Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Cougar Ace

1. Cougar Ace sails at dusk.

2. Alongside at Autoport this morning.
The auto carrier Cougar Ace arrived on one of its infrequent visits to Halifax. The ship achieved notoriety in 2006 when it was nearly lost off the Aleutian Islands. It was en route Japan to the west coast of North America and during ballast transfer operations the ship lost stability and listed to 60 degrees. The Air National Guard and USCG was able to air lift the 23 crew to safety and tugs took the vessel to more sheltered waters where it was eventually righted. It was then towed to California and unloaded. There were 4,703 Mazdas on board, all of which were then scrapped (a $117 mn loss to Mazda.) The ship was rebuilt and returned to service.
The salvage story in itself makes interesting reading CAUTION SOME ADULT LANGUAGE: http://www.wired.com/science/discoveries/magazine/16-03/ff_seacowboys?currentPage=all
The ship was built in Japan in 2003 and has a capacity of 5,542 autos.
The evolution of pure car carriers is an interesting one. These floating garages were at one time built on conventional cargo ship hulls, usually obsolete passenger cargo ships displaced by the container revolution. If you think the present ones are ugly, some of those originals were no beauties either.
There was then an interim phase during which purpose built car carriers still looked a lot like ships, but as time went by they began to maximize available space, reaching today's appearance [see also yesterday's posting.] At one time car makers such as Volkswagen and Nissan had their own ships, but now the common carriers have taken over, and all brands may be carried on the same ship.

3. The first generation of purpose built autocarriers, such as Savonita , built in 1971, and lengthened in 1976, looked a bit more like ships than the present day variety. They were relatively small, 5,536 gross tons in this case, but were soon replaced by larger ships. Savonita was broken up in Kaohsiung in 1987.

4. Some of the first dedicated car carriers were rebuilt cargo passenger ships. Hual Akarita started life as the handsome passenger cargo ship Amazon, (later Akaroa) built by Harland & Wolff in 1959 for the Royal Mail Lines. Rendered obsolete by air travel and containers, it was rebuilt as an autocarrier in 1972. The engines and accommodation were left amidships but the bridge was hoisted up and moved forward on top of the car garage. It was mercifully put out of its misery in Kaohsiung in 1981.

This is what she looked like before conversion:


Monday, January 30, 2012

Tortugas shows the flag.

1. Tortugas has slowed to allow the tug Atlantic Willow to make up. The ship still carries the traditional Wilhelmsen black funnel with two blue stripes, and painted on the bow is the company flag, a blue W on a white ground with blue outline.

2. Tortugas has been joined by the tug Atlantic Larch (forward) and is preparing to make the turn around Ives Knoll for Eastern Passage.

The Pure Car and Truck Carrier Tortugas arrived late this afternoon on the regular Bremerhaven, Zeebrugge, Southampton, Halifax run with another load of new cars for Autoport. The British registered ship is owned by the Wilhelmsen half of Wallenius Wilhelmsen Lines and was built in 2006. At 61,321 gross tons, it is a big ship, but with a capacity of 6,354 cars, but it is not the biggest of its type (the biggest can carry 7,500.) In a tradition dating back to the early 29th century Wilhelmsen ships' names start with the letter "T". As one might expect there have been repetitions of the name and this is at least the fourth ship of the name in the fleet. The first was built in 1923 and lost in World War II.
The Wilhelmsen company dates back to 1861 when it was founded in Tönsberg, Norway. It is not surprising that they have had many connections to Canada. These include at least a dozen sailing ships built in Canada in the mid 1800s. Two of their ships were wrecked in Nova Scotia, Heimdal on Sable Island in 1910 and even closer to home, Salerno wrecked on Litchfield Shoal at the entrance to Halifax Harbour in 1905.
No such fate awaits Tortugas I am sure, and she is scheduled to sail this evening for New York, Brunswick, GA and Charleston, SC before heading back across the Atlantic.
The 1967 photo below shows a typical Wilhelmsen ship of the 1960s. Tema was built in 1960 at Helsingör as Brookville for A.F.Klaeveness & Co of Oslo (also still operating, with ships in the CSL pool.) It was a general cargo ship of 5,430 gross tons with a speed of 12 knots and could carry 12 passengers. Wilhelmsen owned it from 1963-1971 and it was broken up in 1985.

3. The tug Foundation Victor has just berthed Tema at pier 26. Freezing spray has formed in the pattern of the ship's bow wave. In the 1960s, when grain was a major export commodity in Halifax, the grain galleries extended to the end of pier 26 and pier 23.


Saturday, January 28, 2012

Spruceglen underway

1 and 2 the ship's new red paint brightens up considerably in direct sunlight.

Spruceglen went to anchor in Bedford Basin yesterday, in a cold move. The tug Atlantic Willow stood by until the ship fired up her main engine. (Ships are required to have the use of their engines while at anchor.)

After spending a stormy night she got underway late this afternoon, and carried out a compass swing, with the tug Gulf Spray standing by to take the adjustor off. (The same tug had been providing a regular shuttle service to the ship during its time at anchor.)

By late afternoon, just as the sun was about to go down, the ship made for the Narrows and headed to sea.

The Port of Quebec website shows her arriving there January 30. I wonder how her new paint will look after she passes through some ice en route?


Friday, January 27, 2012

Spruceglen - finally out of drydock

After a postponement yesterday (in bright sunny weather) Spruceglen emerged from the Novadock floating drydock today- in snow.

The ship went to anchor in Bedford Basin, where its engines were started up and with the major low pressure zone working its way over Halifax, with high winds, snow/freezing rain/rain (your choice) it will remain at anchor until tomorrow. Perhaps the sun will be shining when it sails.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Rederi AB Transatlantic - end of another era.

1. In August 2011 TransWood approaches Pointe-au-Pic, QC to load paper.

2. The same ship as FinnWood in 2007, with side door open, loading at Pointe-au-Pic.

3. Same place, different ship. Ingrid Gorthon loads from forklifts, through two side doors.

4. As built, Ingrid Gorthon was a bulk carrier. After a hard winter she is tied up in Halifax, in March 1984 to load newsprint rolls using travelling cranes.

With the arrival January 25 of Transwood in Terneuzen, Netherlands another chapter in shipping history draws to a close. There is one tantalizing remnant remaining, but that can’t be for long.
The story starts with the founding of the Gorthon family of shipping companies, in the early days of the 20th century (either 1915 or 1921 depending on your sources.) The Swedish company had many iterations over the years and many owning entities, but its ships bore the Gorthon family name starting in 1924. They developed a specialization in carrying forest products and in the 1930s they began carrying woodpulp and pulpwood for Bowaters in the UK. It was not until after World War II that they began to be seen in Canada, as they built specialized ships for carrying newsprint. Regular callers to many eastern Canada ports, the ships often called in Halifax for bunkers and repairs, particularly in winter. Their distinctive white painted hulls set them apart as quite unique.
The subsequent history of Gorthons is far too convoluted for retelling here, but effective March 2005 Gorthon Lines AB was dissolved as part of a takeover by B&N Nordsjofrakt AB becoming Rederi AB TransAtlantic [RABT].
Since then RABT has gradually disposed of the Gorthon ships, chartering them back for periods of time, before they went off for scrap or other charters. Their new ships were either renamed or named with the prefix "Trans" with one exception. That is Ingrid Gorthon which, at least for the time being still works for RABT.
There are also some other stray Gorthon ships around, but they no longer have a connection with the succeeding owners, and have merely kept their names.
The North American paper business has been in long term decline and in 2011, after several years of poor returns on their transatlantic services, RABT decided to concentrate in other areas, such as European coastal routes, and offshore/icebreaking.
For now they will keep two ships on the North America/South America services, the TransFighter and the venerable Ingrid Gorthon. TransWood, which arrives in Terneuzen January 25, and TransPine will be assigned to European operations.
RABT has its own informative web site, complete with shipping schedules, and corporate history. See www.rabt.se/en/

Ingrid Gorthon was built way back in 1977 as a 10,358 gross tons/ 14,229 deadweight tonnes bulk carrier to Lloyd’s ice class 1A. Its two travelling cranes of 30 tonnes capacity were fitted to load newsprint in rolls.But the ship had large hatches for other bulk cargoes. It was built by Korea Shipbuilding & Engineering Co in Busan. In 1990 it was rebuilt as by Blohm & Voss , Hamburg as a side loader, with two doors and a conveyor/ elevator system for pallets or newsprint rolls. It now measures 12,750 gross tons/ 14,298 deadweight tonnes. Recent photos show that the ship has been repainted with a rusty red coloured hull.
It was sold by RABT in 2006, reflagged to Cyprus and chartered back by RABT.

TransWood was built in 2002 by Stoc. Gdynia in Poland as a RoRo/side loader, Finnwood. In 2006 it was lengthened 23m by Blohm & Voss. It measures 20,851 gross tons and 18,855 deadweight. It flies the Swedish flag, and acquired its present name in 2008.
TransFighter and Transpine are sister ships to TransWood.

The two remaining ships on North American service will shuttle up and down the east coast with paper southbound and recycling paper north bound, with one remaining Gorthon ship hanging in for a few more years - reminder of a once substantial and distinctive fleet.


Svendborg - former Halifax visitor in distress

1. Svendborg sailing form Halifax 2010-07-23 en route St-Pierre.

The German owned, Gibraltar flagged Svendborg issued a distress call on January 23 while on a voyage from Ipswich, England to Georgetown, Guyana.

The ship was a weekly caller in Halifax during July 2010 when it operated the shuttle service to St-Pierre et Miquelon. It replaced Dutch Runner on that service and in turn was replaced by Fusion, the present incumbent, in August 2010.

The ship is a small one of 2,462 gross tons/ 3,450 deadweifght, with a 185 TEU capacity and two 25 tonne cranes. It was built in 1993 and has had nine differtent names in its career so far.

The position of the distress call was given as 23-39.1N x 39-39.1W, which is roughly mid-Atlantic, 1,500 miles from Africa and 2,000 miles from South America, and maybe 750 miles northwest of the Cape Verde Islands. A very desolate spot when you need help.

I will post more details as they become known.


Sunday, January 22, 2012

Private Robertson VC

The first of the new offshore patrol vessels has rolled out at Halifax Shipyard. This is the second time the ship has been outdoors-the first was for painting. This time however it appears to be rolled out in preparation for eventual launching.

CCGS Private Robertson VC is the first of the Hero class and as stated before the first of the series was to be Caporal Kaeble VC, but the names were switched for political reasons.


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Spruceglen going red, CSL Spirit getting in the spirit

CSL's Spruceglen is indeed going red. While in drydock at Halifax Shipyard, the bulker is being repainted in CSL red, the present hull colour for CSL's domestic fleet. I was not sure this would happen since she may be back in operation by the end of the month, but after a good hull cleaning the aluminum coloured primer was going on the other day, and today I see red.
This ship is one of several ships acquired by CSL and Algoma to fill the void left by older ships going for scrap and the delivery of newer ships building in China.
It now turns out of course that they have found work for gearless bulk carriers, despite very poor remuneration in the bulk trades (the Baltic Dry Index is in the doldrums.)
Although they are not lavishing large sums on these ships, they may now keep them going longer than I originally thought.
1. Today - I see red.

2. January 17, primer going on.

CSL Spirit is also getting in the act by acquiring the Canadian version of the CSL funnel marking. The traditional black/white/red horizontal strips are now only worn by the CSL International fleet. With CSL Spirit joining the domestic fleet it has now had the black and white stripes sloped down the after side of the funnel. Whether it will get the red hull too is another matter.

3. January 13, in transition. The domestic funnel colour scheme is on the side, with the remnants of the international (and traditional) scheme on the aft face. The crew has started to paint the aft face all black.


Sunday, January 15, 2012

Cruisin' for a bruisin'

1. MSC Poesia arriving Halifax 2011-10-10.

The cruise ship industry is in for a serious bruising over the coming days as more information comes to light about the sinking of the Costa Concordia in Italy on January 13.

Coupled with the recent grounding of MSC Poesia in Freeport, Bahamas (where there were no deaths or serious injuries) in fourteen feet of water, there will have to be some serious introspection about passenger safety.

[MSC Poesia's first visit to Halifax: http://shipfax.blogspot.com/2010/09/poetry-in-motion.html ]

What have we really learned since the sinking of the Titanic (100 years ago), Empress of Ireland (1914), Lusitania (1915), Andrea Doria (1956) and countless others?

1. When ships sink they do not do so on an even keel - if they list to port or starboard to any significant degree, half the lifeboats will not launch at all, and the others will be too far from the ship's side or the ship will roll over on them.

2. If the ship sinks by the bow or stern most of the lifeboats will be useless.

3. Ships are built to withstand flooding of some compartments, but they are never built to withstand long rips in the side of the hull. There is more reserve buoyancy in modern ships, but a big ship at any significant speed, cannot stop quickly, and is thus likely to rip out a lot of its length.

4. Lifeboat drills are never sufficient to prepare passengers for safe evacuation. In the panic of an emergency many things will go wrong (see above) many people will not know what to do. Crew members, even if highly trained (and not all are), will be severely hampered. Language issues will exacerbate the problem.

5. More than a thousand died in the Empress of Ireland and 1,500 from Titanic. More lifeboats were added, davits were changed to gravity type. Even so 1,198 died in the Lusitania, because they could not use most of the lifeboats, due to the ship's trim.

Improvements have been made continuously, and loss of life in those numbers has not occurred in many years, on well found, first class ships. Navigational aids such as radar and satellite navigation, radio and telephone have improved both safety and communication. Personal flotation devices are also vastly superior. Lifeboats themselves are more durable and fire and weather resistant. But that is no reason for complacency.

The issues are still the same: lifeboats and human error. Most accidents are now caused by human error, and when a serious accident occurs, those in danger must rely on lifeboats or take the chance of staying aboard until rescued by others. This last option is often the best, but who really knows that at the time? Jumping overboard is rarely a wise option.

What is the solution?

We will hear many suggestions in the coming weeks-some crazy, some sensible, but one thing is certain, the cruise lines will be under the microscope. Ship designers too, but in reality it is the international safety standards organizations that should be dealing with this on a world scale.


Onego Chinook- engine failure

1. Anchors brought home, the ship has lost power and is drifting astern.

2. The re-start off Africville park was fairly dramatic.

3. Underway towards the Narrows and into bright low sunshine.

As Onego Chinook got underway from Bedford Basin anchorage this morning, she had a main engine failure. Fortunately this did not occur in the Narrows, but still it was a bit closer to shore than desirable. After drifting around (and mostly astern) for several minutes, there was a spectacular restart - with lots of black smoke- and the ship got underway again.Her subsequent trip to pier 27 seems to have gone ahead without incident and the ship tied up ready to start unloading rails on Monday morning.

The very low sun was not terribly conducive to good photography and it was a cold and breezy morning (minus 15 C and 20 knots.) The deck crew remained in position in case they had to drop anchor - they must have been colder than me!

The recent incident with sister MCP Troodos and many other ships on the St.Lawrence River in the past month, where they have had cooling water problems, may have been the cause of today's incident. In which case it points out that many ships sailing our waters in winter time are not properly prepared to do so. Ice crystalizes in the ship's cooling water intake and the engine shuts down due to overheating. It is only a matter of time before one of these ships gets into real trouble. Interestingly Onego Chinook and MCP Troodos have two main engines, which should provide redundancy in most situations. However a common cooling water system - or an unsuitable one for freezing conditions- will shut down both engines.


Thursday, January 12, 2012

Coming and Going, Big and Little

It was a day for arrivals and departures of all sizes in Halifax. With bad weather on the way later this afternoon, most ships would be happier to be in port, but several also left-good luck to them.
The bulker Onego Chinook sailed in to an anchorage in Bedford Basin. I expect she has a cargo of rails destined for pier 27, which is currently occupied by Amurborg, working the same cargo. Interestingly Onego Chinook is a sister to MCP Troodos still at anchor following some repairs. Onego Chinook is one of seven sister ships working for Onego, but managed by Interships. She was built with two 40 tonne cranes, whereas MCP Troodos was built as MCP Alstertal, a gearless ship, and had the larger 80 tonne cranes installed only last year, and operates for Interships/Hartmann directly.
Onego Chinook flies the flag of Cyprus and is5338 gross tons/ 7709 deadweight. It is operated out of Onego's New York office.

OOCL Shanghai arrived just as the snow started and tied up at Fairview Cove. A post-Panamax type of 66,289 gross tons, it carries 5,762 TEUs and is owned by ER Schiffs of Germany, flies the German flag and was built in 1999.

Nirint Hollandia unloaded her cargo of Cuban nickel ore and scurried off to sea again. She is very lightly loaded and will have an uncomfortable night at sea I expect. Built in 2007 it is owned by JW & PJ Danser (hence the "D" monogram on the bow) of the Netherlands and is managed by Wagenborg. It is a general cargo ship of 8999 gross tons and 12,000 deadweight.

The big tanker Mattea moved from her repair berth at pier 25-26 to an anchorage in Bedford Basin. This move was probably a precaution due to the high winds in the forecast. She will very likely be moving back to the pier once the system goes through. She is a Canadian flag, Hibernia shuttle tanker of 76,216 gross tons, 126,360 deadweight.

Also departing was the bulker Delos Ranger. This 31,1340 gross/ 54,057 deadweight ship built in 2008 flies the Bahamas flag and loaded gypsum. This is the first time she has ever been in Halifax and is a departure from the normal conveyor type self-unloaders we usually see. It is owned by Lagoon Shipholding Ltd and is managed by Enterprise Shipping & Trading of Athens.

And the grain carrier African Gardenia sailed with a load of food aid grain. She is a sister to several ships that specialize in carrying food aid grains. Built way back in 1981 she is a bulk carrier of 6498 gross and 9101 deadweight. Owned by a single ship company part of Elmira Shipping & Trading of Athens, she flies the Liberian flag.


Tuesday, January 10, 2012


1. Amurborg passes Saudi Abha at pier 30 as it arrives this morning.
2. A snow flurry competes with the sun as the ship turns in toward pier 27.
The Wagenborg ship Amurborg arrived this morning at pier 27. The large Wagenborg fleet speciliazes in carrying forest products, but their ships can carry a variety of cargoes, such as today's load of rails for CN.
Amurborg is an ice class 1A ship of 11,855 gross tons and 17,323 deadweight, built in 2011.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

MCP Troodos in for repairs

1. Repairs complete, MCP Troodos went to anchor this afternoon.

2. MCP Troodos ghosts into Halifax January 7 in the the fog.

3. A fuel truck has just finished bunkering at pier 27, and Imperial Oil's flare stack puts on a show early this morning.

4. As seen from across the pier, MCP Troodos awaits completion of repairs this morning.

The general cargo ship MCP Troodos arrived yesterday and tied up at pier 27 for repairs. There was welding work going on under the port quarter, which is not visible in the shadows of the photos. The ship was en route from the St.Lawrence River, and diverted to Halifax for the work. While here it also took advantage of the opportunity to take on fuel.

Built by Shandong Huangchi in China in 2007, it is a ship of 5,272 gross tons, 7,602 deadweight, and carries two 80 tonne cranes that can work in tandem for lifts of 160 tonnes.

It is owned by the German Oetker company, but operated by Intership Navigation Co of Cyprus. See more on their web site at: http://www.intership-cyprus.com/mcp-class


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Louis S. St-Laurent on the move (amended)

1. Louis doing donuts in the Basin at noon time today.

2. Yesterday they tried out the bubbler system. Soon after they lowered the lifeboat.

Once dubbed "the Hotel" because it remained in port for so long without moving, that is no longer the case with CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent. The rush to get the ship back in service for the Gulf icebreaking season after her centre prop repairs, saw the ship doing dockside trials yesterday and sea trials today.

After several loops around the Bedford Basin this morning to see if all was well and get all systems warmed up, the ship put out to sea for more trials. It now appears to be anchored for the night offshore.

Amendment: After going out to sea, the ship headed off to Newfoundland. It is scheduled for an alongside refit from January 26 to March 8. This would seem to preclude much icebreaking this winter.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Spruceglen to drydock

1. Spruceglen is clear of pier 25-26, and the tugs have started to turn it northbound.

2. Lining up for the Novadock with the tug Atlantic Hemlock on the bow. The ship has pumped out most of its water ballast, and is sitting very high in the water. Its steering nozzle and prop are visible.

3. Almost in position, the ship fills the length of the drydock.

4. In its original colours, and with its original name, the ship is tied up at pier 25-26 in 1986. The grain leg was needed to unload the ship, which has no unloading gear.

The bulker Spruceglen made a cold move this morning to the Novadock at Halifax Shipyard. Although there were some crew members on the ship, it did not use its own engines - the tugs Atlantic Hemlock and Atlantic Larch did all the work.

The ship has a long history with Halifax. It was built by Govan Shipbuilders in Scotland and was launched without ceremony January 28, 1983. However there was a formal naming ceremony April 15 of the same year, and the ship's sponsor was Mrs Ann Day, the wife of Sir Graham Day. He is a Nova Scotian, knighted by the Queen for his role in the reorganization of the British shipbuilding industry.

The ship was built as Selkirk Settler named for the Scots immigrants to Prince Edward Island, Southern Ontario and Manitoba, arranged by Lord Selkirk in the early 1800s. The settlements were deemed to be failures in his lifetime, but the enterprises brought hundreds hardworking highlanders to Canada.

The ship went to work for its first owners, Misener Transportation of St.Catharines, ON, in the Great Lakes and North Atlantic grain trade. It and its two sisters were among the first ocean going ships built to maximum Seaway size to fly the Canadian flag.

In 1991 the ship was sold to Fednav and renamed Federal St.Louis but was soon resold to Japanese owners, placed under the Philippine flag and renamed Federal Fraser. It was chartered back to Fednav for ten years, and changed owners several times, and was reflagged to Hong Kong and later Panama.

In 2002 the ship was renamed Fraser when Fednav bought the ship back in order to sell it to Canada Steamship Lines, where it acquired the name Spruceglen.
(Fednav and CSL had a long standing relationship, under which Fednav assisted Paul Martin in buying and expanding CSL.)

The ship also returned to the Canadian flag, but continued with some international work, generally on the east coast of North America, and working on the Great Lakes.

It was a frequent caller in Halifax in its early days, while carrying grain, and in its CSL days, usually for bunkers or repairs.

The ship still carries the black hull paint which used to denote ships of the international fleet, and gearless bulkers in the domestic fleet. Most of the gearless CSL bulkers now have red hulls, and this may be the year for the change. We will keep watching the Novadock.

The ship measures 730'-1" long x 75'9" wide (the maximum allowable Seaway size when it was built) and has an ocean deadweight tonnage of 36,281 tonnes (at 32'-8" draft) or Seaway deadweight of 26,291 tonnes (at 26'-6" draft). It is powered by a 10,880 bhp Sulzer engine driving a controllable pitch prop in a steering nozzle. It also has a powerful bow thruster.

This is a well built ship, with a long lived slow speed engine, and can be expected to give many more years of service.


Sunday, January 1, 2012

Quiet Day

1. Cranes up - no work for the holiday.

New Years Day is a "no work" day in the port of Halifax, but unusually this year, there was a ship tied up and ready for the end of the holiday.

Thailand Express (ex OOCL Seattle) arrived yesterday at Fairview Cove and is poised and ready for the resumption of work. Two ships are also anchored off the port. One, the autocarrier Pegasus Highway, was due to tie up at Autoport at 6 pm but as of 9 pm was still at anchor. The other, OOCL Shanghai, will wait until Thailand Express sails.

The work holidays for the port are dictated by the collective agreement between the labour unions and the Halifax Employers Association. Read more on their new web site:

Although New Year's Day is not currently displayed, here are the rules for Christmas:

"No work to be performed from 12h00 (noon) on December 24 until 18h00 on boxing Day (Dec. 26), except that on Boxing Day ship work and coincident related terminal work may commence at 08h00 or 13h00 and shall be paid at double the rates shown for Holidays, to a maximum of six (6) times the basic wage rate in the appended wage schedules of the collective agreement. In addition, emergency work and lines may be performed during the no work period and the rates of pay shall be double the rates for Holidays, to a maximum of six (6) times the basic wage rate."