Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Thalassa Desgagnés - any port in a storm

Thalassa Desgagnés rests at anchor in a peaceful Bedford Basin this evening , a little more than 24 hours after arriving to shelter from a storm.

The Dockyard barge YC 600 , which has been  moored to maintain the anchorage of the Defence Research and Development calibration barge, keeps the tanker company. 

High winds, seas (and driving rain) combined with the ship's very low freeboard meant that the pilot was not able to board at the pilot station. Instead the pilot boat lead the ship in to a sheltered position inside Meagher's Beach, where the pilot boarded safely. This is the second low freeboard ship in as many weeks to follow this procedure. (The previous one was the reefer Frio Kyknos).

For a time the ship that is now Thalassa Desgagnés did not look so pleasing to the eye, and came very close to being an abandoned wreck. The ship came down the ways of the Ankerlokken Verft Glommen in Fredrikstad, Norway in 1976 as Joasla In 1979 it became Orinoco and in 1982 Rio Orinoco. A double hulled asphalt tanker, it  traded world wide until October 16, 1990.

It had anchored off Anticosti Island, QC, with machinery problems and dragged its anchors and grounded. Fully loaded with asphalt, it was swept onto the shore by violent seas. Helicopters rescued the crew and the ship was declared a constructive total loss. However the owners of Transport Desgagnés believed that they could salvage the ship. In the summer of 1991, they mobilized a flotilla of tugs and their own ships, fitted with special boilers to liquify the rock solid asphalt. Once they had pumped off cargo, they were able to refloat the ship, and it arrived in Quebec City August 23, 1991 in tow of Irving Miami and Capt. Ioannis S.

Rio Orinoco, still smeared with asphalt, was laid up in Quebec City from 1991 to 1993 when Desgagnés rebuilt it and put it back into service as Thalassa Desgagnés.

Transport Desgagnés had been dry cargo ship operators only, but they were awarded ownership of the ship as salvage award. They rebuilt the ship in 1993 and it made its first trip in February 1994 as Thalassa Desgagnés. It measures 5,999 grt and 9,748 dwt. 

From this one ship Desgagnés expanded their tanker business, which, in terms of tonnage, is Canada's largest tanker fleet with seven coastal tankers and now two post-Panamax tankers which will join the fleet this year.

The ship sailed this evening for Providence, RI.
Important - see comments below


  1. "fitted with special boilers to liquify the rock solid asphalt. Once they had pumped off cargo" Not entirely accurate. After we got the contract to salvage the vessel, we put the ship boiler back into service. This is what we used to heat and unload 1,600 tonnes of asphalt into to the JAZ Desgagnés, which had been equipped with heated tank to keep the asphalt liquid until discharge. Although we used the ship boiler to heat the thermal oil, we could not use the ship heating coil since we suspected water in the asphalt. We use purposely made coil that we lowered on the top of the asphalt to only melt the top 16 feet of the tank and keep the bottom 16 feet solid to act as a plug to the damage bottom.

  2. "still smeared with asphalt" Not entirely accurate. The black that you see on the accomodation is not asphalt but the result of a fire sustained by the vessel while in MIL Davie dry dock. You can see the fire damage to the ship side underneath. The fire occurred when welders carried out hotwork on the hull while there was still asphalt residue inside.

    There was no spill of asphalt at any given time on the vessel.

  3. "were awarded ownership of the ship as salvage award" Not entirely accurate. The salvage job was done under a "no cure no pay contract" for a fix amount of $. The job was done, and the contract honored. In another completely independent process, Transport Desgagnés was the successful bidder into the auction to sell the vessel which had been seized by the governement to pay for the pollution clean up that had been caused by the vessel. In short, Transport Desgagnés bought the vessel fair and square.

  4. Thank you very much for this added insight.