Monday, March 29, 2010

Pearl Mist delayed.....again

Pearl Seas Cruises has revised its schedule again, cancelling 2010 sailings. The first sailing for the Halifax-built Pearl Mist is now scheduled for January 2011.

Until recently Pearl Seas' web site showed a July 2010 start up. However with the ship laid up in Shelburne in a dispute with the builders, there was fading hope for a 2010 season.

The ship carried out trials in May 2009 (as pictured above), but since then the owners and builders have been locked in a disagreement that is still not resolved. Rumours abound, that I will not repeat, but it is fair to say that Pearl Seas is not accepting delivery of the ship.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Oakglen...primed and ready

The CSL bulker Oakglen received a coat of primer paint today, at least on the forward section that is visible from pier 9. This follows a week of spot priming at various locations on the hull. She will likely get her finish paint coat later this week.
Atlantic Superior waits patiently at pier 9A for her turn. By late afternoon her unloading boom had been tented in with plastic tarps.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Torm Esbjerg

The sophisticated chemical and products tanker Torm Esbjerg (Hong Kong flag) anchored in the harbour last night awaiting a berth at Imperial Oil. The ship was built in 2008 and displays the unique colour scheme of of Torm Lines.
She can handle a variety of petroleum products and chemicals, which are handled through a complex manifold system. The detail shot shows twelve symbols on her hull at each of the different colour coded hose connections directly above on deck.
The ship has her accommodation ladder and pilot ladder rigged, but the pilot ladder is held up out of the water to prevent icing (and unwelcome visitors.)

Leverkusen Express

Hapag-Lloyd's Leverkusen Express sailed out west of George's Island this afternoon to give good clearance to the tanker Torm Esbjerg (see post) anchored in the stream.
Hapag and OOCL provide ships for the same service, although OOCL's are post Panamax and carry about 5400TEUs, the Hapag vessels such as this one carry 4359 TEUs. Leverkusen Express was built in 1991 and has a very distinctive off-set control station on its bridge.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

New 'copter trials

The navy is trialling the first model of its new Sikorsky CH-148 Cyclone helicopter. HMCS Montreal is the test platform and has been anchored in the harbour as the new helo takes off and lands. This evening they did a few more passes for me, and the pilot apparently didn't like the ship's heading in the first go. So Montreal fired up her main engines and headed up a bit. This time the copter made a couple of passes then settled in on the deck. This seems to have been a free landing-no bear trap grabber device was used to haul the bird down.
This particular helicopter, with a US registration number, is a stripped down version of the final design, and is here for testing.

Monday, March 22, 2010


The Atlantic Pilotage Authority operates two pilot boats in Halifax. A.P.A No.1 is shown getting away from the dock at noontime today, with A.P.ANo.18 remaining alongside. Both boats were built of aluminum by the now defunct Breton Industrial & Marine of Point Tupper, NS. A.P.A. No.1 was built in 1976 and A.P.A.No.18 and a sister A.P.A.No.20 were built in 1974.
All are due for replacement, and the last news from APA was that design work was completed, and that tenders would be called for early in 2010.
The new boat will likely be bigger and more stable, and perhaps a bit faster than the stated top speed of 20knots for the current boats. They rarely do 20 knots however, since that is not an economical speed for them.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Rigours of winter

The first day of spring in Halifax, and the beautiful weather we have been getting all week, thanks to El Nino, makes it easy to forget that winter is tough on ships.

This is particularly true for container ships that are never stopped long enough for the crew to do hull painting and other bits of maintenance that require time in port and good weather.

OOCL Singapore has been running steadily for the last year or more, and what were minor blemishes last fall have become unsightly rust sores now.

Today was no exception her usual routine. She picked up her pilot at 0530 this morning and berthed at Fairview Cove for 0700. She was ready to sail promptly at 1630, and trailed Atlantic Cartier out of the harbour. This gave me a chance to catch her steaming down the western side of the harbour, so as not to catch up to Atlantic Cartier. She hardly making any bow wave, but was moving along smartly nonetheless.

You can certainly see that months of smashing into Atlantic, Mediterranean and Indian seas have taken a toll on her paint work.


Saturday March 20 was CSL day in Halifax, as no less than three CSL ships were on the move. First off was Atlantic Huron. This self-unloading bulk carrier came out of her winter refit and sailed north to National Gypsum to load. The tug Atlantic Spruce tagged along to shove her alongside the pier. Atlantic Huron was built in 1984 as a "straight deck" bulker named Prairie Harvest. She was converted to a self-unloader in 1989 took on her present name at that time. From 1994 to 1997 she was renamed Melvin H. Baker II while on charter to National Gypsum. In 2003 her hull was restructured to take advantage of new St.Lawrence Seaway regulations, thus widening the ship 3 feet over most of her length. This increased her payload capacity substantially and prolonged her life.
She usually runs on the Great Lakes and St.Lawrence River in summer with the odd visit to Halifax with grain.
On her way through the Narrows she passed two of her fleet mates.
Birchglen was preparing to come out of the Novadock floating drydock, which she soon did with the assistance of Atlantic Oak on the bow and Atlantic Larch on the stern. She has also had a refit during which her hull paint was changed from black to red. Birchglen was built as Canada Marquis in 1983 by Govan Shipyard in Scotland. She carried the names Federal Richelieu in 1991, Federal Mackenzie 1991-2001 and Mackenzie from 2001-2002. At that time CSL acquired the ship and has brought it back in operation under Canadian flag and gave it the named Birchglen.
As soon as the drydock was ready the third CSLer, Oakglen moved in, assisted by Svitzer Bedford and Atlantic Spruce. Oakglen is a more recent acquisition by CSL, one of three ships built to maximum Seaway size, but for ocean trading too. She was built in 1980 in Belgium as Federal Danube. In 1995 she became Lake Ontario and was renamed Oakglen in 2009 upon acquisition by CSL. She is still flying the flag of the Marshal Islands, but is expected to become Canadian to take up work in domestic waters. Despite her age (30 is old for a ship) she can be expected to put in many more years working mostly on the St.Lawrence River.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Like a Weaver's Shuttle

Like a Weaver's Shuttle is the title of the excellent book on the history of the Halifax-Dartmouth ferries. And it is true- back and forth they go, in just about any weather -still the cheapest cruise in eastern Canada and worth every cent. The book may be out of print, but it can still be found in used book stores.
With the excellent weather a ride on the top deck is not to be missed.

Monday, March 8, 2010

CSLer arrives

Oakglen arrived at nnon time and tied up at pier 9A. This ship is one of three foreign built ships that CSL acquired for eventual domestic operation. Along with sisters Richelieu and Saguenay these ships are currently registered in the Marshall Islands, but will be transferred to Canadian flag when certain contracts come up for CSL.
Due to a slump in the economy, CSL took over the ships earlier than expected, and after a period of idleness last year, they have been trading overseas. They will eventually be plced on the shuttle run between Havre-St-Pierre and Sorel-Tracy, QC for Quebec Fer et Titane, carrying iron and titanium ore.
There are now three CSL ships in port. Atlantic Huron, fitting out at pier 25-26 and Birchglen in drydock.
If Oakglen is headed to drydock after Birchglen sails, she will likely get a new paint job. Aside from her funnel, which is now in CSL colours, she is still wearing the hull and superstructure colours of Fedav, her previous charterers.

In the photo above, the tug Atlantic Larch is positioned forward, and Atlantic Spruce is steaming astern, to come alongside. She did this because Oakglen's stern is cut in and she could not safely get alongside that far aft. Another reason why ASD tugs are far superior. They can run astern and still have nearly full power.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Farley on the Fly

The former protest ship Farley Mowat sailed out of Halifax this morning on a tow line. Atlantic Spruce is towing the ship to Lunenburg, with an expected arrival time of early this afternoon.
Built in Norway in 1958 as the ice strengthened fisheries research and enforcement vessel Johan Hjort, she was sold in 1983 and carried the names Skandi Ocean, STM Ocean, CAM Vulcan, MVulcan and Scandi Ocean while in use as in research and standby duties. In 1996 the Sea Shepherd Society acquired the ship and she was renamed Sea Shepherd in 1997. In 2000 she became Ocean Warrior and in 2002 Farley Mowat.
The ship was present for the 2005 Seal Hunt in the Gulf of St.Lawrence, but when she started to leak, the Canadian Government responded with three aircraft and two Coast Guard ships and she was escorted safely in to Port aux Basques. She had earlier been held in Halifax for compliance repairs and the Society accused the government of harassment.
By January 2006 she was in South Africa and was detained as unseaworthy. The Society claimed that the ship was a Canadian yacht and did not need to meet the rules set for commercial vessels. In June of that year the ship sailed without clearance and showed up in Australia to continue harassing the Japanese whaling fleet.
There was a report in 2007 that she was flying the flag of Iraq.
In May 2008 she was back in Canada, this time with the Dutch flag and was escorted to Sydney for interfering with the seal hunt. The ship was seized and finally sold at auction.
She spent the winter in Halifax, and is now apparently headed for a refit in Lunenburg. She is still painted all black, and has remnants of the Sea Shepherd "hit list" painted on her house.
In tow, with no power and no riding crew, she was caught crabbing down the harbour this morning.
Her old foes the Canadian Coast Guard were quietly tied up in the background. With little ice in the Gulf this spring it looks very much like there will not be a commercial seal hunt of any consequence.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Canada will investigate the loss of the Concordia

The Canadian Transportation Safety Board will conduct an independent investigation into the sinking of the Concordia. No doubt because Barbados, the flag state, does not have the capability or the willingness to conduct an objective one, Canada has decided to go on its own.

Concordia was registered in Barbados. Why? As a tax avoidance measure.

The owners would not have to pay Canadian duty to import the a Polish built ship, nor would they have to satisfy other Canadian regulations. If the owners set up an offshore corporation to own the ship, then it would not be subject to Canadian income taxes.

Now Canadian taxpayers will have to foot the bill for a very expensive Transportation Safety Board investigation. Yes the TSB will do a thorough job. They will conduct a detailed investigation, and in a year or two they will submit a splendidly detailed report.

Sorry to be cynical, but so what? They will no doubt conclude that the ship sank due to downflooding caused by sudden lack of stability, likely caused by a microburst. The vessel had insufficient stability or insufficient water tight separation for such an event, and it was not required to by law or by regulation.

The TSB has no authority to impose or enforce regulations. Transport Canada will certainly have no response to the report, since the ship was not within its jurisdiction either by flag or by location. Barbados will certainly ignore the report. As port state control, Transport Canada can inspect ships and enforce IMO regs if it chooses, but it can't change the water on the beans, nor the facts:

- the ship sank,

- all aboard were saved thanks to excellent training and drills

- Brazil was slow to respond because they were hungover from Mardi Gras

What more is there to learn?

All in all the TSB report will be a huge waste of time and effort for no effective result.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Gypsum flowing - a good sign

With today's departure of Alice Oldendorff with a load of gypsum for Baltimore, there are signs that gypsum may be starting to flow again.
The ship arrived from the Mediterranean via Rotterdam, which indicates to me that the ship has now been repositioned on this side of the Atlantic. A ship sailing in ballast across the Atlantic to load gypsum, would not be a normal spot trip, so there must be enough work to keep the ship on this side.
Other good signs: There was a huge pile of gypsum at National Gypsum earlier this week, and Georgia S made back to back trips, without lying at anchor between times.
Gypsum is an early sign of economic recovery, so it is worth watching how much activity there is.

[April 21, 2007 photo]

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Good News / Bad News

Last week's announcement that the provincial government would loan the Halifax Shipyard $20 million was good news, especially in light of recent events.
The Halifax yard will get the money in increments over a period of time - so in fact it may be a revolving loan of about $5 million, and renewable. The actual cost to Nova Scotia taxpayers will be minimal. However it will allow the yard to modernize. This is critical if it is to remain competitive both nationally and internationally. Money will go to new cranes (hooray - some of the present ones must be 50 years old) wharves and docks. Work is certainly needed on pier 6. I saw a test boring scow working off pier 6 last week, so perhaps they will also do some dredging there as well- it is quite shallow.
Finding money is tough in today's financial climate and the province stepped in when needed.
The recent event referred to above was the March 1 layoff of 1,590 workers at the Davie Quebec yard in Levis. This comes as the yard seeks creditor protection in order to reorganize. The yard claims that building the 5 offshore vessels it has on its books is more complex than they had expected, and that they need a major infusion of capital. As Tim Colton reports this is the 7th time the yard has been in deep financial trouble. [See Maritime Memos in "My Faves"]
It also sounds too familiar. The Port Weller yard and Canadian Shipbuilding & Engineering got into similar trouble in 2004 and in fact was liquidated. Since the sale of the yard it has little work and is certainly in no position to build new ships.
Davie expects that their current status is temporary and they hope to hire back the workers soon. One can remain hopeful, but it is not a sure thing.
With $40 billion of ship orders expected from the Canadian government alone in the next few years, a healthy Canadian shipbuilding industry will be essential, or we can expect many of those ships to built abroad.
It is certainly Halifax Shipyard's intention to be competitive for that work, and it will mean jobs for Canadians if they can stay in the game.
But what of ship building in eastern Canada? Halifax seems to be the only serious player at this point. Marystown in Newfoundland and Bull Arm have some ambitions, but they are not at this time major shipbuilders. Port Weller is out of the game and so it is only Davie Quebec and Halifax with any real potential to build major ships. Verreault in Quebec has ambitions, but at this point are only occasional builders. They exist on repair work.
Halifax is certainly limited in physical size, so could not be expected to build large ships. As part of Irving Shipbuilding they can call on East Isle in Georgetown, PEI to assist with components, but that yard is set up to build small vessels, such as tugs.
Halifax can't really expand very much physically, but they can still be a player in the small/medium ship range.
That leaves only Davie in the big ships range, but they need to be on much better financial footing if they expect to see any Canadian government work coming their way. Their present situation could very well have been brought on by new management's desire to clean up the mess and get on with shipbuilding. Let's hope that is succesful, because Canada needs a strong shipbuilding capability.