Monday, December 31, 2012

HMCS Athabaskan - docked in North Sydney "indefinitely"

 1. Safe in North Sydney [photo used with permission].
 CCGS Sir William Alexander** (left) did not have a line aboard the ship at one any time. The tug Ocean Delta (at the end of the dock) did eventually recover the tow, after calling in air support, and they did reach Sydney Harbour.

Strangely muted comments by some official sources are underplaying the seriousness of HMCS Athabaskan's abruptly abbreviated trip from St.Catharines toward Halifax. They say it was never in danger of running aground on Scatarie Island. I would say that if your only alternative was to call in air support from Greenwood air base, then there was good reason to fear that the ship would run aground or sink before you reconnected the tow.
Now that it is safely berthed in Halifax {North Sydney!} the spokespersons are saying that they are waiting for good weather to complete the journey. If the ship were a merchant ship, the Department of Transport's Ship Safety inspectors would hold the ship in port until repairs were made.
However this is complicated, because repairs to navy ships are very different to what would be possible in a remote port with a merchant ship.Temporary repairs would permit a merchant ship to be cleared to sail to a port where permanent repairs could be made. Even though the ship is tied up at the Canadian Coast Guard Academy's College's dock in Point Edward I doubt civilian regulators will be anywhere near this one except on an advisory basis.The navy will be the ultimate decision makers on when and under what circumstances the tow resumes. (The dock is in North Sydney, not at the Coast Guard College)
Since the construction of naval ships is far different from merchant ships, even the type of temporary patching that could be done in Sydney might not be acceptable. However the navy can be creative and they may find a way to make the ship seaworthy. Normal damage control measures (applied in combat situations) could get the ship to a safe port, but with no navy crew on board and no ship's power, would these be possible? Stuffing a few mattresses in the holes and shoring then up with timber might have worked for Hornblower, but I'm not sure it will fly here.
No matter how they solve that problem, there is going to be a big repair bill ahead.
2. Hull perforations, indentations, scrapes and bruises. [photo used with permission]

I can see up to eight possible perforations, which could be open to the sea (granted the ones I can see are above the waterline). These would certainly result in additional damage if not patched before sailing. More serious in the long term is a long scrape that has clearly distorted some plates, and likely damaged frames. Then there are all the dents, bumps and scrapes that may have caused additional damage.
Officials say they are keeping a close eye on weather before the ship moves, but my guess is that it may take more than good weather before this ship reaches Halifax.  
Interesting that the tug Ocean Delta is still alongside.Perhaps Groupe Océan has not been fired after all. I hope not - it would seem only fair to allow them to complete job. And what other tug operator would want to take over a previously damaged tow? Most towing contracts are quite firm in taking no responsibility for the towed object short of gross negligence verging on sabotage, so Océan may well be in the clear.
Tugs will have to recover their towing line, several hundred feet of which is still attached to the ship, and will sail for Quebec as soon as January 3.
** conflicting reports here - some say the Coast Guard did and some say it did not have a line aboard. I have nosworn testimonials on this, but would prefer to believe that they did NOT.
The ship shown in the picture is CCGS Sir William Alexander, however other photos (which I have not published) show that it was CCGS Edwrad Cornwallis that was the ships one the scene after the tow line parted. 

Atlantic Superior and Algoma Mariner - lakers arrive

Wit the closing of the St.Lawrence Seaway on December 29, we can expect a slight in crease in cargo activity in Halifax, but it is rare to see two lakes ships arriving and tying up at adjacent berths.
Algoma Mariner was first to arrive on December 29 and tied up at pier 27-28. Today she could be seen loading grain. This may well be the first time that a Laker has loaded grain in Halifax. Normally they bring grain in and take gypsum out.  
 1. Algoma Mariner has her unloading boom raised slightly to allow access to her hatches. One grain spout is till working up forward, but the other spouts have been stowed at the end of the work day, before the holiday.
Algoma Mariner was built to Seaway dimensions, but she is also capable of going to sea as well, so perhaps her owners have decided to keep her busy this winter working on the coast.The ship was completed in 2011 by Chengxi Shipyard in China. Her forebody was built in 2010 to be attached to the reconditioned stern of the laker Algoport. However that ship sank in tow en route to China and the new stern section, including engines, accommodations and some self-unloading gear was built and attached in 2011.
The ship had delivered a load of coal from the Lakes to Sydney, NS, before arriving here.

Second ship to arrive on December 29 was the well known Atlantic Superior. She arrived and berthed stern in at pier 25-26 for winter layup.
 2. Crew members set out 'hurricane' moorings, extra lines that are normally not used for ordinary port calls but which would be sufficient for any expected weather conditions when the ship does not have a full crew aboard.

Last winter she spent almost a month in the Novadock for refit, so this year's winter layup will likely not involve a drydocking. Built in 1982 and modified in 1983 she worked under the Bahamas flag as M.H.Baker III from 1997 to 2003. She has also traveled widely including Europe and the far east, again under foreign flag form 2006 to 2010.
Winter layup is a bit of a misnomer, but is a term generally used when Great Lakes ships remain tied up for the winter. The deck crew is normally paid off, but some engineering staff are kept aboard to carry out necessary maintenance. During the eight month St.Lawrence Seaway season the ships want to cram as many sailing days in as they can and do not stop for maintenance unless essential. A lot of other work is carried on in winter months.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

HMCS Athabaskan - more detail comes out

With time more information keeps coming out on the HMCS Athabaskan tow.
I hear that Océan Delta had more than one breakdown in the Gulf, and that André H. had to recover the tow more than once.
I also hear that at one point Océan Delta was without power, and stopped dead. The Athabaskan however was still moving, and there was contact between the the two, resulting in some perforations of the Athabaskan's hull.and other damage.
Since I was not on the scene I can't describe these in any more detail, but, but a sleek hulled ship like a destroyer is going to move through the water pretty well, and the chances of it overtaking its towing tug would be a real risk, particularly if it did not have reliable power. The relatively fragile fabric of a destroyer is also not going to stand up too well to banging into anything, let alone a stationary tug.
The final parting of the tow line off Scatarie Island was especially dramatic, since it was not possible to reconnect the tow line directly from the tug. CBC News reported that a navy observer on the tug and a crew member from the tug, were lifted off by a Cormorant rescue helicopter and landed on Athabaskan to secure the tow line. All this in the teeth of a gale, in the winter North Atlantic!
Now I hear that the contract with Groupe Océan has been terminated, and that another company will be given the task of completing the tow to Halifax.
There will be more to follow on this potential cause célèbre. 

Saturday, December 29, 2012

HMCS Athabaskan tow in trouble - AMENDED

The problem plagued tow of the HMCS Athabaskan took a major turn for the worse today when the tow line parted and the ship had to be rescued, in all places, off Scatarie Island. That island, at the eastern most edge of Cape Breton Island is of course where the laker Miner ran aground - and remains there - despite a year of efforts by the Province of Nova Scotia to have it removed. 
HMCS Athabaskan however is far from a worn out bulker on its way to the breakers. It is as sophisticated a warship as the Canadian navy owns, and one of only two destroyers on the east coast. Any damage, let alone a loss of the ship, would result in catastrophic costs, loss of strategic asset for a lengthy period of time, and some very serious loss of prestige for the RCN.
The saga really started with Athabaskan going to Seaway Industrial and Marine in St. Catharines, ON for a refit in the spring of 2012. The work was to be completed before the winter closing of the St.Lawrence Seaway, so that the ship could be back in Halifax for workups. The wisdom of sending warships to the Lakes for refit has always been the subject of some controversy in case the do have to winter over. However, it was considered by many to be a wise move to allow the newly rejuvenated yard to get some navy work
Nevertheless, as it turned out, the work could not be completed before Seaway closing time [it closed today]  and the Navy decided to have the ship towed to Halifax to avoid having it "trapped" for the winter.
The Quebec City Groupe Océan was awarded the bid for the tow and two of its tugs arrived at the shipyard in mid-December. Groupe Océan is the largest tug company in eastern Canada, has a good reputation, and has one of the few deep sea tugs in the region.
Things got off to a bad, and perhaps ominous, start. As I hear it, the lead tug Océan Delta was having mechanical problems and the tow out was delayed until it had made repairs. The tow out started on December 18 - about a week late and encountered poor weather on the way. They had to stop over in Montreal for more repairs to Océan Delta and at Trois-Rivières. It appears that they may also have gone into Baie-Comeau on December 24, are perhaps sheltered there for the night.
By this time the Canso Canal was closed for the season and the tow was forced to take the more exposed route via Cape North. They took shelter in Sydney harbour due to a passing storm  December 27, but apparently set out today for Halifax.
At some point late this morning the tow line parted off Scatarie and BUT Océan Delta was apparently unable to reconnect,  but then lost power.. The trailing tug André H. would not have been in a position to assist if they were tethered to the Athabaskan' s stern did manage to pick up the "insurance wire" [the trailing line] and save the day.

I do not know how long the ship was adrift, but the last report I received early this afternoon was that the Coast Guard was towing the ship into Sydney. But this was incorrect As we know from previous incidents, it would have to be a pretty dire condition before the Coast Guard would tow anything. There must have been no assistance anywhere near, and conditions or proximity to the coast, must have forced the situation. The tug André H. was able to tow both ships in to Sydney.

With another major winter storm arriving in Nova Scotia overnight, Sydney is the best place for the ship until a suitable weather window arrives.
I have long advocated for a dedicated rescue tug or tugs on the east coast of Canada, and this is the seond time in tow years where such a tug could have stepped in. Unfortunately for the aforementioned Miner no such tug was available, and the ship piled up on the island and will be major headache to remove.  I am sure there will be much to say about the Athabaskan story in the future when more details emerge, but in my opinion a rescue tug should have been available.
above: Athabaskan as built, with distinctive canted funnels.

Amendment: The original post has been revised based on subsequent information.
For a bit deeper background on the tugs see Tugfax. 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Renate Schulte - patch

Yesterday's assumption that the Renate Schulte was getting bow thruster repairs, appears to be incorrect. From comments to the previous post, it seems a loose anchor at sea perforated the hull and flooded the bow thruster compartment. Today, once a few trailers were moved inside Halterm, and the tide rose a bit, I was able to see a that a small section of hull plate just aft of the bulbous bow has been removed. This would certainly explain why the ship has been ballasted down in the way it has. The area is now above water, allowing work to proceed.
However with another storm and high winds on the way, there was no work going on today. Perhaps they are in a warm shop somewhere fabricating a new plate. It will therefore be several days before the ship could be ready for sea.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas Business

As usual the port was very quiet on Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

On Christmas Eve, the last ship to leave port was Hollandia. It sailed for Grande Anse, QC:
On Christmas Day itself, the St-Pierre et Miquelon feeder Fusion sailed from anchorage in Bedford Basin, to arrive at St-Pierre tonight.
And today the RoRo ASL Sanderling made a rare mid-day arrival for Autoport:
Remaining in port over the holiday were three foreign flag ships. The tug Craig Trans still detained for deficiencies, the cable ship IT Interceptor standing by at pier 9 and the container ship Renate Schulte. Crews from Dominion Diving have been working at the bow of the ship since before Christmas. The ship was moved end for end at pier 36 on the 24th to give them some more shelter. The ship has also been ballasted down by the stern and to the starboard.  I am assuming this is to give better access to the bow thruster, which is the likely source of the problem.
The ship's position makes photography somewhat awkward. Not visible is Dominion Diving's tug/workboat Roseway tucked in under the bow.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Canima - now on the bottom

 1. Well up in Shediac Bay, Canima remained aground until completion of new channel to deep water. Mounds of sand alongside are from a basin that was dug to allow the ship to float in place.

With the sinking last week of Canima in the Miramichi, NB, area, another ship with an interesting story, will likely be at the end of its existence. There is also an irony in the ship’s name which is also worth a mention.
The ship in question was built in 1961 by Liffey Dockyard in Dublin, Eire for the Cork Harbour Commissioners as Blarna. Cork (also known as Cobh) was a frequent stopover for transatlantic passenger ships, but they did not berth in the port. Instead, as they had done since the earliest days of steam, they anchored in the roadstead, and took on mail, and passengers using a tender, or small passenger ferry. The ship was rated for 1400 deck passengers, on a meagre 150 foot overall length. At 502 tons, is was not a large ship, but it was fitted with two Crossley engines, of 860 bhp total, driving twin screws.
Despite the waning transatlantic passenger trade, the port Commissioners still needed such a tender , but it could also double as an excursion vessel to earn additional revenue.

The years between 1961 and 1966 saw the demise of most transatlantic liners and so the boat was sold to the Bermuda Marine and Port Authority to perform essentially the same work in Hamilton, Bermuda, but for cruise ships (many of which in those days were retired transatlantic liners, that it had served in its earlier life.).
Renamed Canima,  the boat revived a name with strong Canadian ties. In 1874 the Quebec and Gulf Ports Steamship Company, which had operated a mail service between Quebec and the Maritimes, was facing elimination with the opening of the Intercolonial Railway. The company secured a contract to transport Her Majesty’s mails between New York and Bermuda. To service the route they refitted their ship Princess Royal, renamed it Canima for the service.The line eventually expanded to serve the Caribbean and Quebec and Gulf Ports Steamships renamed itself the Quebec Steamship Co. The first Canima was a screw steamer with auxiliary sails, built in 1863, measuring 712 gross tons. It was replaced by more modern ships in 1879 and broken up in 1884.
See more on this topic, and a painting of the first Canima at:
[One point of clarification- Quebec Steamship Co was acquired by Canada Steamship Lines, which was controlled at the time by Lord Furness of the UK. Following World War I, the mail service was transferred to ships more directly owned by Furness.]

Back to 1966, the second Canima lasted in Bermuda until 1988 when a new ship was acquired and  given the name. The second Canima became the inauspicious sounding Chauncey M. Depew. Depew was a US senator and was involved in the Vanderbilt Railway empire, including the New York Central. For more see:

The ship was bought by Canadian interests and arrived in Méchins, QC, December 5, 1988, for conversion to a whale watching vessel, but the plans fell through. It remained at the Verreault yard and wharf for nearly a year before moving to Trois-Pistoles, QC, where it was renamed Gobelet d’Argent II. [silver gobelet]. Intended to replace the Trois-Pistoles - Escoumins ferry, that plan also fell through, and the ship languished until the mid 1990s when it was moved to Campbellton, NB. There it was converted to a static disco-bar, which ran into financial difficulties and was sold.

The new buyer intended to re-commission the ship as a floating antique shop. Moving it to Caraquet, NB, he renamed it Canima, installed new engines and generators and carried out hull work. The ship’s Canadian registration was closed October 1, 1998, but before work could be completed the owner died.
Sold again it was moved to Shediac, NB where it was to be converted to a floating restauarant. These plans were disrupted in November 2003 when the ship was blown away from the pier and grounded in the bay. In October 2005 it was blown further up the bay and into even shallower water.  After months of digging a new channel to open water, it was freed in November 2005 and tied up at the Pointe-du-Chêne wharf. Later it was towed to the Millbank area near Lower Newcastle, NB where it has remained ever since, and completely idle. As recently as January 2012 the US owners reported that they still hoped to revive their restaurant scheme when the US economy improves. A New Brunswick politician was more skeptical, and allowed that it would not be converted in 100 years.
Neighbours complained about the unsightly ship, and it is possible that it changed hands again recently.  However about 10 days ago the ship sank alongside the wharf, and salvage may not be an option - it may be a case of wreck removal instead.

2. Once at Millbank the ship remained idle until it sank at the berth.
[ You may see this photo in the Bermuda Royal Gazette Online for January 4, 2012. It is uncredited and is an un-authorized use. Nevertheless, numerous interesting stores about the ship appear in that august gazette.]

Port of Halifax Open Again

After two days of off again on again weather watch, the Port was open to shipping again this morning.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Weather watch continued - for some

Halifax Harbour remains closed to ship movements this evening due to high winds. The Atlantic Pilotage Authority did venture out once in the morning for Maersk Palermo for Halterm and again late afternoon to board the car carrier Noble Ace at about 1700 hrs AST, and it docked at Autoport. However as of 1730hrs the weather watch was re-instated and will not be revisited until tomorrow morning.
That did not mean that there was no activity:
1. The lobstermen on Oralee were busy tending to traps close in to Point Pleasant Park. They did have  to keep an eye open for the odd surfer trying to catch The Big One, but otherwise it was quite calm.

2. The bunkering tanker Algoma Dartmouth returned to her home base at Pier 34 after two days at pier 9A where there was no swell and better shelter.

And of course the RCN did not have to worry about boarding pilots, so HMCS Toronto was able to run the dynamic sound range by steaming in and out at a pretty good clip too. It involved some fairly hairy high speed turns in the Number One anchorage area. The great advantage of doing this work today was that there was no other shipping on the area to mess up the ship's sound signature.

3. Starting an outbound run.
4. Returning inbound and reducing speed a bit,
5. Making the turn for another outbound run.
Divers were also working on the bow of the container shipRenate Schulte at pier 37, and by aftenoon the sun was shining brightly.

More weather watch

Another storm passed through Halifax over night leaving high seas outside the port, even though it was dead flat calm in the Bedford Basin. Both the gypsum carrier Alice Oldendorff and the St-Pierre et Miquelon feeder Fusion were due to leave last night, but anchored in the Basin instead.
By this morning  the storm was well past, but the ships remain at anchor until conditions improve to safely disembark pilots at the pilot station.
1. Alice Oldendorff took only a partial load of gypsum.

2. Fusion sits at anchor with only some cormorants on a navy trot buoy for company.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Halifax - back in business

1. A decidedly scruffy looking OOCL Hong Kong turns in Bedford Basin this morning to come alongside at Fairview Cove. It takes the place of OOCL California that was held in port for 36 hours due to weather.

After two days on weather watch the port of Halifax was back in business this morning. A great flurry of arrivals and departures at first light saw a big change of the guard at Fairview Cove, with one departure, two arrivals to dock, and one to anchor awaiting a turn. Other ships will be straggling in and out as the day goes on. Several other departures of ships that held in port made for a busy time for while.
One ship that will not be going anywhere is the tug Craig Trans. See Tugfax for more on this one.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Halifax on Weather Watch

1. Even Point Pleasant Park's winter duck populaiton were looking around for better accommodation today.

The port of Halifax is essentially shut down for arrivals and departures to sea this evening as high winds, with gusts of 40 knots make embarking and disembarking pilots too dangerous. Large ships in those conditions are also difficult to handle adding to the dangers of attempting to sail.
Two ships are directly impacted. The auotcarrier Don Juan is moored at Autoport and will remain there until it is deemed safe to sail, which may not be until morning.

2. OOCL California arriving in a stiff breeze this morning.

OOCL California arrived this morning at Fairview Cove and completed cargo operations early this evening. It will not be sailing until conditions improve. However it is on weather watch and may have to move to anchor in Bedford Basin if it is unable to remain alongside safely. This will mean that tugs will have to be called out, possibly to stand by the ship if lines start to part or to take the ship off the berth.
Indirectly impacted is the bunkering tanker Algoma Dartmouth which moved up to Pier 9B this evening instead of returning to its usual berth at Pier 34. With a large swell running and easterly winds, -Pier 34 would not be a safe mooring.
Two other ships effected are coastal tankers.Algonova was at anchor and went into berth at Imperial Oil this evening when Algoscotia went to anchor in the harbour. These tankers are self-piloted - the masters have pilotage certificates- and so could sail without the dangers of disembarking a pilot, however cross winds would make an outbound passage a little risky and they will remain in harbour for the time being.
Also weather related was the arrival of the tug Craig Trans - see Tugfax for more on this tug.
Fortunately for all, temperatures stubbornly remain above freezing, so there is no snow predicted  in Halifax, which will be one of the warmest places in Canada. Some inland portions of the country anticpate record snow falls.

HMCS Windsor and other navy news

1. HMCS Windsor

When HMCS Windsor put to sea yesterday (see photo) it represented the culmination of a huge refit program conducted by HMCS Cape Scott, the navy's repair arm in HMC Dockyard. The sub entered the Extended Docking Work Period  (EDWP) in 2007 and was expected to emerge in 2009. However virtually every one of the 200 systems aboard the boat required extensive work, and was not until April of 2012 that the sub re-entered the water. The work period ended officially December 13 and last weekend Windsor could be seen in Bedford Basin on the start of work-ups and trials, which include crew certification.
The sub will be fully operational during 2013, possibly as early as the first quarter.
Meanwhile on the west coast, HMCS Victoria is operational, HMCS Corner Brook will start its Extended Docking, with repair to grounding damage in 2013, and HMCS Chicoutimi will be assessed for fire damage and begin its rebuilding in 2013.
It had always been the intention to have two subs operational, one on each coast, and two in various stages of refit. The next EDWP for these subs will begin in 2016 and will extend to 2024, allowing about two years for each sub. By that  time of course we might be aware of more detailed plans for replacement. Discussion is underway, but it will be a long process to try and avoid some of the problems encountered with the acquisition of this class of subs. The long and sometimes sad story of the former Upholder class RN , and now Victoria class RCN subs is worthy of a much longer essay than I can give here. Suffice it to say however, that bringing Windsor back to service is a major milestone and achievement for the RCN.

2. HMCS Toronto ditto

After completing a very brief drydocking at Halifax Shipyard last week end HMCS Toronto has been preparing for its next assignment. This evening it headed for the Static Sound Range off Macnab's Island.  Range work is usually one of the last steps before the ship leaves port.

3. HMCS Preserver calls in civvy tug

HMCS Preserver arrived this evening from sea in gale conditions, with gusts of 40 knots and driving rain. Pilotage operations for commercial traffic were suspended by the Atlantic Pilotage Authority due to the weather, but this does not effect naval vessels who have their own berthing master/ docking pilots.
In view of the previous incident when Preserver allided with the Novadock floating drydock with extensive damage to both, the RCN called in the commercial tug Atlantic Larch to assist navy tugs to berth the ship at Jetty Hotel.
This underscores the need for new tugs in HMC Dockyard, and as reported lately in Tugfax
 efforts are underway, or at least in their early stages, to acquire new tugs, with considerably more power, for events such as this.

4. HMCS Athabaskan

Meanwhile at Seaway Marine and Industrial in St.Catharines, ON, the tugs Ocean Delta and André H. have just departed (1930 AST) the shipyard with Athabaskan in tow for Halifax. Ocean Delta is the lead tug and will carry out the tow all the way to Halifax. It is not clear if André H. will come all the way. It may just assist with the Seaway Locks and river as far as the Cap-aux-Oies area. However with such an important tow, it would seen prudent to have two tugs along all the way.

Sloman Hera - Algoma says not better late than never

The fairly ordinary looking chemical product tanker anchored in Bedford Basin was part of a huge controversy that involved Canada's Algoma Central Corporation, two major German shipowners, a US shipowner and no less than the China Ocean Shipbuilding Industry Group Ltd.
In 2007 Algoma entered into an agreement with Jiangxi Jiangzhou Union Shipbuilding Co Ltd in China to build three product tankers. The ships were to enter the Hanseatic Shipping pool with Sloman Neptune,  Bernhard Schulte and Intrepid Shipping. The ships were of a new design and were to be the first chemical tankers built by the yard. What were termed as "excessive non-permissible delays" caused Algoma to rescind its orders in 2010 and demand return of $35.4mn paid in to the yard. The other partners opted to negotiate settlements on their cancellations and Sloman and Intrepid eventually took delivery of their tankers. As I understand it Algoma's tankers were only in very early stages of construction when cancelled, and so may not have been completed.
Algoma's case was to enter arbitration in September. Results have not been released to my knowledge.
Meanwhile the yard had built several of the tankers and Sloman Hera for example was launched August 21, 2009, but went into long term layup.
The July 1, 2012 date for new ballast tank coating regulations loomed large and Sloman Neptune were able to eventually reach a settlement and take delivery of three sister tankers in June 2012.
In the meantime Algoma walked away from the Hansa tanker pool, placing their one ship in the Navig8 pool instead. Orders for two larger tankers with another Chinese yard were converted to bulk carriers.
This is a much simplified version of all the ins and outs of the matter. It also caused financial distress for the shipyard and the other tanker owners too, and the Hansa pool was wound up.
To get back to Sloman Hera itself, it is listed as built in 2012 (altough launched in 2009) and measures 11,246 gross tons, 16,426 tonnes deadweight and has 14 cargo tanks.It is registered in Antigua and Barbuda, and is operated by Sloman Neptune of Germany.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Saudi Abha bows out

1. Saudi Abha dwarfs the tug Point Halifax while arriving in 1995.

I am reliably informed that we have seen the last of the container ship Saudi Abha. Its December 10 visit  was the final one in a lengthy history with the National Shipping Company of Saudi Arabia. The line was founded in 1979 and the ships have been calling here since the early days.
The company, which appears to be rebranding itself as "Bahri ", is expecting imminent delivery of the first of four (with an option for two more) modern RoRo container ships. Designed by Knud E. Hansen of Denmark, they carry a modest 364 TEU of containers, have two heavy lift cranes, and provide large RoRo space amounting to 24,000m2 on several decks. Deadweight tonnage will be in the 26,000 range. They will be 222m loa, 32.3m breadth and maximum 9.5m draft. Delivery of the first of the $100mn ships from Hyundai Mipo Dockyard Co in South Korea is expected any time now.
Saudi Abha, name ship of the four ship class currently working for NSCSA, was built in 1982 by Kockums AB of Malmo, Sweden. A ship of 44,171 gross, 42,600 deadweight, it has a 2310 TEU capacity and can carry 534 cars. The car decks are served by a massive 400 tonne capacity stern ramp, 49.3m long x 12m wide. The ship's dimensions are 248.72m loa x 32.31 breadth x 11.14m draft.
The other four ships Saudi Diryah (1982), Saudi Tabuk (1983) and Saudi Hofuf (1983) will be retired as the new ships come on line, likely quarterly.
For a look at the new ships, see Knud E. Hansen's web site:
But also look at NSCSA's own website for the rebranded Bahri look (which will not appear on the present ships, despite the artists impression):

2. The ship displays her huge ramp back in 1987.

CCGS Corporal Teather C.V. takes to the water

1. A crew from Connors Diving assists in the launch from a small boat.

The patrol vessel CCGS Corporal Teather C.V. took to the water this morning. It was a cold and windy day, and as with the launch of the first boat in the Coast Guard's Hero class, this one hung up on the end of the launch way for time. I stand corrected- the cradle did not hang up. The launch was stopped before the ship hit the water, so that the lines securing the cradle to the hull could be released, and the hull checked for water tightness. When all was well, the ship was launched without incident. The first Hero launch did hang up, but not this one
A crew from Connors Diving in a small boat, and the two tugs Atlantic Oak and Atlantic Willow soon had the matter in hand assisted and the ship was safely afloat [see also Tugfax]
This is the third of nine Hero class boats built by the yard, and it will fit out at pier 9B.
The internet has many accounts of the heroism of RCMP Corporal Robert Teather, but one interesting one can be found on the RCMP Veterans Association web site at:
The ship will enter service early in 2013.

2. With tugs fore and aft, Corporal Teather C.V. moves toward pier 9B.

3. Atlantic Oak handles the bow line.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Halifax Grain Elevator - going full tilt

[Note: computer glitch delayed posting this on December 11 when both ships were still in port.]

It’s not often that ships are seen unloading and loading to the Halifax grain elevator at the same time. The massive grain handling facility in Halifax has been underutilized in recent years, but has been experiencing a bit of resurgence in the last few weeks. That is a blip however, and it is expected to return to its quiet ways with the end of the St.Lawrence Seaway season in a few weeks.

The elevator, consisting of 365 silos, with a total capacity of 5, 152,000 bushels was built in four stages: 1925, 1929, 1958 and 1963. The first stage was but to replace the previous elevator destroyed in the Halifax explosion. Later stages were prompted by amendments to Crow’s Nest Pass Agreement. That 1897 deal, between the Canadian government and the Canadian Pacific Railway gave the railroad access to valuable mineral properties in exchange for reduced rates to haul grain and flour eastbound - in perpetuity. Well perpetuity for governments is not for ever! The rate was suspended during World War I, and was revised in 1927 (after the government ha formed the Canadian National Railroad) and then applied to grain only and to all rail lines. The CPR deal had favoured the Port of Saint John, but with the new CNR serving Halifax, a bigger gain elevator was warranted.

From the 1903s through the 1960s Halifax was a major grain exporting hub. In those days the entire St.Lawrence River closed for the winter and Halifax stockpiled grain and shipped it from January to April in huge quantities. Often the elevator was full. The port of Halifax owns the grain elevator and leases it to operators Halifax Grain Elevator Ltd.

As I said perpetuity does not mean forever with governments and the rate was adjusted in 1984 by the Western Grain Transportation Act, but it was capped. In 1993 it was eliminated completely and the grain trade for Halifax fell away dramatically. Traffic had been eroding anyway with the opening of the St.Lawrence Seaway, winter navigation on the St.Lawrence and better connections to the Mississippi and the west coast, but NAFTA was really the final nail in the coffin - or so we thought.

This year’s resurgence however is thanks to nature, not to any act of government. Historic low water levels on the Lakes and St.Lawrence River mean that ships have not been able to load to full draft in that area and have come to Halifax to top off their loads. Low water on the Mississippi has also slowed exporting in that direction. The usual west coast grain backlogs have not really been a factor.

In the late 1960s Halifax got its first flour mill, Dover Mills (which is now P&H) and became a customer for grain. Situated adjacent to the grain elevators it can receive grain by pipeline from the elevator. It can also receive grain by rail, so is not tied exclusively to the elevator. Also regional farmers and feed mills receive feed grains (including corn) which has been shipped from the Great Lakes and stored in the elevator until needed.

Thus it was that this week we saw Algoma Mariner with a load of grain from the lakes unloading at pier 25. The Canadian flagged ship was built in China in 2011 for Great Lakes service. It sailed during th evening of December 11.

Meanwhile at pier 28 the Cyprus flagged Tundra was taking a top off load. It had loaded soy in Hamilton, ON to maximum allowed Seaway draft, and is now loading to its deep sea mark. Built in 2009 in measures 19,814 gross tons and 30, 892 deadweight tonnes. It is operated by the large Canadian operator Canfornav (which owns no ships).

Tundra ran aground on a mud  bank outside of the shipping channel just downstream from Sorel-Tracy, Qc on November 28. It took the lightering off of some cargo and the combined efforts of four tugs to free the ship on December 5. There was no apparent damage, the cargo was re-loaded at Trois-Rivières, and the ship was on its way the next day.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Rascal rides again

The unfortunate Rascal was raised from the bottom of the Northwest Arm in October, see
It left Halifax December 5, this time on a truck belonging to Sealand Industries of Chester Basin, NS.
The boat was raised by the Halifax Port Authority when its owner would not raise it, and it has now been sold to defray the salvage costs. After being submerged for several months it was pretty much a mess. It has since been on dry land, and has had a chance to dry out a bit. Let's hope her new owner is able to restore her.

HMCS Toronto

It is rare to see a Canadian frigate in the Novadock floating drydock at Halifax Shipyard. The HMC Dockyard is normally able to drydock its own ships on its synchrolift for minor work, and only major refits occur at the Shipyard. The ongoing FELEX program is currently occupying the graving dock at the Shipyard, and the yard currently has only one other drydock.
HMCS Toronto is on the Novadock for some minor work, but which may require some extra TLC. The ship is due to depart in the New Year for an extended overseas assignment and the RCN opted to go with the Shipyard for the work.
The ship is berthed in the south end of the dock, so that her props and rudders are easliy accessed from the land, and so it is only the ship's bow that is visible from the shore at pier 9.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Overseas Luxmar - ship safe, company in trouble

The oil products/chemical tanker Overseas Luxmar arrived at anchor this morning and will move to Imperial Oil. Built in 1998 by Halla Engineering and Heavy Industries in Samho, South Korea, the ship measures 28,357 gross tons and 45,999 deadweight tonnes.
It started life as Petrobulk Pollux, becoming Luxmar in 2001 and Overseas Luxmar in 2005. In its first iteration it flew the flag of Panama, then changed to Marshall Islands in 2001. When it took the Overseas name it went under the US flag (non-Jones Act), but returned to Marshall Islands in October of this year.
The ship's operators, Overseas Ship Management Group (OSG) is one of the world's largest tanker companies and is traded on the New York Stock exchange. On November 16 it filed for creditor protection under the US Chapter 11 statute, as a means of  reorganizing and dealing with financing and debt issues.
It is expected that OSG may sell off some of its US assets, such as the former Maritrans tug/ tanker barge operation.
OSG also has a Canadian arm, OSG Overseas Ship Management (Canada) Inc, which managed the tanker Overseas Shirley, but its Canadian registry was closed October 12. The ship was transferred to the Marshall Islands registry and management assigned to OSG's Athen's based operation. It was brought under Canadian flag in 2006 to carry crude oil from Whiffen Hd, NL to Portland, ME, and other Canadian ports, but that trade dropped off and was taken up by other ships. OSG has also brought in foreign flagged ships for this work on coasting licenses, but has not done so since August.
As of July OSG had a fleet of over 100 tankers, including 43 crude, 45 product, 4 gas, and under the US flag 12 tankers (2 non- Jones Act) 7 ATBs and 2 lighters. Of these 64% were owned and the balance chartered. Overseas Luxmar may be in the latter category, but it is hard to tell.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Samuel Plimsoll - a name to reckon with

Samuel Plimsoll was an expert on the subject of shipping coal. Born in Bristol, England in 1824, he was horrified by the loss of life resulting from unsafe loading practices on so called "coffin ships" . He began to campaign for safer conditions for seafarers and was elected to the British Parliament. Despite many setbacks he was ultimately successful in seeing legislation that established regulations to, among other things, define the maximum loads that could be carried by individual ships.
Initially it was the British Board of Trade, but it is now all classification societies (such as Lloyd's Register, the American Bureua of Shipping, Det Norske Veritas, etc.,) that calculate that safe load, and thus establish the minimum freeboard for each ship. On each ship, marked amidships, at the loaded waterline, is a symbol and "log" which shows the safe freeboard in various sea conditions (Winter North Atlantic being the most restrictive) both in salt and fresh water, summer and winter.
Plimsoll also fought for the rights of seamen to refuse duty if they were placed in unsafe conditions. Until his time, signed-on sailors would be jailed for refusing duty. Plimsoll had to fight powerful shipowning forces in Parliament to get the reforms through, and he won the enmity of many. Some owners protested by painting the Plimsoll mark, as it came to be known, on the funnels of their ships as a form of protest. Fortunately Plimsoll's ideas prevailed and still today, more 120 years later, Plimsoll Marks are found on every seagoing ship. Inspection authorities refuse a ship permission to go to sea if it does not have a valid "load line" (i.e. a Plimsoll Mark and corresponding certificate).
The bulker Alpha now in port to load grain, is operated by a company called Load Line Marine. Their company's funnel mark is a version of the Plimsoll Mark (not as a form of protest, I hope).

Here is a typical Plimsoll Mark found amidships on a loaded ship:
To the left is the ship's draft, in imperial and metric. (This ship is drawing exactly 34 feet of water)
In the centre is the Plimsoll Mark, a 12 inch diameter disc, with 18 inch long horizontal line, marking the ships loaded waterline in summer conditions. The letters L R represent Lloyd's Register, the ship's classification society, which assigned the load line while the ship was under construction.
To the right is a log representing various sea conditions. The bars to the left represent fresh water. The top bar should read TF for Tropical Fresh water (it has been obliterated and should be repainted) and below it F for fresh water.
The right facing bars read from top to bottom: T for Tropical, S for summer (the photo was taken in summer, and the ship is loaded accordingly). Below these and not visible, are W for Winter and WNA for Winter North Atlantic. Had this picture been taken in winter, it would have a foot or two of additional freeboard for safety purposes.
The allowable draft / freeboard of course has an effect on the amount of cargo a ship can carry, so its deadweight tonnage (the weight in  tonnes of cargo, stores, fuel, crew and passengers) will vary with draft / freeboard.
On this blog, when a ship's deadweight tonnage is noted, it is in summer conditions.

HMCS Toronto - heading to the shipyard

1. HMCS Toronto glides through the Narrows this morning on the way to HMC Dockyard.

It was announced yesterday that HMCS Toronto will be heading to Halifax Shipyard later this work for work prior to an overseas deployment. This is welcome news for the yard which had to lay off some people after completing the refit of the ferry Atlantic Vision last week.
The same announcement stated that CCGS Alfred Needler and CFAV Firebird were going to Shelburne for refit work, resulting in the recall of some of the laid off workers there.

2. A shore party disembarks to a RHIB.
3. The forecastle crew stands by forward.

Monday, December 3, 2012

San Francisco Express - another big one

Hapag-Lloyd's second big post-Panamax ship arrived at dusk today. San Francisco Express is a sister to Busan Express which began calling last month. These ships manage to cram 6,750 TEU into a 300m x 40m hull. That works out to 75,590 gross tons and 85,400 deadweight. The ship was built in 2004 by Daewoo's Koje yard in South Korea.
Several OOOCL ships have been given Express names, and they are post-Panamax ships too, but slightly smaller in terms of carrying capacity.
These ships have been bumped from Asia/Med/Europe service by even larger ships, thus sustaining the trickle down theory. That theory is that the largest ships will always serve the Asia/Med/Europe service and will displace other ships that will then run transatlantic. All bets on this theory may be off in 2014 when the expanded Panama Canal opens.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Alpha finally comes in to load

After lying at anchor since November 19, the bulker Alpha finally moved in to pier 28 this afternoon. It will begin loading its grain cargo in the morning. The ship had to wait for Carol to complete its top-off load. That work was completed last night. As a relatively low value cargo the ship will probably only work during regular hours, with no overtime for longshoremen, so it will be here for several days. That will give the crew a few days ashore after gazing on the city, but out of reach, for two weeks.
(See photyos of the ship on its arrival by scrolling back to Novemner 19.)

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Bedford Basin helo ops

It was an unusual sight in Bedford Basin today to see three Canadian warships riding at anchor, all ready for helicopter operations. The safety nets around their helo decks were lowered, but I only saw one 'copter operating when I was there.

1. Left to right: Iroquois, St.John's, Charlottetown. Ville de Québec

2. Charlottetown Ville de Québec nets down and ready.

3. St.John's also ready.

4. Sea King casts its shadow on Iroquois on approach.

5. In position.

6. And down.