Lakes ships had variations on it- as did the gypsum carriers of Fundy Gypsum (US Gypsum)- but Skaarup carried it off with his customary panache, and took credfit for it.

Melvin H. Baker was built to carry gypsum from the then new National Gypsum pier in Dartmouth to US east coast ports, and made its first call August 1, 1956, fresh from the shipyard. For the next 38 years it plowed a furrow up and down the coast with gypsum. Aside from two trips to Rotterdam with coal, it carried on in the gypsum trade until its last visit to Halifax March 9, 1994. Even then it took a full load to Baltimore. The ship was named for the founder of the National Gypsum Company and a native of Buffalo, New York, and was on long term charter to National Gypsum from Skaarup Shipping Corp through various intermediaries. Her 1400th call in Dartmouth was marked in July of 1987, so it is likely that she made well over 1500 port visits in her lifetime- a record for the port of Halifax for one ship.

Skaarup sold the ship in 1994, but maintained the management, as the ship sailed from New York March 26, 1994 for Rijeka where she had a refit. Her new owners, Hon Tai Shipping of Taiwan, put her to work in the far east and so she soldiered on until December 24, 2009 when she was delivered to ship breakers, still bearing her original name.

It was an unparalleled career for a ship.

Although the photo was taken on December 25, 1986 it could have been taken many times over. She is seen passing Seaview Park inbound for National Gypsum. The distinctive protuberence on her stern houses conveyors that would be extended out from the ship's sides when unloading. The system is still in use today on another Skaarup ship Georgia S (presently anchored in Bedford Basin) but has become something of a liability, as it restricts the ship to only certain unloading ports that are suited to those conveyors. The more typical deck mounted slewing boom, used by Great Lakes type ships, allows the cargo to be unloaded just about anywhere.

Nirint Pride returns

The container/cargo ship Nirint Pride returned to Halifax this morning after a serious accident in August.
The ship, which runs between the Netherlands, Halifax and Cuba/ Caribbean has a newly rebuilt bow after colliding with the container ship MSC Nikita off Hook van Holland on August 30. Nirint Pride survived the collision, which holed the MSC Nikita in the engine room, causing it to take on water. The damage was so severe that MSC Nikita was dispatched to the scrap yard.
Nirint Pride, which seems to have hit MSC Nikita square on, suffered a compressed bow, but her collision bulkhead held and the ship was able to sail for repairs on her own. Some containers also caught fire, but they were quickly extinguished.

At daybreak this morning Nirint Pride was met off pier C by Point Chebucto and guided into pier 31.

There are a number of links to follow on the collision - but the best photos are found on

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Smallwood in Novadock

The Marine Atlantic ferry Joseph and Clara Smallwood reposes in the Novadock floating drydock at Halifax shipyard for refit. The 27,229 gross ton ferry was built by MIL Davie in Lauzon, Quebec in 1989 and entered servcie January 10, 1990. Hard to believe the ship is twenty years old!

She was built to service the North Sydney to Argentia run, and is thus provided with more overnight accommodation than her near sister Caribou. Because the Argentia run is a seasonal one, the ship does operate to Port aux Basques on the off season to relieve other ships for seasonal refits.

Named for the legendary Newfoundland premier and his wife, the ship is a very capable vessel, but along with Caribou (built at the same yard in 1985) is nearing the end of its service life. How much longer that life will be is the subject of much speculation.

Purpose built replacements seem to be out of the picture for now, due to cost.

The attraction of second hand Baltic tonnage may be too much for Ottawa to resist. No matter how unsuitable, how huge or how unwieldy they would rather deposit tax money overseas than risk the embarrassment of cost over runs in a Canadian shipyard.

The only yard remaining in eastern Canada that could built such a ship, is the same one the Smallwood was built in. The yard has emerged from borderline bankruptcy and has been limping along of late with some overseas contracts, hoping to revive itself. Wouldn't a nice government contract for three or even four replacements over a five to ten or maybe fifteen year period be just what the doctor ordered?

Lets hope.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Arrested in Spain

The former Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans vessel Parizeau was arrested off Spain on December 22 in a huge drug bust. According to the CBC, Spanish forces intercepted the ship 320 km offshore while bound from the Caribbean to Vigo, Spain. They found one tonne of cocaine on board, and arrested the crew (including one Canadian) and several more people on shore. The CBC quotes a Scotland Yard source, that they were part of a drug ring extending from Columbia to London.

Now called Destiny Empress , the ship was built in 1967 by Burrard Dry Dock in North Vancouver and worked as a research vessel out of Patricia Bay near Victoria.

In 1995 she was transferred to Halifax to replace the similar ship Dawson, which had been retired, and was based at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography.

When she arrived, she still wore the traditional white hull paint of survey ships. In September 1996 she was repainted in the red colours of the Coast Guard/ Fisheries and Oceans vessels.

Her career as a research ship ended in 2000 when she was renamed 2001-04 in preparation for disposal, which occurred in November 2003.

She then laid up at the IEL pier in Dartmouth and was renamed Destiny Empress in January 2005. She sailed June 14, 2005 and went to Shelburne. By October she was in in trouble 280 miles north of Bermuda when she was out of contact for several days. She then reported that she had experienced engine trouble, and was returning to Shelburne.

At that time she was supposed to have been sold to a US millionaire for $350,000, and that he would spend $1.2mn on a refit.

Reports reached Shipfax in April of this year that she had been sold to a Spanish millionaire.

These former government vessels, with no discern able value to anyone else, seem to attract strange owners, who then go on and do strange things with the ships. Is there a pattern here?

The current case would certainly indicate a very inept lot of smugglers, who do not even bother to change the ship's name for nearly five years, and sail right into the hands of the Spanish navy.

Incidentally the ship is still carried on the Canadian registry, under the ownership of The Empress Investment Group, c/o the Marler Law Firm, Oakville, Ontario.

RG III departs (finally)

The drilling rig Rowan Gorilla III finally got underway this morning after several false starts over the past few weeks. Bound for the Deep Panuke gas field off Sable Island, the rig will be working for 200 and some days for Encana.

Tugs Hebron Sea, Maersk Challenger and Ryan Leet will take 36 hours to tow the rig to position. Harbour tugs Point Chebucto, Atlantic Larch and Atlantic Spruce helped to turn the rig around and keep it on track as they sailed out of the harbour.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

A very Merry Christmas to all.

Don't forget, you can comment on this site, by going to My Profile, and clicking on e-mail.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Ferry Woes

Nova Scotia/ Newfoundland
Marine Atlantic's big new ferry Atlantic Vision is in the news again. On Tuesday morning at 7:30 NST, while berthing at Port aux Basques, a sudden gust of wind blew the ship's stern against the pier, causing a "puncture" in the hull.
Bad weather and the Christmas rush were already delaying crossings of the Cabot Strait, so this alision just added to the headaches.
Repair crews worked all night and repaired the hole, which was reported to be 4.5 meters above the water line, and the ship returned to service during the day Wednesday.
Fleet mate Caribou was held up by weather and Joseph and Clara Smallwood is firmly planted in the Novadock floating drydock in Halifax Shipyard.
Nova Scotia
Meanwhile the premier of Nova Scotia has re-iterated that there will be no subisdy for The Cat in 2010. Bay Ferries had earlier announced that they would not be offering the Yarmouth/ Bar Harbor/ Portsmouth service in 2010, and that the fast cat will be withdrawn.
There was a small glimmer of hope for the future however. The federal and provincial governments have said they will study ferry services in southwestern Nova Scotia, and the premier said he will urge the feds to speed up the study. He also said the province might make a one time contribution to a freight carrying service. This would seem to imply that the Digby/ Saint John ferry service might benefit if a plan for a new ferry can be cobbled together for 2011. That service, which is also operated by Bay Ferries, using Princess of Acadia is presently on life support.
The blame for all this grief is shrinking US tourism. A downsliding US dollar and an imploded US economy has knocked the bottom out of the tourist business. The passport issue must also be blamed. The reticence of US citizens to acquire passports to get back into their own country (inexplicable as it may seem) was the final straw for The Cat.
There is no doubt that the Princess of Acadia must be replaced. No ferry service can subsist without subsidy, so it remains to be seen if the governments can find money to a) subsidize construction of a ferry, b) subsidize a shipyard to build it and c) subsidize an operator to run it. Any takers?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


The unusual looking Mina arrived at Halterm this morning. The Danish ship, measuring 2065 tons was built in 1979 and has carried a number of names in its career. She is classed as a palletized cargo ship - you can see the side elevator used to load and offload pallets. She also has a heavy lift capability, both with a conventional derrick and a crane.

The ship is here for Eimskip, the Icelandic shipping company. That company, and the entire Iceland economy are having a very rough time these days, and so it appears that they have downsized their shipping requirements. The Eimskip route usually takes the ship from Reykjavik, Iceland to Argentia, Newfoundland, Halifax, Boston/Everet, Richmond, Virginia, and back to Halifax, Argentia and Reykjavik.

You can see their (sometimes) interactive website at

Monday, December 21, 2009

Oldies from the Shoebox: Biban and Abeille 30

The cargo ship Biban arrived in Halifax December 21, 1979 in tow of the French tug Abeille 30. Biban was built by Marine Industries Ltd of Sorel QC in 1977 for the Algerian state shipping company. She often traded to the Great Lakes, and it was on one such voyage in June 1979 when she had a catastrophic engine breakdown at Duluth MN.

American tugs South Carolina, Maryland, and Superior, assisted by Lenny B towed the ship to Montreal, arriving July 29, 1979. She sat there until December 11 when she left for Halifax in tow of Abeille 30. The pair tied up at Halifax Shipyard over Christmas.

On January 1, 1980 they set out for Europe where the ship was eventually repaired. She was sold and renamed Mariam 1 in 2002 but arrived in Alang, India January 12, 2003 where she was scrapped.

The tug Abeille 30 had an interesting history, which I will add to this post in a few days.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Dark and Stormy night

A stormy afternoon and evening shut down a lot of activity in Halifax on land and in the harbour. However there were ship movements. Zim Pusan sailed for New York at 4 pm - on schedule. The tugs Point Chebucto and Point Valiant assisted the ship away from pier 42. Just as the ship was off the pier Point Valiant parted a line, but the ship was far enough off the pier that she was able to use her own thruster to keep her in line.
The gypsum carrier Atlantic Erie remained in port during the worst of the wind in the afternoon and evening, but by 10 pm she was getting away with the help of Atlantic Spruce.
Update: Actually she went to anchor overnight and will sail in the morning.
The container ship Stadt Berlin, which is heading south, opted to stay in port yesterday when she completed loading, and is due to leave at 10 pm too.
The tug Atlantic Hemlock departed sometime Saturday night/ Sunday morning. If she was heading back to Saint John she would certainly get the worst of it.
Our port mascot Theodore Too returned home Saturday night. The pseudo-tug had been in Boston for the lighting of the Christmas tree there. The tree is an annual gift from Nova Scotia in thanks to the people of Boston for their assistance after the Halifax explosion in 1917.
The offshore pipelaying vessel Calamity Jane also put in this afternoon. She has been busy burying a gas pipeline from Deep Panuke, and probably had to hold off due to weather.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Farley Mowat back in town

The sealing protest ship Farley Mowat arrived in Halifax on Friday. Detained two years ago in a "run in" with the Canadian Coast Guard, the ship was detained in Sydney and eventually sold at auction. The sale may have fallen through however, but the vessel was on the move nonetheless.
It arrived in tow of the tug Atlantic Elm and is now tied up at the IEL dock, adjacent to the Woodside ferry terminal in Dartmouth. Her presence there has displaced the tugs Atlantic Larch and Atlantic Hemlock, which have tied up at pier 24.
Those lovable folks at the Sea Shepherd Society have put an interesting spin on the whole saga. The SSS claim that they deliberately set up the surrender of their ship as it had become a liability and they left it for the Canadian government to pay the cost of its disposal. In addition the ship built up a sizable bill for wharfage in Point Edward, which was not recovered by the auction sale.
Two Sea Shepherd members, the captain and engineer of the Farley Mowat, were convicted in absentia (they had already been deported) of interfering with the seal hunt.
The ship is painted in the now familiar all black, with symbols painted on the bridge signifying all the "kills" the SSS has claimed over the years in its anti-whaling missions. For some exciting photography on their activites against the Japanese whale fleet, go to their web-site.
Update: An article in the November 13 Halifax Chronicle Herald reported that the ship was sold for $5,000 to Green Ship LLC of Oregon.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

BBC Spain back again

The cargo ship BBC Spain is due back in Halifax today. The ship departed Hartlepool, England in late November, heading for Duluth, Minnesota with windmill components. Very heavy weather delayed the ship and she put into Halifax on December 15 for fuel. She left later in the day.
It now seems she will not be able to make it to Duluth and get out of the Lakes before the Seaway system shuts down for the winter. She has therefore been diverted back to Halifax.
Update: The ship arrived about noon time, and berthed at pier 31. She sailed this evening giving Beaumont, Texas as her destination.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Another new tug - Stevns Iceflower (ii)

The latest tug from the East Isle shipyard arrived in Halifax and conducted trials over the weekend. This afternoon the tug was christened at a ceremony at pier 23. Named Stevns Iceflower, this is the second tug of the same name built for Nordane Shipping of Denmark by East Isle at Georgetown, PEI. The first named came back to Canada last year when Nordane sold the vessel to Rio Tinto Alcan for use at La Baie (Port Alfred), Quebec. It was renamed Fjord Saguenay.
The new Stevns Icflower will be leaving shortly for Denmark. Nordane will use the tug on their own account, but if they get a sale offer they will probably let her go as well. There seems to be continued demand for these 5,000 bhp ice class fire fighting tugs.
East Isle has two more orders for tugs from Nordane as well as two for Ocean Group of Quebec City to be delivered May 2010, October 2010, March 2011 and June 2011 respectively.
Since Irving Shipbuilding started this tug building program at East Isle they have built 31 tugs, all based on the same pattern, but with continued evolution to suit various owners.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Winter Ducks

It's time for the winter ducks to show up in the harbour again. The American Wigeons have been away since May, but they are back for the winter. Female (top) male (bottom).

Scrub the rig again!

It looked like a perfect day for the rig Rowan Gorilla III to sail, but it was not to be. After several days of very high winds, it dawned bright and sunny, with a light wind. Pilots were called, the tugs Maersk Challenger, Hebron Sea and Ryan Leet were called. The harbour tugs Atlantic Spruce and Atlantic Hemlock (called in from Saint John to cover for the Atlantic Oak, which has gone to Bull Arm) all showed up at the rig.

Something went amiss however and the departure was called off. The tugs recovered their gear and returned to their berths.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Zélada Desgagnés on trials

The Canadian cargo ship Zélada Desgagnés made a brief trials trip this morning and returned to pier 9B. The ship was damaged in a grounding in the late summer (see September 10 posting below) and had been in the Scotiadock floating drydock until Monday for bottom repairs.
Her grounding and Point Halifax's encounter with ice are reminders that sailing in the north is still a risky business.
A third ship, Avataq had an engine failure while heading north, and needed a tug to tow her around to various northern Quebec ports to unload her cargo.

Update December 11. The ship apparently passed its trials and sailed early this morning for parts unknown.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Point Halifax back in town

Point Halifax returned to port this evening after lengthy repairs to her thrusters. She was damaged in ice in the Strait of Belle Isle last summer and has been out of service since late August.

In the black and white photo she is shown on February 8, 1987- almost brand new.

The upper photo is one of her thrusters under repair - note the size in comparison to the truck.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Rig on the Move

The jack-up drilling rig Rowan Gorilla III will be leaving this morning for work off Sable Island. The mammoth unit will be drilling for 200 days on the Deep Panuke gas field.
Maersk Challenger, Hebron Sea and Ryan Leet will tow the rig out.
Pilots are called for 0900.
Update: The rig move was cancelled and tugs returned to the dock. A weather system moving in on the weekend is likely to blame. High winds and snow are predicted.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Canadians buy British Ports

Despite the economy and the downturn in shipping port may still be a good investment. According to the Maritime Journal

"PD Ports goes to Canadian owners
25 Nov 2009

The Middlesborough UK based ports and logistics business PD Ports confirmed last Friday that it is under new ownership, following the sale of 100% of its equity to Canadian based Brookfield Asset Management.

PD Ports plans to spend more than £300m on the Northern Gateway Container Terminal.
The sale was part of a broader transaction with Babcock & Brown Infrastructure (BBI) in which Brookfield, as the cornerstone investor, led a recapitalisation of BBI.

Brookfield formed a new holding company, Brookfield Ports (UK) Ltd to complete the purchase of PD Ports. BBI was the previous owner of PD Ports from early 2006 until last Friday.

PD Ports is involved in three business sectors. Port operations is split into two business streams, bulks and unitised cargoes. This includes Teesport, which is a top three UK port, with flows of containers, bulk traffics and finished cars, handling over 40m tons of throughput per year. PD Ports also owns and/or operates ports on the Humber estuary, Rivers Trent and Ouse, and at Medina Wharf, Isle of Wight. Service offerings include ships’ agency, chartering and stevedoring services. PD Logistics offers warehousing and distribution services at UK locations throughout the North East, Humberside & East Anglia, including at Felixstowe.

Development plans for port operations include the Northern Gateway Container Terminal, a major new deep sea container terminal planned at Teesport on the South side of the River Tees. The £300m+ development will have a capacity of 1.5m TEU and is anticipated to deliver over 5,500 jobs to the Tees Valley when fully operational.

Portcentric Logistics is a new concept promoted by PD Ports for locating the storage and distribution of imported goods close to the point of arrival at a UK port. This concept avoids the slow handling and return of empty containers as well as eradicating unnecessary UK road mileage, which occurs when delivering to a traditional inland import centre, such as in the Midlands.

Property includes port land at Hartlepool docks, which is highly attractive to the growing renewable energy sector, including offshore, windfarms, and biomass plants. PD Ports’ long term strategy is to further develop Hartlepool docks as a centre of excellence for the offshore support sector.

Commenting on the purchase, PD Ports’ Group CEO David Robinson said, ‘I am pleased to confirm that PD Ports is now under the new ownership of Brookfield. This is very positive news and will enable PD Ports to move forward and focus on growing our business. As a result of the sale, PD Ports has a new financial structure, which will provide a stable platform to support our future growth and development.’ "

Does this sound like any Canadain port you ever heard of?
No big goverment hand outs are mentioned (although there may be ones.)
This appears to be a private industry initiative.
Note also how they are reducing truck traffic.

Rig Activity

No photo this time, but there was a major flurry around the oil rig Rowan Gorilla III at noon time. Maersk Challenger, Hebron Sea and Ryan Leet all gathered round the rig for a few minutes. Shortly after they returned to their bases.
The first two are tug/ supply vessel and Ryan Leet is a standby/ emergency towing tug.