Thursday, January 31, 2013

Louis S. St-Laurent - in the Basin

1. At anchor, at anchorage number 10, Louis powers up the bubbler. 

CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent has sent the day in Bedford Basin doing ice bubbler trials.
With plus 12 degrees C (record high) temperatures in Halifax, there is no ice to bubble, but the ship is more comfortable doing the trials than it would be out at sea with gusts of up to 100 kph.
The system, consisting of a 2,000 hp thruster forces water up on either side of the vessel reducing friction and to prevent ice from adhering to the ship, increasing its efficiency through heavy ice.

2. The ship then upped anchor, moved to anchorage number 8, anchored again, and powered up the bubbler once more.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

REWRITE: Louis S. St-Laurent

1. Back in March 1970, CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent, then still a steamer, occupied pride of place in the graving dock at Halifax Shipyard. It now appears she won't be drydocking after all.

Word has reached me that the CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent's drydocking will not take place, as the ship is urgently needed on the Saguenay River. Several other CCG icebreakers are out of service, and the remaining ships can't handle the amount of ice on the Saguenay and lower St.Lawrence.
This morning the Louis moved to Imperial Oil dock No.4 to fuel up, and will sail as soon as she gets all of her crew back aboard. In fact some may have to join the ship later since there are ships in actual trouble.
CCGS Martha L. Black, working out of Gros Cacouna is one icebreaker on the job, but she is doing urgent work off Méchins with the bulker Cedarglen which is beset in ice close to shore. Others, such as Terry Fox, tied up in Quebec City and Des Groseilliers in Trois-Rivières are apparently unserviceable.
Henry Larsen has also been brought in, and is working the Saguenay single handed at present.
Amundsen is in Port Weller to be re-engined, and Radisson is working its usual beat farther up river at Trois-Rivières.
The need for more than one large Canadian icebreaker is made again and again.. So far the feds have announced one sole replacement for the Louis. But what if she had been in pieces on the drydock and couldn't respond to this situation? In view of the physical features of its name sake, may I suggest it is time to plan for CCGS Brian Mulroney ?

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Saudi Diriyah - takes its final bow

1. Saudi Diriyah sails this afternoon.As a thirty year old ship, heading for the scrap yard, she has not been overly maintained in the past year.

Today marked the final visit to Halifax of Saudi Diriyah. She is the second ship of the National Shipping Company of Saudi Arabia to take its last bow in Halifax in the last two months.
All four sister ships, built in 1982 and 1983 are leaving the fleet as new ships come on lime.
Saudi Abha was the first ship to retire, and its replacement was delivered by Hyundai MIPO Dockyard in Korea on January 23.
Saudi Diriyah's replacement will be coming on line in March, and will take its place in the lineup.
As with its sisters, Saudi Diriyah was built by Kockums AB, in Malmo Sweden.It was delivered in March of 1983 and measures 44,171 gross tons, can carry 2310 TEUs, 534 cars and has capability of handling a variety of other RoRo cargoes. It features a huge stern ramp, capable of loading oversized cargo.

2. Sailing in 2003 the ship did not look overly maintained even then. Note the small side door just forward of the letter "A"

Zim Qingdao - briefest visit - plus THE REAL STORY

1. Zim Qingdao sailing at 1300 hrs. There are no boxes on the aft-most bay.

Ships of ZIM Container Service are usually in port for a full working day, and sometimes longer. Today's visit of Zim Qingdao was certainly not typical - it lasted only a half day. It appears that the ship loaded some refrigerated containers and may have unloaded a few boxes too, but that was it.
Weather delays and re-routed cargoes on other ships are the likely explanations for this situation, as the ship may have had to skip some port calls to maintain schedule.

The real story
 I hear that the ship was turned back form New York because it was carrying 15 containers for Cuba. The US embargo on trade with Cuba has not been lifted (although President Obama has suggested that he would like to do so). Therefore the ship was sent back to Halifax to unload the boxes, then return to New York to carry on with its normal run.
Canada, and the port of Halifax have certainly benefited from the Cuban embargo for many years, with the presence of Melfi Lines and Nirint (which trade directly with Cuba)  and other lines such as Zim interchanging Cuban cargo in its hub port of Kingston, Jamaica. 

Highlanders - sailing now

1. Highlanders at pier 27-28 today - lights on ready to go?

Highlanders is getting underway as I write this. There were several problems that kept the ship i port beyond its expected sailing day of Saturday. That was first postponed to Sunday morning then again to Monday noon. At that point it was expected that the ship would go to anchor because all problems had not been completely resolved, but the Novadock had to be cleared to set the blocks for CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent. However at 1500 on Monday when the ship was finally ready to go it appeared that she would be heading directly to sea after her compass swing.
That was not to be, and Shipfax was asleep at the switch on that one! On completion of the compass swing the ship headed in to pier 27-28 for the night (I missed that until this morning.). Another departure was schedule for early afternoon, but that was put off until this evening,. Even that time has stretched for an hour.
Now at 2000 hrs AST the ship has been cleared to sail (again). Her ETA for North Sydney is about mid-day tomorrow.

CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent - back home

1. CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent occupying most of the extended BIO pier this morning. 

CCGS Louis  S. St-Laurent returned to Halifax this morning in preparation for drydocking. The only drydock on the Atlantic coast that can berth the ship is the Novadock at Halifax Shipyard. In view of this, the wisdom of transferring the ship to the Newfoundland region is brought into question (again).
The ship's home was the Canadian Coast Guard base in Dartmouth. The lengthy process of decommissioning that base and moving all admin functions to a new building at the Bedford Institute site has largely been completed. An extension to the BIO pier was built too, but it was not large enough for the Louis at the same time as the rest of the DFO fleet, because the political decision had already been made to send the Louis to Argentia, NL, using specious cost reasoning. The added cost of housing the Louis in such a remote location would certainly have defrayed the cost of building a proper base for it in Halifax, and the nonsense of extra steaming time to the arctic is disproved every time the ship sails into Halifax for drydocking.
For today's arrival CCGS Earl Grey had to move to the old CCG base to make room! What did that move cost?

2. CCGS Earl Grey had to move from the BIO pier yesterday to make room for the Louis.

And what about the much touted replacement for the Louis? The yet to be built CCGS John G. Diefenbaker, (Vancouver Shipyards has the job to build it, but no contract yet) will presumably also require a base. Is it to be stuck out of the way in Argentia too, as a tribute to political whims? I'm not sure The Chief would have approved.
The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans from 2006 to 2008 made the decision to transfer the ship to his home province of Newfoundland. Now that he is Canadian ambassador to Ireland, and safely out of the political spotlight, perhaps it is time to review the decision, and bring the Louis back to Halifax where it belongs, and build a proper pier for it.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Highlander sails - finally AMENDED

A number of harbour watchers have been waiting patiently for Highlanders to sail. We thought we were smart to be in view of Halifax Shipyard at noon today when she was due to leave, but some problems arose which took until past 1500 to resolve. In the meantime the tug Atlantic Larch stood by, and was joined by Atlantic Oak at 1300. At last she came off the Novadock and proceeded to the lower harbour for compass adjustment before leaving for North Sydney. Instead the ship tied up at pier 27.
1. The ferry enters the lower harbour, dwarfing its tugs and the Corporal Teather C.V. returning from sea trials.

2. Once south of George's island the ship begins its compass adjust by completing a 360 degree turn. A solitary Canadian navy Sea King helicopter flies overhead.


3. Highlanders tied up at pier 27-28 on the morning of January 29. It is due to sail this afternoon, but we are waiting for confirmation.

CCGS Corporal Teather C.V. - more trials

1. Corporal Teather C.V. passes George's Island at slow speed.

CCGS Corporal Teather C.V. continued to conduct builder's trials. Today she was working outside the harbour in the area of Chebucto Head, returning while there was still some light.
2. The ship loafs along waiting for the ferry Highlanders to clear the Narrows and pass HMC Dockyard. [see following post]

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Highlanders Likes Novadock

The ferry Highlanders remains in Novadock tonight after cancelling scheduled sailings on Saturday and this morning. It may sail tomorrow.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Corporal Teathter C.V. starts sea trials

The patrol boat Corporal Teather C.V., launched December 15, 2012, started builders sea trials today by taking a spin in Bedford Basin then put out to sea, returning at dusk (hence the grainy photo).

Friday, January 25, 2013

Highlanders - soon back in service

Highlanders is just about ready to leave the Novadock. A departure for this morning was cancelled, but this is common with delays up to several days. It is now slated to sail Sunday morning.
The ship has been out of the water since January 4 for unscheduled work associated with her stern docking stabilizer.
While she was here fleet mate Atlantic Vision also had some problems and missed a few trips.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Cold Ironing for the 2013 cruise season

1. Caribbean Princess generates smoke while sitting alongside the pier last September.

The federal government and the Port of Halifax will invest in a new system to supply shore power to cruise ships while in Halifax. The project will allow one ship at a time to turn off  their its large power plants while in port, and rely on the local power grid for, lighting, refrigeration and other power needs. The process, called "cold ironing"  has gained popularity since ports such as Los Angeles mandated it to reduce air pollution.
While cruise ships do not need their main propulsion engines while docked, they still have huge power demands for on board services (called "hotel load"), and burn heavy fuel or diesel to generate it.
While going to shore power may eliminate scenes like that above, it will certainly add to Nova Scotia's power generation needs. Perhaps fortunately the local power plant burns natural gas, but there is still a lot of coal generated power in Nova Scotia. Since all power essentially goes onto the same grid, if  there is a demand spike that cannot be met by the local gas plant, some of the new shore power may well come from coal fired plants. Plans for delivering hydro-electric power to Nova Scotia from Labrador are still in the very early stages, and it will be many years before we are weened from coal.
Of course cruise ships only spend part of the time in port - they spend as least as much or more time sailing through our coastal waters, where they do burn heavy fuel. Cruise lines are complaining about switching to low sulphur fuels, but that should be part of the equation here too.

2. Cold ironing won't prevent ships from polluting when they are away from the dock. AIDAaura leaves an unpleasant aura when she leaves Halifax, and probably trails a plume all the way to her next port.


Monday, January 21, 2013

Ambassador sold

1. Ambassador clears the MacKay bridge in May 2012.

The self-unloading bulker Ambassador has been sold. A frequent caller in Halifax since the 1980s, it  carried many cargoes of gypsum and even brought in cargoes of coal.
Built by Port Weller Dry Dock in 1983 it was originally called Canadian Ambassador, and as I pointed out in May, she still had those letters on her bow, but they had been long since painted over. See
Built by Upper Lakes Shipping to transit the St.Lawrence Seaway locks, the ship was also built for ocean service. In 1986  it was renamed Ambassador  reflagged to Vanuatu and has been trading world wide ever since, except for one brief return to the Lakes on charter to Algoma Central Marine in 2000. For that charter it was renamed Algosea at Halifax Shipyards April 13, 2000, but reverted to previous name and flag again December 21, 2000 at Trois-Rivières, QC, and called in Halifax January 7, 2001 for bunkers.
In inrternational service it was owned by Marbulk Canada Inc., but operated out of Beverly, MA as part of the CSL International pool. Upper Lakes Group sold a half interest in Marbulk to Algoma in 1997 and CSL bought ULG's 50% in 2000.

The ship has lead a largely incident free life.
One serious event occurred December 14, 1994 at Belledune, NB. While unloading phosphate rock, an overheated roller bearing ignited the unloading conveyor belt causing extensive damage to the unloading system, its casing, destroying 25% of the accommodation and causing extensive smoke and water damage elsewhere. Firefighters flooded the unloading tunnel to extinguish the fire, and only a spring loaded water tight door saved the ship.
On July 12, 2006 it made "heavy contact" with the Canso Canal and received damage to its ballast tanks.
The ship had a major refit at Halifax Shipyard from June to September 1998, and had other repairs there in 1999.
In 2003 it received a major refit at Gdansk Shipyard in Poland, with upgrades to its unloading system.
Aside from its numerous visits to Halifax to load gypsum, it brought in cargoes of coal in February 2000, December 2002 and October 2003, unloading  onto pier 9D.
2. Unloading 24,000 tonnes of coal at pier 9-D, destined for Canada Cement/Lafarge at Brookfield, NS.
3. The ship's shallow draft allowed to come close to shore to unload. Tugs assisted it in moving along the pier face. On the left of the picture is the abutment of the MacKay bridge.

It also made several visits over the years to take on bunker fuel.
With the slowdown in the US economy following 2008 the ships visits have been fewer and fewer. My last photo was taken when she sailed on May 8, 2012.

Ambassador can unload at up to 5,500 tonnes per hour, depending on the cargo. Its boom is 76m long and can swing out 90 degrees to the ship and can luff (raise) 15 degrees. Its hold capacity is 36,542 cubic meters. Gross tonnage: 24,094 and deadweight of 37,263 tonnes.
Its new owners, Caraka Tirta Pratama Pt of Djakarta, have renamed the ship Pramudita and it now flies the flag of Indonesia. 

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Princess of Acadia - gone south

1. Princess of Acdia arriving in Halifax in June, when there was drydock space available for her.

Thanks to Bay Ferry Man [see link to his blog in My Faves] we have been notified that Princess of Acadia has gone to Charleston, SC for repairs to her bow thruster. He also tells us that this is the first time that the ship has left Canadian waters since it was built in Saint John in 1971. 
A frequent visitor to Halifax for repairs [she was here in May and June of 2012 - see previous posts] she will not be seen this time because there is no drydock space for her. The ferry was well suited to the Scotiadock II floating drydock (in fact it was the first customer on the dock) - but that option is no longer available.
Bay Ferry Man also asks if it isn't time for a replacement. It certainly is, and way past time in most minds. Although the ship is in pretty good shape, it is certainly well beyond its 30 year life expectancy. So we have to ask, what is the Minister of Transport waiting for? Any business that does not plan ahead for vessel replacement is considered to be poorly managed. We must come to the same conclusion about the Ministry of Transport. Even when it was built in 1971 everyone should have known that it would need replacement in 30 years, but politics has entered into the equation and now it has become some sort of football/ bargaining chip/ or chance for the government to "look good".
Instead we have a ship now that's best before date has expired, and which no longer meats the more stringent safety features required of  European ferries and passenger ships. Thank goodness it is powered with four GM EMD engines, permitting huge redundancy for repairs. These 16-645-E5s are endlessly rebuildable, and were specified by the first owners due to their experience with them as railway locomotive power plants.
The ship was indeed built for Canadian Pacific, but was taken over by the Canadian government in 1974, and remained under CP management until 1976, when it was moved to CN Marine - later Marine Atlantic. In 1997 Bay Ferries took over operation.
 2. In its early days with CP and later , for a time with Bay Ferries, the ship was painted mostly white.

Time and again the feds have have doled out money grudgingly to keep the ferry running, but it is now time to step up to the plate. The chances of getting a new Canadian built ferry for the run (or any new ferry) are probably pretty slim, and there is no surplus of used ferries kicking around, but from a standing start it would take at least a year to have a new ship in place.
Continued service unreliability can be expected in the meantime (through no fault of the managers) but the ship remains an essential part of the Nova Scotia economy and can't be ignored any longer.

3. Princess of Acadia looked best in Marine Atlantic livery. It needs a dark coloured funnel to balance it properly.

Jade C brings more track for CN

1. Jade C at pier 27, with hatches open and aft crane at work unloading rail. (January 17 photo)

Arriving January 16 the Jade C has a load of new rail for CN. The railway line has been spending around $ 1 bn per year for the last few years on upgrading its infrastructure of tracks, road bed and bridges. Much of the new rail has come in through Halifax from rolling mills in in Europe. 
Jade C was built as Jade-C for the Carisbrooke Shipping group by the Damen Hoogezand Shipyard. In 2009 the hyphen was dropped but ownership remained with Jade C GmbH of Germany, and management with Carisbrooke Shipping Management GmbH of Leer, Germany. The ship is registered in Douglas, Isle of Man. It is a multi-purpose general cargo ship of 7767 gross tons, 10,684 deadweight tonnes, and fitted with two 80 tonne cranes, and variety of tween decks and moveable grain bulkheads. It can carry 665 TEUs. It has pontoon type hatches which are lifted with a small traveling gantry (called an iron deck-hand on Great Lakes ships.).
Carisbrooke has become a sizeable company, now with 71 ships in its fleet.
On its first visit to Halifax in April 2005, the ship loaded tunnel boring equipment.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Bahama Spirit, Global Spirt,

Halifax is not haunted, but we did seem to have a coincidence of spirits today.

Bahama Spirit

 1. Bahama Spirit coming to anchor this afternoon.

First in was the bulker Bahama Spirit anchoring for bunkers. Although registered in Vanuatu, the ship is owned by Algoma Shipping Ltd of Sault Ste.Marie, ON, Canada's largest inland shipping company. 
The ship was built in 1995 as the conventional four crane bulker, San Pietro for management by Scinicariello Ship Management SpA of Italy, but registered in the Isle of Man.. It was built by Sanoyas Hishino Meisho Corp of Kurashiki Japan and measured 26.890 gross and 46,606 deadweight tonnes.
In 1999 Marbulk Shipping (then 50% CSL, 50% Algoma) acquired the ship and renamed it Freeport Miner while it was converted to a self-unloader. The cranes were removed and the typical Great Lakes type self-unloading conveyor system and boom installed.. The existing hold configuration was modified to gravity feed the two belt system.Thus the gross tonnage was revised to 26,792, and the deadweight tonnage became 44,389. The loss of carrying capacity is made up for by a discharge rate of 4,200 tonnes per hour.
In 2000 the ship was placed in the CSL/Oldendorff/Klaevenes self-unloader pool under the name Bahama Spirit . One of its first cargoes was a load of 30,000 tonnes of coal unloaded at pier 9 D in Halifax.
 2. On September 20, 2000 the ship was unloading coal at pier 9-D. It was in Marbulk colours at that time. Due to shallow water, the ship was held off the dock by tugs. They also moved it back and forth on mooring lines and anchors while it unloaded.

In 2004 Algoma acquired the ship outright and it has operated under a variety of managers. Currently it is managed by (Bernard) Schulte Ship Management-India. (Algoma partnered with the Schulte on the ill-fated tanker pool mentioned here:
The ship is a rare caller in Halifax, but is more often seen in the Strait of Canso or Sydney with coal.

Global Spirit

Today's second spirit is the PCTC (pure car and truck carrier) Global Spirit owned by Nissan.
1. Tugs are making fast to the Global Spirit to prepare for the turn into Eastern Passage.

Getting on in years as car carriers go, the ship was built in 1987 by Hitachi Zosen in their Innoshiima Tochigi Maru, In 1996 that was changed to Tochigi, becoming Global Spirit in 1999.It has none of the streamlined features of newer vessels and still has the open foredeck typical of older car boats.
Nissan has an owned fleet of about 11 PCTCs, and charters 12 more for its world wide operations.As with most such ships it will also carry vehicles for other companies to avoid "dead head" trips back to Japan. 
The ship is said to carry about 4,000 standard cars and measures 40,500 gross tons. In addition to the usual stern ramp and starboard side door, it also has a port side door.  In some ports this allows the ship to load and unload simultaneously.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

IT Interceptor finds work- so does Beaver Kay

1. IT Interrceptor shifting berths on December 11.

The cable ship IT Interceptor has been cleared to carry out emergency cable repairs and will be sailing in the morning. The ship has been standing by at pier 9 in Halifax for just such an event for the past several months.IT International Telecom Canada Inc operates the ship.
Because it is not a Canadian flagged ship (it is registered in Barbados) it had to apply for a coasting license to work in Canadian waters. The Canadian Transportation Agency made its ruling on January 14, that no Canadian ship was available, and forwarded it to the Minister of Public Safety for approval.
Interestingly the cable break is in a fibreoptic cable in the New Victoria area, at the mouth of Sydney Harbour. Could the parted towline of HMCS Athabaskan have been the cause of this break? (Just askin')

Meanwhile at the opposite end of the province McNally Construction's barge Beaver Kay has started work laying a power cable from Brier Island to Long Island on Digby Neck. The barge left Halifax in tow of Sandra Mary on December 16. They have been joined in Freeport by the tug Atlantic Spruce out of Saint John. The barge was fitted with cable laying equipment at pier 9 by IT International Telecom. They are carrying out the work, with McNally providing the tug and barge.

Craig Trans - horror story coming to an end for the crew

The drama of the tug Craig Trans, which has been detained in Halifax since December, seems to be playing out to a satisfactory conclusion, at least for the crew. An outpouring of assistance from the public including money, Aeroplan points, clothes, food and even haircuts will soon make it possible for the crew return home. Latest reports indicate that Aeroplan is expediting the transfer of travel points to arrange repatriation likely by the end of the week. The crew members are from Honduras and El Salvador.
The appalling conditions aboard the tug have been publicized by media and have gone viral. The owner however does not seem to have been shamed into taking any action. He claims crew incompetence, theft and a union conspiracy. He claims he will not pay them, nor will he repatriate them because they have done no work since the boat arrived in Halifax. CBC Radio's As It Happens managed to track down the owner, Gerard Antoine, today and the interview is worth a listen if you can find it.
If the crew leaves the tug, it will fall into the custody of the Halifax Port Authority (if it has not done so already) and will be sold to satisfy berthing fees and other charges.
If the remaining crew of hardy cockroaches survives the winter, they will certainly find Halifax a welcoming home come spring. By that time lets us hope this embarrassment of the seas is gone..

Provo Waliis - finally sold

The long drawn out process of selling the former CCGS Provo Wallis has finally been completed - after five tries!
Ownership was transferred earlier this month to Jason Beaulieu of Campbell River, BC. He is a co-manager, with his brother, of Pacific Cachalot Ltd, a company founded by his father Art. They own and operate a variety of watercraft including tugs, barges, and a river boat. Jason is also a noted stock car racer.
Provo Wallis was removed from service in January 2011 and renamed 2011-02. The sale process, managed by Crown Assets Distribution started with an initial call for bids late in 2011. A sale on January 4, 2012 for $406,000 fell through, as did a subsequent sale for $425,000 in February 2012. The ship was re-offered in April for a price of $350,000, and in June for $300,000, which attracted no qualified buyers, Finally in October  it was offered for a minimum $65,000 bid and a sale was announced as "in progress" on October 25 for $75,000.
Reading the fine print on CAD's website it transpires that the buyer must re-register the ship in his own name, a process which takes "approximately" 40 days.That period has elapsed, ownership has been transferred, and it is up to the new owner to remove the ship from its berth in Sidney, BC.
This once serviceable ship, which has been mouldering for two years, with certificates expired, may still have a future, but only time will tell.
A charity, associated with Youth With a Mission was also trying to raise the funds to acquire the ship for medical missionary work, but their web site has not been updated since November.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Naval Activity

Filed from a remote location:
Even though I was not in Halifax to witness these events in person, I was able to see the sailing of HMCS Toronto yesterday and the arrival of HMCS Athabaskan this morning thanks to the Nova Scotia web cams, with their 24 hour history feature.
You can set it a 10 min or 30 minute intervals.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

HMCS Athabaskan -latest

Now with temporary patches in place, and favorable weather, HMCS Athabaskan is scheduled to leave North Sydney at 0800hrs AST Sunday morning in tow of Atlantic Fir with Atlantic Elm as escort.
If all goes well the tow should arrive in Halifax Monday.

Nova Scotia archives - photo treat

The Nova Scotia Archives has published a series of aerial photos from the 1930s. There are some interesting views of the port of Halifax, not to mention some Nova Scotia outports (can you spot the steamship tied up in Port Williams?)

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Captain A.G. Soppitt

Atlantic Pilotage Authority's newest pilot boat Captain A.G. Soppitt is in Halifax fresh from the shipyard. This is the second boat built by ABCO Industries in Lunenburg, to the same design by Lengkeek Vessel Engineering. The first one, Chebucto Pilot, was delivered in June 2012.
 This new welded aluminum boat will be based in Saint John, NB, and was registered there on January 7. A ceremony  on December 6, 2012 in Lunenburg named the boat for Alwyn Soppitt the former CEO of the Saint John Port Authority, who retired in 2011. Capt. Soppitt's wife Eugenie was the sponsor. After a career at sea, and ashore as a marine superintendent, Capt. Soppitt joined the Port of Saint John in 1981 becoming Harbour Master in 1989 and President and CEO in 1996.

The $2.2mn craft can reach a speed of 18 knots, but is geared down to cruise at 15 knots, powered by a pair of Cat engines and can accommodate eight persons.
Following trials in the Halifax area, it is expected to enter service in Saint John in February.

I regret to report that Captain Soppitt passed away on January 1, 2013 in Saint John. Capt. Soppitt did attend the christening ceremony for his namesake boat in December. It is reported in an APA press release that he took the helm for a brief crossing of Lunenburg harbour.
For more on the career of Capt. A.G. Sopppitt:

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Los Angeles Express - LAX in Halifax

Not Los Angeles International airport (LAX) but L.A. Express, this afternoon as another big Hapag-Lloyd post-Panamax container ship arrived.
1. Los Angeles Express transits the lower harbour on its way inbound this afternoon. Escort tug Atlantic Oak is making up its tow line astern.

Los Angeles Express, built in 2003 by Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering of Koje, South Korea as Northern Magnum, was placed immediately on long term charter to Hapag-Lloyd, by its owners Norddeutsche Reederei H.Schuldt. These charters allow shipping lines to lock in a daily charter rate without carrying the cost of building the ship on their books. At the end of the charter the ship's owner is responsible for the ship, but has already benefited from depreciation and other accounting allowances.The arrangement may be particularly advantageous for certain German investors, where laws favour owner syndicates.
Los Angeles Express is another of the biggest class of ships to call in Halifax, at 6750 TEU, on a ship of 75,790 gross tons and 85,810 deadweight tonnes. Previously on Hapag's Asia-Europe Express route, it is now running transatlantic.
2. Tug Atlantic Willow has joined the procession as the ship lines up for the Narrows.

Spotlight on SN Olivia - but all is not sweetness and light

The sun made an attempt to break through the clouds this morning to spotlight the tanker SN Olivia as it arrived with another cargo of crude for Imperial Oil. The tug Atlantic Oak has a line to the stern for escort. All is not well in the Halifax crude oil business however.
The ship is one of two Aframax tankers owned by Scerni di Navigazione SRL of Genoa, and flies the Italian flag. It was built in China by Hudong Zhonghu Shipbuilding Corp of Shanghai and measure 60,193 gross tons and 109,005 deadweight tonnes. (Aframax tankers are 120,000 deadweight tonnes or less) It was built originally for another Italian company, d'Amato Fratelli as D.T.Vincenzo P.
The present owners acquired the ship in 2011. Gruppo Scerni includes Paola Scerni, a ship's agency company founded in 1840, but their entry into the tanker business only dates from 2010.
The ship is managed by V Ships of Monaco, and operates in the OSG International tanker pool of nearly 100 tankers.
 2. The ship's bow is encrusted with frozen spray. In order to be cleared to enter Halifax, its anchors must be free and ready for use. The crew has doubtless spent some time chipping and washing down with warm water.

The above is all very interesting, but one has to wonder how many more crude tankers we will be seeing in Halifax. As a columnist in the local paper pointed out last week, we have heard very little about Imperial Oil's attempts to unload the Dartmouth refinery (called Imperoyal). The move is to ever larger refineries (such as Irving Oil's Saint John operation) and small refineries like ours are on the way out. The recent closing of several small plants in the US and Montreal, and the earlier closing of the other Dartmouth refinery (at the end it was owned by Ultramar) does not bode well for Imperoyal. Buyers are not lining up, and the expectation is that it will be shuttered and become a tank farm, and distribution centre.
The Irving refinery is using increasing quantities of oil from the Bakken shale field in North Dakota. It has been arriving in Saint John by rail car, but this is a cumbersome method of transportation for large quantities, and there has been pressure to reverse the flow of the Portland pipeline, and to extend other Canadian pipelines eastward to use North American/domestic crude.
The recent embarrassment on the Hudson River may bring the pipeline debate to the fore in eastern Canada. Irving Oil hired the tanker Stena Primorsk to start a shuttle of Bakken shale crude from Albany, NY and bring it round to Saint John. Albany has huge rail yards and tank storage, and trains from North Dakota must pass through Albany en route to Saint John, so it made some sense to short cut the long train trip through New England and Maine. An eight day round trip was contemplated, which would take some of the pressure off the Saint John rail yards.It would also continue to make use of Irving Oil's extensive tanker unloading facilities.
Unfortunately Stena Primorsk ran aground December 21, 2012, 10 miles south of Albany on its first trip, after it lost power. It punctured the outer skin of the hull on rocks, but did not leak any oil. The ship had to be lightered off to barges, and go to New York for repairs.
Pipeline foes have become quite vocal on the west coast, and the United States Coast Guard is now conducting an impact study on increased tanker traffic on the Salish Sea and Strait of Juan de Fuca.The Province of British Columbia is not keen on having Alberta bitumen pipelines crossing its pristine wildernesses (those that have not been ravaged for forestry or coal mining) en route to Kitimat or other BC ports.
I am sure the USCG will also take an interest in crude oil traffic on the Hudson River, too.  The environmentalists have certainly chimed in on this one.
In any event the Imperial Oil refinery will not be part of the equation no matter where the crude comes from unless a buyer is found soon. Interestingly the tanker SN Olivia featured above, was in Portland, Maine on December 29, where it discharged a cargo. It was then granted a coasting license to carry 500,000 to 600,000 bbls of crude oil  from Whiffen Head NL, to Halifax, and or Canaport (Saint John) and or Point Tupper and or Portland, Maine (for the Montreal pipeline) between January 3 and Feb 1, 2013. It was granted this license because no Canadian flag tanker was available.
As mentioned earlier OSG Canada reflagged their sole Canadian tanker, Overseas Shirley, to the Marshal Islands in October 2012.  

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Highlanders in Novadock

1. Highlanders in Novadock at sunrise this morning.

The Marine Atlantic ferry Highlanders arrived at Halifax Shipyard January 4 and entered the Novadock floating drydock for refit work.
The ship has only been in service since April 2011, and was drydocked in Halifax as recently as April 2012. This seems an unusually short time between drydockings, but as a "new" ship perhaps this is to be expected.
Built in 2007 as Stena Traveller, the ship was extensively modified in 2010-2011 to run between North Sydney and Port aux Basques. It was shortened by about 13m and received additional passenger accommodation.
When it was acquired, the ship was to be chartered for five years with options for renewal.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Comment - re comments

I have recently received comments that I used the photographs of another photographer without his permission.
Here is what happened. I received the photos from a third party. That third party had asked the photogrpaher if the photos could be used on my blog. He had e-mail permission from the photographer to [quote] "do with them what you wish".
To my mind, that is permission.
However to avoid ill-mannered (and of course anonymous) comments in future, I will use only my own photos or those in the public domain through creative commons or other sources.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Vecht Trader, new for Melfi

1. Vecht Trader loads at pier 42 this afternoon, with Oceanex Sanderling in the background at pier 41.
Melfi Lines third ship arrived this morning for the first time. Vecht Trader ex Medatlantic, is much larger than yesterday's Heinrich J. At 15,375 gross tons, 18,350 deadweight tonnes, the ship has a capacity of 1296 TEU and is fitted with two 45 tonne SWL cranes. It was built in 2007 by Zhejiang Ouhua Shipbuilding Co Ltd, in Zhoushan, China, and flies the Netherlands flag..
Melfi Marine's revised schedule shows no more calls by the line until January 16 when Vecht Trader returns, followed by Novia on January 22 and Renate Schulte on February 11. From this it would seem that Heinrich J's visit was an infill to take up slack.

Patron to load grain

 1. Patron arrived at pier 28 last night.

With last night's sailing of Algoma Mariner, the grain berth at pier 27-28 was quickly occupied by another ship, this time it is Patron a Dutch flagged ship of a very different sort. A gearless multi-purpose carrier of 4,106 gross tons and 6,500 deadweight tons, it was built in 2008 for Canada Feeder Lines.
That company with its original roots in Canada in 2006, has dropped the emphasis on Canada and is now better known as CFL (not the Canadian Football League). It specializes in multi-purpose and project cargo ships of shallow draft and ice class. They are reputed to operate with lower emissions and lower fuel consumption than similar ships, but can maintain the same speed.
CFL intended to have a hub and spoke service to Canada, connecting with the now defunct Great Lakes Feeder Lines, but that has gone by the board, and the company is now a world trader. Their fleet of short sea ships were all built in the Netherlands by Peters Kampen Shipyard.
The current CFL fleet is being upgraded with new 10,000 deadweight ships, and so they are selling some off  some of their older ships. Such is the case for Patron which was originally CFL Patron until its sale earlier this year.
The ship still carries the distinctive green and white colour scheme, selected to emphasize the environmentally friendly ships, and their cleanliness and ice worthiness. The "CFL" letters still appear on the ships bows, but have been painted over, and today are coated with some frozen spray.

2. The letters "CFL" are still visible on the ship's bows.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

HMCS Athabaskan - yes there's more

Three new updates:

1. The RCN held a press conference today in which they stated that an engineering team had been dispatched to North Sydney to assess the condition of the ship before it is towed on to Halifax.
They also said that weather would determine when the tow might take place.

2. But just to add to the litany of issues surrounding this incident word has reached me that the tow entered, departed and re-entered Sydney harbour without benefit of pilotage. This would certainly contravene the Pilotage Regulations, since Sydney harbour is a mandatory pilotage port.
  There was an incident in Halifax a couple of years ago when a visiting French warship was advised by someone in the RCN that it did not require a civilian pilot because "we never use them". Canadian warships, under command of specially trained officers, are not required to employ a civilian pilot  in Halifax and with certain specific qualifications (but foreign naval ships are required to.)
Canadian ships over 1,500 gross tons (except ferries on their normal routes, and some other minor exceptions) are required to have a pilot in compulsory pilotage areas. Canadian government ships are not required to have a pilot. I assume however that they mean that the ship is under command.
  Exceptions to the pilotage Regulations can be made if the ship is in distress, if it is seeking refuge or if no pilot is available. However as I understand it the Atlantic Pilotage Authority must issue a waiver first.

An unmanned Canadian warship under tow would require a pilot in Sydney, if my reading of the regulations is correct, since it is over 1,500 tons.

3. The tugs Atlantic Fir and Atlantic Elm have arrived in Sydney, but apparently on spec. since the Department of Public Works and Government Services may have to re-tender the towing job. The Groupe Océan tugs Océan Delta and André H. have sailed and are on their way home.

Peter Ronna- small ship, well traveled

The small general cargo ship Peter Rönna * is certainly well traveled. It was recorded in Vancouver, BC in October and its last port before Halifax was Port Royal (Kingston Harbour), Jamaica.
Its arrival in Halifax December 29 was mostly unheralded, since it was not here to load or unload cargo for any of the established container lines. It also tied up at pier 37, a berth that is little used, since it has no shoreside crane facilities, only a large shed, but the ship was also met by the Canadian Border Services Agency. Ships from Jamaica usually receive extra special attention from the CBSA.
The ship was due to sail today, but is now scheduled for tomorrow.
Built in 2002 it measures 3,194 gross tons, 4,326 deadweight and has carried the names Sveno, BBC Sweden and Sandhorn. It is registered in Gibraltar and operated by Briese Schiffs. of Leer, Germany. 

* the name is also rendered as Roenna for those without the technology to type"ö"

Chapter Genta - last year and this year

The crude carrier Chapter Genta arrived December 31, 2012 at Imperial Oil, and this morning, after discharging its cargo, moved out to anchor to bunker and for some repairs in the rudder area.
1. Chapter Genta arrives December 31, 2012, fully loaded. 
(photo taken from Eastern Passage/ Shearwater)
2. At anchor, after unloading, the ship is high on her marks. 

Built in 2011 the Chapter Genta is registered in Panama and is listed as 83,850 gross tons and 156,480 deadweight. Her owners however are based in Beijing, China.

Heinrich J - outbound - but

Melfi Lines' Heinrich J got away for Cuba this afternoon after taking on a large cargo of containers, and the customary second-hand school buses and trucks. Not long after leaving the berth it was apparent that the ship was not going to be making much speed. In fact the pilot boat, which was following it along, made a u-turn and came back to its dock.
I hear that Heinrich J had a "cold fuel" problem, and was operating at reduced efficiency. The pilot boat returned to the dock to pick up a pilot for another inbound ship, and caught up with and passed Heinrich J  well before reaching the pilot station.
After disembarking her pilot Heinrich J proceeding to Anchorage Bravo to rectify matters.
Temperatures of minus 10 degrees C and more for the last two days have slowed down a lot of things in the Halifax area. Ships burning heavy fuel need to heat the fuel to give it enough viscosity to flow properly through fuel filtering systems which remove water and impurities and into the engines.Even diesel fuel can suffer from cold temperature, degrading its quality and trapping impurities and solidifying wax and other impurities.
One aspect of the ship noted on its departure is its asymmetrical appearance.The superstructure looks very different from the the starboard side, with a large forward extension at deck, which I assume to be part of the engine room ventilation system. Also it has a sloped edge to the house on this side only, due to the offset funnel and free fall lifeboat.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

HMCS Athabaskan - synopsis and update.

I have written so much on this, but perhaps it is time for a synopsis and some questions.

What we know:
HMCS Athabaskan was in refit at Seaway Marine and Industrial in St.Catharines, ON  when the government called tenders to have her towed back to Halifax before the closing of the St.Lawrence Seaway.

What we don't know is Why?
A spokesperson for the government told me - perhaps with tongue firmly in cheek, that towing was only Plan B in case the ship might not be ready in time to sail on its own.
We now know now that sailing on its own was NEVER a possibility. The ship had never been away from the dock at the shipyard, had done no trials of any kind, was totally immobile, had no crew assigned and did not have enough functioning systems to sail on its own.
This information must have been well known to the RCN many weeks before the towing tender was called.

Why wasn't the ship ready as originally planned?
There are two reasons: - the RCN piled on extra work due either to the ship's sorry condition, which they should have known about in advance, or because they grossly underestimated the time required to do the work. In any case it should have come as no surprise when December rolled around and the work was not completed.

Why was the decision made to tow the ship out instead of leaving it there for the winter?
The St.Lawrence Seaway is closed from late December to late March every year. It cannot be extended by any more than a few days, even in the best of weather conditions.This year was not the best.
By the end of March there can still be ice on Lake Ontario, but certainly trials could have taken place in April.
At the time I guess the optics would have been bad for the RCN or the government. It would not look good to have the ship frozen in over the winter. Some damage might have been incurred due to freezing in, but that issue could have been overcome with planning.
Also the shipyard has other work to do over the winter, and it might have been disrupted by having Athabaskan in the way, but again plans could have been made.

What planning was done for the tow itself? Was there any due diligence done by the Government?
Winter towing can be tricky stuff. We currently have three ships stuck in ports and two deficient tugs also stuck in port, waiting to tow ships out, not to mention one wreck on Scatarie Island that has not yet been removed. Coincidentally there is a huge oil rig grounded in Alaska after its brand new tug had a power failure.
1. The US tug Charlene Hunt is in St.John's NL to tow the abandoned cruise ship Lyubov Orlova to the Dominican Republic for scrap. The tug, in my opinion is unfit for the job, and was very nearly lost just getting to St.John's. The ship is in poor shape, and will not have a riding crew on board for the tow out. If it goes adrift it may well sink or go aground somewhere. Visualizing it coated with freezing spray in mid-winter, I can see no happy outcome of that tow if it is allowed to happen.
2. The Bolivian flag tug Craig Trans is in Halifax, detained for safety reasons, having missed its opportunity to get an old ship out of the Seaway before closing. That ship, also bound for scrap, would also be a candidate for going adrift in any season of the year and piling up somewhere.
3. The Miner wreck on Scatarie Island should have been an object lesson to anyone attempting a late season tow out of the Gulf.
4. The oil rig grounding in Alaska is only related because of the similarity of circumstances - a wild storm (common in the season) and well found tug (not expected to break down) BUT only one tug , and apparently also, no back-up plan or rescue tug nearby.
5. Calling for tenders a few weeks before needing the tow shows a woeful lack on knowledge about Canada's towing industry. There are not a lot of ocean going tugs lying around waiting for work! Most tugs are contracted for work well in advance, often a year or more ahead of time. Since most towing takes place in summer, they go into scheduled maintenance when the shipping season is over. I understand, for instance, that Ocean Delta was laid up in Quebec City with repairs planned for the winter.
The only other ocean going tug on this coast, Ryan Leet, is on long term contract for standby duties for Sable gas. (See Halifax Shipping News for photos of what that work looks like at this time of year.)
There are several coastal tugs around, anyone of which could make the tow in ideal conditions, but they would have no extra accommodation space for navy personnel, and would not be the "ideal" tug.
5. Regrettably one has to ask if the selected tug was really up to the job. Was a survey done by a third party?  Certainly with any merchant ship or ship with insurance, there would be a survey, and anything involved with the oil industry would have a survey before a winter tow. All the towing gear and proposed connecting points, bits, etc., should also have been surveyed and inspected. Its all part of due diligence.

Was there a back-up plan for the tow?
When things started to go awry with the tow, there did not seem to be any intention other than to go through with it. Wasn't somebody authorized to put the brakes on or find an alternative, or back-up tug? Apparently not. It must be said however, that once the tow left the shipyard, the next ICE FREE port was Halifax. There is no place to stop en route, where the ship did not risk icing in within weeks. Even Sydney is at risk of icing up, but not right away.. So perhaps they just had to make the best of it.

Why do bad things happen to nice people?
Perhaps this is just an example of  a combination of unforeseen circumstances, but I do not think so. I detect a basic problem somewhere in the equation that forced someone to say "Get that ship out of Port Weller, no matter what." Do I sense a political motivation here? Was there an attempt to avoid embarrassment to the military, and more specifically, the minster? 
Perhaps a degree of embarrassment is necessary once in a while to clean up a systemic problem.

Tugs from Atlantic Towing Ltd have arrived in Sydney, presumablyy to prepare for the resumption of the tow.

Renate Schulte - finally sails, Heinrich J too,

 1. Renate Schulte sailing at noon time today.

Renate Schulte sailed today after spending twelve days in Halifax, instead of the usual one day visit. Sailing for Melfi Lines, the ship arrived on December 21 with hull damage. [see previous posts] (Rumours persist that she acquired some more damage while berthing.) Cutting out the old hull plate, making necessary internal repairs and welding in the new plate took time, and the ship was caught up in the Christmas shutdowns.
Although the repairs were completed before the New Year's Day shutdown, cargo work was not finished and so she was held up again, until loading and unloading was completed today.
She took two tugs on departure, signalling to me that repairs to the bow thruster are yet to follow at a later date. 
All this time meant that the next ship in the Melfi rotation, Heinrich J caught up with Renate Schulte, arriving December 30. It was also held up for a time due to weather and came alongside Halterm on December 31. Its cargo work was also not completed  before the New Year's break, but should be done today, allowing it to sail more or less on time.
There is not a lot of "slop" built into these schedules, so some adjustments will have to be made to allow things to return to normal. Some shipyard time may be needed for Renate Schulte.

 2. Heinrich J arriving on December 30.

Heinrich J. was built in 1998 and is German owned, flying the flag of Antigua and Barbuda. It measures 5850 gross tons, 6770 deadweight.It is rated for 647 TEUs and has two 45 tonne cranes. Interestingly it was built in Portugal by Est.Navais de Viana do Castelo S.A.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

HMCS Athabaskan - amendments

(photo used with permission)

I have made a number of changes in yesterday's post on HMCS Athabaskan  based on better information.  I don't guarantee that my information is error free, and I certainly appreciate updates, corrections and editorial suggestions. Thanks to all who have helped 
I have crossed out errors and new information is usually in bold and italicized.

I also deviated, this time only, from my normal policy of using my own photos only. My 2013 New Year's resolution is not to use anyone else's photos. So thank you everyone who has offered photos, but I will not be using them in future. If you post them on Flick'r, Shipspotting or Ships Nostalgia, I will post a link and that would be preferrable, and would avoid any copyright issues.