Friday, July 10, 2015

What's in a name

Ship naming can be contentious, as you are no doubt aware if you have read my various rants on the subject in these pages. No matter the appropriateness of the names, they often tell a story.
Three arrivals in Halifax today all have names which do tell stories.


Today's arrival of the Cunard flagship Queen Mary 2 marks the 175th anniversary of Halifax native Samuel Cunard's first transatlantic mail ship, Britannia. The obvious success of that venture will be celebrated during the day today and on the ship's departure at 2000 hrs, with an escort of harbor craft and HMCS Montreal.(decent pictures may be difficult.)

This is the second Queen Mary in the Cunard fleet. The first, which still exists as a static display in Long Beach, CA was one of the great transatlantic liners of the steam ship era. While it may not have been the greatest (Cunard's first Mauretania probably takes that honor) it was certainly worthy of commemorating by naming another ship after it.

Cunard historically just re-used names, Mauretania being just one example, but in 1967 when planning a new liner, (project name Q.4), they made the revolutionary decision to append the numeral "2" to the name Queen Elizabeth. The move horrified purists and old fogeys (I wasn't one then, but may be one now).

The method of naming was done to make it clear that the ship was not being named after the reigning monarch Queen Elizabeth II, but after a preceding ship, Queen Elizabeth. It was the last of Cunard's great transatlantic steamers, distinguished in war and peace, and regrettably outmoded by air travel and withdrawn from service in that year. People got used to the "2" and QE2 became probably the best known ship in the world.

Therefore no surprise that when QE2 was up for replacement, we got QM2. Queen Mary 2 shows every sign of equaling or surpassing Queen Elizabeth 2's fame. Its arrival in Halifax after a transatlantic crossing reminds us that, names aside, there is still something wonderful about a big Cunarder "steaming" across the Atlantic Ocean, and thanks to the inspiration of Sir Samuel Cunard all those years ago that image is still alive today.

Two other ships that arrived today have names that tell stories, even though the ships themselves may figure farther down the food chain than a transatlantic greyhound.


Still in its first month of service running from Halifax to St-Pierre et Miquelon, after a ten year absence, the former Shamrock now carries the tongue twisting name  Nolhanava. In my last posting on the ship I admitted to being stumped by the origin of the name, but thanks to an anonymous reader I am told that it is an amalgam of two names, Nolhan and Ava -the the children of the ship's owner.
Naming ships after people, and particularly family members, is a long tradition, particularly with local fishing and coastal craft. It results in distinctive names, unlikely to be used by others,  and often memorable.


Arriving in Halifax, possibly for the first time under that name, the self-unloading bulk carrier has called here many times under its previous names Algobay and Atlantic Trader.

Built in 1978 as a maximum size St.Lawrence Seaway bulker, but with coastal capability, it has brought grain to Halifax and taken away gypsum since its original construction as Algobay.
It has been a regular caller for gypsum at Little Narrows in Cape Breton, and has carried salt from Saint John, NB and other commodities to smaller Maritime and Newfoundland ports. It was rebuilt to a higher classification which allowed it to operate internationally under the Liberian flag from 1990 to 1993, and also did a stint on charter to Canada Steamships Lines as Atlantic Trader from 1994 to 1997.

After years of hard service, the ship was laid up in 2002. It was due for replacement, but at the time the Canadian shipbuilding industry was in no position to build such a ship, so owners Algoma Central Corp opted for a rebuild. This was to take place in China, with the Chengxi yard building a new forebody, re-using  the aft section of the existing ship. Even that portion was to be heavily rebuilt, with new engines and refitted accommodations.

The ship was towed to China, via the Mediterranean and Suez Canal.[see footnote]
Once the rebuilding was completed in 2009, the ship was reinforced sufficiently to sail back to Canada - but this time on its own via the Pacific Ocean and Panama Canal. It therefore became one of the few Great Lakes ships to have circumnavigated the globe. It loaded gypsum in Halifax in 2010 and brought a cargo of grain in 2011.

In 2012 Algoma wished to honour the retiring Chairman of their Board of Directors and renamed the ship Radcliffe R. Latimer. Under Mr. Latimer's guidance the company had become the largest shipping company on the Great Lakes. The ship itself represented the beginning of a larger fleet replacement program, called the Equinox project, where entire new ships were to be built in China for Great Lakes service. Mr. Latimer was also instrumental in that process.

Great Lakes ships often carry the names of important figures in the business of shipping, banking, steel making, grain trading and other industries that support trade on the inland waterway. Although not unique to the Lakes, this naming tradition has been much more prevalent there, with scores of ships named for leading and lesser lights of mercantile history. Someday a woman's name may appear on one of these ships - that would be a welcome break from tradition, which even old fogeys would be wary of decrying..

Forming a floating Who's Who, Great Lakes ship's names also offer a free history lesson for those who care to look up the names. Several interesting books under the general title of Namesakes of the Lakes are worth a read if you can find them.

For a more detailed history of the ship see Boatnerd's account, which aside from some missing details about the tow to China, is very thorough:

More on the Algobay tow:
It began in Hamilton, ON, May 13, 2008 with the tugs Lac Manitoba (which sank last month off Cornwall, ON), Vigilant I (the former navy tug Glenlivet II) and Commodore Straits (built in Halifax, which sank last winter at Trois-Rivières). At Montreal the tow was passed to the Greek tug Hellas (which went on to infamy when it lost the tow of Miner off Scatari Island, NS in 2011-the wreck was finally cleared just this month) and sailed May 25.
In mid-June the tow was taken over by Simoon (a frequent caller in Halifax towing oil rigs) off Gibraltar and proceeded to Suez, where there was a one week delay in getting canal clearance. Four canal tugs were needed to escort it through that narrow body of water. In late July Simoon was experiencing engine troubles off India and another tug, Seahorse 7 was chartered from Korea, finally arriving off Shanghai September 7, 2008.
Simoon was sold to Greek owner, renamed Panormititis and was broken up itself in 2012. It towed several lakers to breakers in Turkey and as far away as Bangladesh during its career.
Seahorse 7 originally Japanese, was broken up in 2013.



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