Thursday, January 31, 2019

Elka Hercules at Irving Oil and a digression

The chemical and product tanker  Elka Hercules at Irving Oil Woodside is scheduled to sail early tomorrow morning after discharging cargo from Europe.

The ship has obviously been used to carry corrosive chemicals, if the condition of the hull paint is any indication. Fortunately on this trip it is carrying fuel. The ship is operated by European Product Carriers Ltd, the managing arm of European Navigation Inc of Athens. The company owns about 35 tankers of various sizes, all carrying the "Elka" prefix. This ship is one of the older ones, built in 2002 by Brodospas, Split, Croatia, and measuring 27,539 gt, 44,481 dwt.

Elka Hercules loaded the cargo in Amsterdam and sailed from there January 18,arriving here January 29. Irving Oil has a facility in Amsterdam that stores and blends product from its own refinery in Ireland and other sources.  Irving Oil also refines western Canadian crude oil at its refinery in Saint John,  NB, that is delivered by rail. One has to wonder, if Alberta oil is so vastly underpriced by world standards, how the European oil is competitive. There may be several answers. One might be the limitation of supply. Rail lines can only handle so much traffic, and if Irving has unmet demand, then the cost of the oil becomes secondary. Second is the high cost of refining oil sands crude (even if upgraded) compared to North Sea crude.

Irving Oil also sources overseas crude oil at its Saint John refinery. As far as I am aware none of that oil comes, at least directly, from Venezuela. However now with a virtual embargo on Venezuelan crude, there will be pressure on other crude suppliers for more product.

The Venezuelan situation is a reminder that the Imperial Oil refinery in Dartmouth (now gone) was built to process Venezuelan oil, and at one time Imperial Oil had important ties there.  A fleet of shallow draft tankers transported crude oil from the shallow Lac Maracaibo to Aruba where it was transferred to deep sea tankers. Those tankers came on to the various refineries on the eastern seaboard, including Dartmouth and even as far as Montreal in season. At one time Venezuela was virtually the ony source of crude oil for eastern Canada.

In 1941, while the United States was still neutral, a 236 mile pipeline was built between South Portland, ME and Montreal, alongside the Canadian National Railway's right of way. Tankers were then able to sail up the US east coast, in neutral waters, and discharge without entering the war zone. That was a short lived reprieve as the US entered the Second World War later the same year. However the pipeline continued in use until two years ago. It is now maintained in a "wet" condition to prevent corrosion, but is not used except when there is a disruption in delivery of western oil to Montreal by pipeline. When forest fires hit Fort McMurray two years ago and production was halted, the pipeline was in use for a time.

Talk of reversing the flow to deliver western crude to tidewater has met with public backlash in Maine and Vermont, and many municipalities have expressed their displeasure with non-binding ordinances against "dirty oil". Last summer a judge found in favour of South Portland's municipal ban on western crude. The major objection was pollution from vapour combustion units used to burn off the VOCs used to make tar sands flowable.  Concerns about leaks were also a factor. The case has been appealed to a higher court.

Even so, reversing the flow would be a costly measure involving replacement and reactivation of some pumping stations and replacement of some or all of the pipe itself. There were once three active parallel pipes. A 12 inch pipe was decommissioned in 1982 and an 18 inch pipe in 2011. The remaining pipe is 24 inches in diameter.


Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Halifax Port container stats disappoint

The Port of Halifax has issued its container statistics for 2018 with little fanfare. I guess that would be expected from one of the few ports to show a decline in container trade over 2017. Citing the results as "consistent with 2017" which was a record year, was about the best face they could put on it.

Briefly: The 4th quarter showed a 7.2% drop in traffic to 130,200 TEU
For the year that resulted in 547,445 TEU, down 2.1% from the 559,242 in 2017.

It is always amusing to put the port of Halifax in perspective with some other ports of the world.
Here are a few examples:

Montreal 2018: 1,679,351 TEU, up 9.2% over 2017.

Prince Rupert 2018: 1,036,009 TEU, up 12% over 2017.

Vancouver 2018: 3,396,449 TEU, up 4.4% over 2017.

It is still to early for the world's major ports to assemble their stats, but here are a few interesting numbers:

Port of New York / New Jersey to November 2018: up 6.5%. 2017: 6.7 mn TEU

Rotterdam seems likely to exceed 2017's total of 13.7mn TEU by over 6%.

Singapore does about 3 mn TEUs per month!

Halifax is rather small potatoes by comparison to any other known container port, and the loss of even one line or the rationalization of others (all of which happened in the last quarter) can make a significant shift in numbers.

Being able to accommodate larger ships would have made no difference to the results for 2018, but that may not be true in the years to come as larger and larger ships come on line.

The Port also unveiled its master plan last week, and to no one's surprise it featured an expansion of the southend terminal at the expense of the deepwater finger piers. The plan seems to be putting a great many eggs in one basket and leaves many questions unanswered.

While the debate goes on, I will have more to say on the master plan in future blogs.

 Things were a little bit cheerier in the non-container activity in the port.

Non-container imports were down 5.7% to 266,421 tonnes, but exports were up a startling 42.7% to 127,721. (The fourth quarter saw a 190.4% jump - mind you this amounts to only 20,000 tonnes, roughly one shipload.)

The non Halifax Port Authority part of the port (Autoport, the Oil Terminals, National Gypsum, etc.,)
saw an increase in imports of 7.2% to 2,381,302 tonnes and exports up 10.1% to 1,839,438 tonnes (the latter figure would be almost totally gypsum.)

The cruise business was also ahead of 2017 with the number of ships up from 173 to 198 and passengers up 8.2% to 316,869 PEU [JOKE WARNING: PEU = Passenger Equivalent Units].


1. The unlabeled photo at the head of this post shows APL Columbus when it called here December 12, 2018. The CMA CGM ship scheduled to call here January 21, APL Detroit, did not show up. It bypassed Halifax completely and continued to ports on the US east coast.

2. The unlabeled photo at the tail of this piece is a container (slightly abused) that is used to welcome cruise ship passengers to Halifax.  It is part of a gangway system that protects them from the weather - I guess it also prepares them for the sensory deprivation they are likely to experience in Halifax on a rainy foggy day.


Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Yantian Express fall out continues

The saga of the Yantian Express fire will be a long one and it is by no means over. HAPAG-Lloyd has declared General Average, meaning that all cargo interests will be required to post surety before retrieving their cargo. The surety is to cover the cost of saving the ship. This ancient custom of the sea has proven to be the best way to pay for salvage costs.

Meanwhile the ship itself is still en route to Freeport, Bahamas and may arrive on the coming weekend - a month after the outbreak of fire in its deck cargo. Until the ship is docked and adjustors get to have a look round, the extent of damage to cargo and ship will not be known with certainty.

Reports that the ship is underway on its own power, with tugs escorting means that some parts of the ship have apparently not been damaged seriously, if at all.

Meanwhile in Halifax two ships from THE Alliance have sailed. Shanghai Trader, the interim replacement for Yantian Express, sailed at noon time today, bound for Jebel Ali, UAE, the next port in the EC5 service eastbound port rotation.

A time worn Shanghai Trader sails this afternoon. It seems to be drawing a bit more water than it did yesterday, so perhaps some repairs were being made.

The second Alliance ship sailed yesterday. Dalian Express gave its next port of call as Port Said. That is not a normal call for the EC5 service, but is a call for the IEX India East Coast Express (which does not call in Halifax). Dalian Express was also four days late on this leg of its trip, so may be somehow "dragging its feet" to spread the schedule out to return to weekly calls at the scheduled ports.


Search Operation - with tragc result [updated]

At approximately 0215 hrs this morning the workboat Captain Jim lost power and began to take on water off Devils's Island, just outside the harbour. Of the three persons aboard two managed to escape and were recovered by the pilot boat Captain E.T. Rogers. The third person, an employee of the owners RMI Marine, could not be found and an extensive search was undertaken.
Regrettably he was trapped in the boat when it went down and did not survive.
The two survivors were wearing PFDs and required no medical treatment.

Devil's Island is a windswept dot of 12 hectares off Eastern Passage, the narrow inlet to Halifax Harbour to the east of the main channel. Its name is thought to be a corruption of Deval, Devol or Deville's Island. It is the site of an automated light house.

With water temperature at +1C and air temperature at -11C there was little hope that anyone could survive in the water for very long. The exact location of the sunken boat in approximately 12m of water took some time to be pin point. Coast Guard, Navy and civilians participated in the search operation.

In addition to SAR helicopters and fixed wing aircraft, CCGC Corporal Teather CV, CCGC Sambro, CNAV Sechelt and other Coast Guard and Fleet Diving Unit Atlantic small craft were on scene. The tug Atlantic Bear is also stood by. 

Captain Jim was a well found boat with a fibreglass reinforced plastic hull and weather tight cabin.

Captain Jim has been in a fixture in Halifax Harbour for many years carrying out launch duties such as small craft towing, personnel transfer and construction support. The boat was built in 1989 by Guimond Boats Ltd, Baie Ste-Anne, NB along the lines of a Northumberland Strait fishing vessel.
Originally operated as Atlantic Walnut for Atlantic Towing Ltd it worked in Saint John, NB before coming to Halifax. It was re-named for Jim Ritcy, the legendary founder of Dominion Diving Ltd, and mentor to many divers. RMI Marine is an independent company, not associated with Dominion Diving.

At the time of the incident the boat was transferring a person to or from a ship anchored off Halifax. Two ships, Star I a tanker bound for Imperial Oil and Elka Hercules bound for Irving Oil in the anchorages awaiting berthing.


Monday, January 28, 2019

Double Header

As THE Alliance scrambles to make up for the port calls missed by the Yantian Express fire, there was the rare sight of two ships on the same line, in port at the same time.

Two ships on the same line at Cerescorp, Fairview Cove this morning.

Dalian Express (a sister ship to Yantian Express) is on its regular routine for the EC5 service, having called here westbound January 13. It is now on the return leg eastbound, having picked up its own allocated cargo at US ports, and presumably some that was intended for Yantian Express.

Docked directly ahead at Fairview Cove is Shanghai Trader brought in to take up Yantian Express' eastbound cargo. Although remarkably high in the water, the ship appears to be close to capacity. That would indicate that a large proportion of eastbound containers are empties headed back to Asia.

There did not seem to be any cargo handling going on, but there was quite a bit activity at the dockside with truck cranes.

Shanghai Trader came out of the Hyundai, Ulsan shipyard in 2005, built for charter work. It has been owned since new by the Offen Group, but has carried a sort of Who's Who of names: 2005: P+O Nedlloyd Delft, 2005: Maersk Dolores, 2010: Santa Patricia, 2010: Cap Scott, 2012: Santa Patricia, 2012:  SCI Nava Sheva, finally taking its current name in 2015. It has been on the spot charter market ever since. At 54,809 gt, 76,255 dwt and a capacity of 5047 TEU (including 550 reefers) it is significantly smaller than the ship it is replacing: Yantian Express 88,493 grt, 100,003 dwt, 7506 TEU (700 reefers).


Kivalliq W. fire and Yantian Express update

Shipboard fires, like fires on land, are a fact of life, but some are far more serious than others. A recent fire aboard a gas tanker in the Crimea which resulted in an explosion involving two ships and resulted in the loss of scores of lives is fortunately a very rare event.

Some fires are minor, often because they are extinguished quickly. Such appears to have been the case aboard the tanker Kivalliq W. on Sunday morning at Imperial Oil dock 4. By 0600 hrs when the ship's crew were unable to control a fire in a generator compartment they called in Halifax Regional Fire and Emergencies Services, which in turn called upon the expertise of the Department of National Defence Fire Department. The latter have special training in shipboard fires, and thanks to these combined efforts the fire was extinguished by 0800.

Most engine room and compartment fires on ships are fought using CO2, which smothers the fire, but only works when the compartment is completely sealed so that no oxygen can get in to fuel the fire. Ships carry a large supply of CO2, but that can be used up quickly if the fire area cannot be sealed off. There is also a substantial waiting period before the compartment can be re-opened and cleanup operations can start.

Modern ships have a variety of generators, used to provide electricity separately from the propulsion engines. These are sometimes in the engine room itself, but others are mounted high on the ship outside the engine room to ensure that power is available in an emergency. Tankers also have additional generator capacity to power cargo pumps. It is not clear which generators were effected in the Kivalliq W.
The ship will be moving later today to pier 9C for repairs.

Kivalliq W. arriving from Quebec in December.

Kivalliq W. has been working a shuttle service from the Valero refinery in Lévis, QC to Imperial Oil. As an ice class vessel it is well suited to this kind of winter work. Its first arrival here December 1, 2018
is covered in a previous post.

Imperial has other sources of refined product, so will unlikely run short of supplies, but the ship may be out of service for some time.

It has been mentioned in some accounts that Imperial Oil no longer has its own fire service, as it once did when it operated a refinery. I am not sure if that team was equipped to handle shipboard fires. It seemed to me to equipped to fight fires on land within the refinery complex.

As to what other resources might be available in Halifax to fight a shipboard fire, that is a topic that had been the subject of debate ever since the Halifax in 1917. Over the years a variety of fireboats have been operated by the former City of Halifax, and the Royal Canadian Navy.  Nowadays harbour tugs are fitted with firefighting capability, and there is no dedicated fireboat in the harbour.

Obviously a fire of any sort on a tanker, if not extinguished quickly, could result in ignition of the cargo. When the ship has been carrying gasoline and other refined products, and is tied up to a fuel storage facility, the consequences could be serious. Perhaps we dodged a bullet this time.
Meanwhile that other shipboard fire - this one of a very different nature - on the Yantian Express - is apparently under sufficient control that the ship is able to head for a convenient port, under its own power. The fire was confined to the cargo area in the forward portion of the ship, and the engines and accommodations were not effected. The ship's officers returned to the ship, but they must have been supplemented by a new crew to help run the engines, provide catering, etc., 

At this point the ship is headed for Freeport, Bahamas, with the tugs Maersk Mobilizer and Sovereign working as escorts, but also standing by in case of a new outbreak of fire.

Friday, January 25, 2019


After a wild night off Halifax with wind gusts approaching hurricane strength, it is no surprise that pilotage operations were suspended until this morning.  When they did resume its was Captain E.T. Rogers doing the duties as pilot boat.

Under the watchful eye of an eagle, perched on the chimney top of the George's Island building in the background, Captain E.T. Rogers returns from a pilotage assignment.

Captain E.T. Rogers has been brought in from Saint John, NB to help out in Halifax while the regular pilot boats are out of service. It is no stranger to Halifax however, as it was built for service here in 2012 and named Chebucto Pilot. In 2017 it was transferred to Saint John to join a sister boat Captain A.G. Soppitt Both boats were built by ABCO Industries in Lunenburg to the same design, and the transfer was intended to rationalize maintenance and operations by having two identical boats.

Horizon Star makes its way inbound for The Cove (former Dartmouth Coast Guard Base.)

Also returning to port this morning as soon as pilotage services resumed was the big OSV (Offshore Service Vessel) Horizon Star. It sailed from Halifax January 15 for the burning Yantian Express carrying salvage equipment and possibly personnel.  That ship is slowly heading for Freeport, Bahamas, in tow and with its chore accomplished Horizon Star has returned to port.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Thursday's report

Halterm was running efficiently this morning with one ship leaving and another arriving right on its tail. The Icelandic Steamship Co (Eimskip) had their regular caller Skogafoss in this morning for a short stay on its westbound trip. It sailed at 1130 hrs.

On sailing Skogafoss has some CMA CGM boxes on deck on for its New England feeder service.

The inbound Jennifer Schepers timed its arrival to take the berth just vacated by Skogafoss.

Skogafoss and EF Ava are the two ships servicing Eimskip at the moment. However a third ship, Lomur is to join the rotation in February. Last year the line increased it to three ships to provide a weekly service to and from Iceland  and a New England feeder from Halifax for CMA CGM.

Skogafoss is a chartered vessel and has been calling here since 2011. Last March 9 its charter was extended for a year, but there has been no word yet on another extension. Built in 2007 by Sainty Shipbuilding in Yangzhou, the 7545 gt, 8210 dwt ship sailed as Ice Bird until 2011 when it took up the Eimskip charter, (Briese Schiffahrts are managers.) Fitted with a pair of 60 tonne cranes, the ship has a capacity of 698 TEU, however that goes down to 425 if they are all loaded to 14 tonnes.

As soon as Skogafoss had passed Jennifer Schepers turned for Halterm. The RCN kindly provided an escort. 

 Jennifer Schepers is also a feeder container ship, serving ZIM with service to New York and Kingston Jamaica.

It is a 21,108 gt, 25,775 dwt ship with a capacity of 1795 TEU (including 319 reefers0 and has two 40 tonne cranes. Taizhou Kouan Shipbuilding Co built the ship in 2009 as Mistral Strait, but it was renamed BF Copacabana on delivery, taking its current name in 2016. 

At the other end of the harbour things were more quiet. There were no ships at Fairview Cove, and in Bedford Basin two ships sat at anchor. Onego Rio has been there since January 14 after unloading rails at pier 27. Tomorrow it is due to move to pier 28 - reason not yet known - it is not scheduled to load or unload.

The other Basin resident is the impressive Super Ice tanker Gotland Carolina I am always impressed by these ships. Even though they are the same size (29,283 gt, 53,160 dwt) as most product tankers, they look bigger. Perhaps it is the large superstructure and full width bridge.

The ship was built by Guangzhou International in 2006 and is one of several ships of its class managed by Hafnia of Denmark. A company founded in 2010 by former Torm executives, on January 10, its shareholders agreed to merge with BW Tankers. Hafnia's 37 tankers added to BW's 50 plus will give a sizeable fleet. [ Look back to December 27 for more on BW Tankers.]

Gotland Carolina has also just taken up a new two year charter with Clearlake (the world's largest tanker charterers)  at a rate of $US 12,200 per day. For that kind of money I wouldn't expect the ship to be sitting too long before its next asssignment. Its last port was Paulsboro, NJ, in the Philadelphia chemical region, and it has been in Halifax three or four times in recent years, and is well known on the St.Lawrence River in winter.


Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Pilot Boat follow up

In my last post I mentioned that the regular pilots are out of service and back up boats have been brought in. It now transpires that on January 16 while Scotia Pilot was approaching to board the pilot on the container ship YM Enlightenment, the boat lost power and collided with the ship. There was damage to the boat but it was able to regain power and return to base. There were no injuries to the three persons aboard the boat.

Later in the day it moved to Dominion Diving's dock in Dartmouth Cove and Fundy Pilot, which had been tied up there, was brought into service.

This morning Scotia Pilot was still at Dominion Diving, but had its engines running. Due to the extreme cold  (-10C) I could not tell if this was exhaust smoke or vapour from cooling water.

Whatever damage there might have been to the boat it must be on the port side (against the dock) and was not visible from my vantage point.

 Engine reliability is critical to safe pilot operations, so until the boat is operating reliably, it is not likely to return to service.


Monday, January 21, 2019

Weather fallout

As predicted Sunday's storm resulted in the suspension of pilotage operations in Halifax from Sunday pm until 1500 Monday.

Some ships managed to squeeze in and out of port before conditions worsened. The container ship Paxi sailed and the bulker Salarium arrived. Thorco Liva also sailed, but continued on to Portsmouth, NH where it will eventually load cable at Newington. East Coast also sailed, and headed for Portland, ME. It must not have unloaded all its cargo here at Irving Oil and Imperial.

Scheduled arrivals put back out to sea. Maersk Penang and Algoma Integrity stood well offshore and although pilotage operations resumed at 1500 hrs today, it took the ships until 1630 and 18630 respectively to reach the pilot station. Although not listed on yesterday's arrivals, APL Detroit would normally have arrived Saturday or Sunday. It arrived at the pilot station at 1700 today.

Tropic Hope went to anchor well into St.Margaet's Bay and put off arrival until tomorrow. Since the preferred berths at Halterm are now occupied there was no point in coming in tonight and having to shift berths again tomorrow. The autocarrier Delhi Highway has also put off coming in until tomorrow.

Salarium is listed to depart tomorrow also. Since the storm moved off in a northeasterly direction, it ran the risk of catching up with it before reaching Cabot Strait. Also Algonorth will move from its standby berth at Pier 9C to Imperial Oil.

It seems that there have been many more suspensions of pilotage operations in the last six months than anyone can recall. Scientists have observed that weather is becoming more severe, and that storm events in particular are more intense. Therefore the risks to vessels and to pilots are increasing, and it is with safety in mind that these suspensions are becoming more common.

The Atlantic Pilotage Authority is also at something of a disadvantage at the moment with both its regular Halifax pilot boats out of service.

The Nova Pilot and Scotia Pilot were only acquired in the summer of 2017 and have been less than reliable. In part this is due to their water jet propulsion system, which is apparently somewhat fragile and prone to leaking. Both boats were built as pilot transfer and crew boats for use in protected waters, and may not be durable enough for the rigours of offshore pilotage.

Nova Pilot was sent to Meteghan for repairs late last year and has not yet returned. Scotia Pilot was removed from service last week and is tied up at Dominion Diving in Dartmouth. Filling in are the veterans A.P.A. No.18 (built in 1974) and Fundy Pilot (built 1983). Both were serving as backup boats elsewhere, but are now in daily service here.

The veteran APA No.18 is one of three similar boats built in the 1970s and still answering the call.

Fundy Pilot has been here since June, orginally to fill in for the Scotia Pilot. It is now in regular use  as both Nova Pilot (shown here) and Scotia Pilot are out of service.

Certainly conditions have been extreme lately, and it is unlikely that any pilot boat could have stood up to some of the recent weather. However that may be the new normal, and if so durable pilot boats will be essential to the smooth running of the port.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Weather Bump

Always a factor at this time of year, weather will have a bearing on shipping activity Sunday January 20, as storm passes up the Bay of Fundy, with snow and or rain and high winds.

One ship will be leaving port because of the storm. Thorco Liva, which has been anchored in a very light condition in Bedford Basin since January 8 will put to sea to ride out the weather. During the last day of high winds, January 9, the ship dragged anchor at least twice and had to take a pilot to re-anchor. The ship will sail at 0700 hrs Sunday morning.

Photo taken one week ago shows very placid conditions - unlike what is expected in the next 24 hours.

The Irving Oil tanker East Coast is scheduled to sail at 1015 hrs Sunday, but that is tentative. It is docked at Imperial Oil, and will have to leave that dock if conditions get rough, and would likely then anchor in the harbour.

Among the arrivals scheduled for Sunday is Salarium at 0500. After discharging a cargo of salt in Saint John during the week it is en route back to the Magdalen Islands. It also anchored in Halifax during the last storm on January 1.

Maersk Penanag arriving from Montreal is due at 1615.

Algoma Integrity is due at 1900. The plan is to anchor until the storm has blown itself out, then take on a load of gypsum.


More Algoma in Halifax

Algoma Central Corporation is on the move again with more acquisitions.

The Algoma Tankers division's Algonorth arrived again today on its shuttle run from the Valero refinery in Lévis, Quebec for Imperial Oil. In view of impending bad weather - including high winds tomorrow - the ship tied up at Pier 9C to wait it out. Since the ship arrived from Sweden at the end of November it has been dedicated to the Halifax run.

Algoma got into the tanker business when it acquired the remnants of the Imperial Oil fleet in 1998. When Imperial closed its Dartmouth refinery, Algoma tankers became rare sights in Halifax. Imperial began to source it refined products in the US or Europe, but has now apparently done a deal with Valero. Most of what Valero refines is now sourced from western Canada, via pipeline to Montreal. Shuttle tankers transfer the crude to Lévis where it is refined. At one time the product was sold under the Ultramar label, but labels don't mean much anymore as far as origin is concerned. (For example, under cover of darkness tonight, Irving's East Coast will shift from the Irving Oil dock to Imperial dock 4 to discharge some cargo.)

Inbound in the Narrows, the ship's colour scheme fits well with the surroundings. I will be sorry to see it repainted in Algoma's deep blue. I will also miss the distinctive white stripe..

The ship's last name, Ramira is still visible above the new name. Due to the stenciler's spacing it looks like two words, but is one.

The ship went into Bedford Basin far enough to turn around.  Although accompanied by the tug Atlantic Fir from the lower harbour it was not until the ship had turned that the tug came along side and made fast.
Back under the A.Murray MacKay bridge again it headed for Pier 9C.

Built in 2008 by Tuzla Gemi Endustrisi in Turkey, he 12,164 grt, 16,8979 dwt tanker was named Gan-Gesture until 2009 when it was acquired by Alvtank Rederi AB and renamed Ramira under the Swedish flag. A DNV Ice class 1A vessel it is well suited to a winter shuttle service between Lévis and Halifax. The ship was registered in Halifax November 9, 2018, but did not arrive in Canada until November 30. Its first arrival in Halifax was December 11, 2018.

Algoma's deep sea fleet will also be growing as they announced Friday that they had made an offer to acquire the Oldendorff Carriers GmbH + Co interest in the CSL International self-unloader pool. In 2016 CSL and Algoma divided up the Klaveness ships in the pool which will now have only CSL and Algoma ships. In this transaction they will acquire three Oldendorff ships.

The three ships in alphabetical order are:

Alice Oldendorff, built in 2000 by Shanghai Shipyard, measuring 27,825 grt, 48,000 dwt. It is called a hybrid self-unloader. A conventional bulk carrier with four cranes and clamshells it was then fitted with a complex hopper, conveyor and swing boom arrangement. All the gear is above deck, which allows for greater hold capacity, and could be retrofitted with minimal modifications to the ship. Unloading rates are dramatically slower than the "built in" systems. Alice Oldendorff unloads at 750 tonnes per hour versus 5,000 tph or more for the other ships.

Alice Oldendorff  in Bedford Basin with a less than full cargo of gypsum.

Harmen Oldendorff dates from 2005 when it was built by Damen Okean in Mykolayiv, Ukraine. It was then completed as a self-unloader in 2006.  Measurements changed from 41,790 gt to 42,033 and 66,500 dwt to 66,187 dwt with the conversion.

An (old) Panamax size ship, the self-unloading gear is mounted forward, where it takes up less cargo space in the hold.

 Sophie Oldendorff also an (old) Panamax, was built by Jiangnan, Shanghai in 2000 to the same design as two CSLers in the pool, Sheila Ann and CSL Spirit.  The largest of the three ships, its tonnages are 41,428 gt, 70,369 dwt (or 70,034 according to CSL).

Seen here at National Gypsum in Dartmouth on its first call, the ship has a midships mounted self-unloading system, with an articulated boom.

Algomna will thus have a 40% interest in the CSLI pool, which numbers 18 self-unloaders. When the transaction is finalized in 2Q 2019 Algoma will have eight of them. One, Algoma Integrity, is due in Halifax tomorrow (weather permitting) for another load of gypsum.

Purchase of these ships for a reported $100mn was made possible by the refund of deposits on four ships that were to be built by Uljanik's 3 Maj shipyard in Croatia. The yard has been closed due to financial issues, and could only deliver one of five planned ships. The refund amounts to $115mn.
Algoma has also extended options for three ships with the Yangzijiang shipyard in China. These ships may join the domestic or ocean fleets.

On the domestic front Algoma's Great Lakes fleet is shrinking (temporarily at least) as two veteran lakers have been laid up ready to go for scrap next year. However with one new delivery last year and another in February the number of ships will remain the same year over year.

The ships that have been retired are:

 Capt. Henry Jackman (ex Lake Wabush -87) built in 1981, and converted to a self-unloader in 1995-96.

Capt. Henry Jackman, before conversion to a self-unloader, in the US Seaway between the Eisenhower and Snell locks.

Algowood, also built in 1981 was a self-unloader from the beginning.
Algowood approaching the Iroquois lock dressed all over to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of Algoma Central.

Both ships were confined in their travels to the Great Lakes / St.Lawrence system and did not venture into the ocean.

Algoma also has interests in cement carriers and smaller ships through other allliances.


Friday, January 18, 2019

Elegant Ace - background check

Another of Mitsui OSK Line's car carriers arrived today. The company has a fleet of 120 of these ships, so it is little wonder that I have not seen this one before. Operating as Auto Carrier Express, MOL  farms some of the ships out to various other lines, and charters some in.  Although managed by MOL, this one is owned by Polar Express SA and registered in the Cayman Islands, suggesting that It is actually owned by someone else.

The former cable ferry LaHave II is now a spudded work barge for Dexter Construction.

As Elegant Ace tied up in the background at Autoport, work continues on a major upgrade to the adjacent McAsphalt pier. Formerly Dook's dock, the pier is a series of dolphins joined by a catwalk that carries the insulated pipeline.

For all the world like Wile E. Coyote, sawing off the tree limb from the wrong side, a concrete breaker demolishes the old dolphin at the end of the McAsphalt jetty.  The new, much more substantial dolphin is on the right in the photo.
It will be interesting to see how the machine is removed when it has finished its work, since the dolphin is connected to land only by a light catwalk.

The work is being carried out by Waterworks Construction, since 2017 a division of the Municipal Group of companies that includes Dexter Construction, a major road builder, and a competitor of McAsphalt in the paving business.

Elegant Ace also appears in the background as Mister Joe tows the dredge Derrick No.3 from Halterm to pier 9. The dredge began work this week and is knocking off for the weekend, and relocating to  Pier 9 due to a forecast of bad weather on Sunday.

At pier 25 Bomar Rebecca catches the last rays of afternoon sunshine. It works for Tropical Shipping, where the shade canopies over the bridge wings are of some use some of the time, but seem somehow out of place in January in Halifax. In the background the moon rises over the port bridge wing.

The ship is apparently sitting out a couple of trips for Tropical, as it did not sail this week, and its newest fleet made Tropic Hope is due again for next week's trip.


Thursday, January 17, 2019

Ferries - controversial and political - amended

For some reason ferries in this country almost always have some controversy associated with them, and they become political issues.

Quebec is no exception. As previously reported,[ ] the Matane to Baie-Comeau and Godbout ferry F.-A.-Gauthier was withdrawn from service before Christmas due to technical issues with its propulsion system. It was finally towed to the Davie yard in Lévis last week. Original estimates were that it would take two weeks in drydock to determine the problem. It seems now that correcting the problem may take even longer. A recent move by the Société des Traversiers du Québec [STQ] confirms that suggestion.

STQ came under heavy criticism for having no back up ship , and many other unfair comments about their service. Certainly the F.-A.Gauthier's problems (and this isn't the first) have caused huge inconveniences for travellers and truckers, but STQ has managed to cobble together an alternative, and has even agreed to compensation. Expecting them to have a back-up ferry available on short notice seems to me to be a bit much.

STQ was able to secure the interim services of CTMA Vacancier, but that will end February 1* [see addendum]. Now STQ has announced the purchase of Apollo from Labrador Marine Inc [Woodward Group] for the bargain basement price of $2.1mn. Expected to be a candidate for the scrappers, Apollo, dating from 1970, is likely the best and only option open on short notice.

Woodward's replacement ferry for the Apollo on the Strait of Belle Isle service from Blanc Sablon, QC to St.Barbe, NL  is now due in St.John's January 20. It is steadily making its way across the Atlantic at 10.6 knots, having stopped in Pta Delgada, Portugal on January 13.

The Qajaq W. is a two deck ferry, with one deck open to the weather. Built in 2010 as Muhumaa in Lithuania it measures 5233 gt. There have already been doubts expressed about its ability to service the demanding year round route, but it has been operating in the Baltic for all these years. It is an ice class 1A ship with a capacity for 300 passengers, 120 cars and 8 trucks. Apollo can carry 240 passengers, 80 cars and 6 tractor trailer.
To add insult to injury the Apollo had a fire in its starboard engine on January 15, one mile off Blanc Sablon and returned to port on one engine. Reports indicate that the damage was confined to the engine only, so it may be possible to repair it before February 1.

Canada's aging ferries on both coasts certainly are a cause for concern, and several new ships will be needed in the next very few years. It is unlikely however that many of them will be built in Canada.

The latest problems with the Nova Scotia - Maine service, where Portland had to be changed to Bar Harbor as the US port have been complicated by State of Maine and USA politics. If Nova Scotia agrees to pay for US border services in Bar Harbor, maybe they should pay them directly as they are getting no other pay right now.

A new ferry for Pelee Island in Lake Erie has still not entered service despite being delivered from Chile in June of 2018 (and that was a few months late). Red tape from Transport Canada is blamed, but I am sure there is more to it than that. Chile is a free trade partner with Canada, but apparently there are still problems since the ship was not classified or surveyed by Lloyd's Register before its arrival. It may enter service in the spring.

Several other ferries are due or overdue for replacement including the Northumberland Strait ferries. That is likely to resolved with a pre-federal election promise sometime this spring.

Also the previously mentioned Trans-St-Laurent is still soldiering on after 56 years in service. Davie is eager to build a new one, but there is demand for year round capability, so that may be an expensive proposition as Rivière-du-Loup is very shallow and not exactly ice free. It may have to dock in Cacouna in the winter - possibly with icebreaker assistance.

On it goes.

* Addendum
In a surprise move the Quebec provincial government cancelled the permssion given by the previous government to seek a replacement for CTMA Vacancier. Madelinots are aghast that after many consultations with the ancien regime, that the new government would reset the process to zero.
It's always political.

More Yantian

One reason I shifted from my paper version of Shipfax to a blog nearly ten years ago, was that I could reduce the amount of correspondence required to answer questions. All that letter writing took away from valuable ship watching time!

But the questions keep rolling in - now by e-mail. However I can also answer those via the blog.

1. The mysterious arrival of the crew.

Press reports announced the arrival of the Filipino crew of Yantian Express in Halifax on January 14. They were welcomed in Halifax by the Mission to Seafarers, and were flown home. Glad to be alive no doubt, but sadly out of work at least for a time.

However there was no mention of how they actually got to Halifax from mid-ocean. We know they were evacuated from the Yantian Express by the SMIT Nicobar but that tug was on scene until recently (it has since been relieved and is en route to Veracruz, Mexico).

The only explanation I can offer is that the sister ship Dalian Express, en route to Halifax, must have deviated slightly from its normal course and conducted a mid-ocean transfer. Dalian Express arrived in Halifax on Sunday January 13.

Why this operation was not explained by the press is certainly mysterious. However news is controlled this days, so we only learn what we are meant to learn.

The ships officers were not included in the evacuees that landed in Halifax. They have remained with the ship - mostly to control machinery I would say, to preserve refrigerated cargo and perhaps to steer  the ship.The officer alone would not able to rig a long distance tow line - that would be the work of the salvors.

2. Why is the ship's position always referenced to Halifax

Yes the ship may be closer to Bermuda but Halifax was the destination  of the ship and some proportion of its cargo. Salvors and shipowners, not to mention cargo owners, would like the ship to land at its destination port if only to simplify matters. Landing the ship and cargo in Bermuda would be a massive headache, if only due to the space and equipment needed to unload.

Ships in distress often want to get into the nearest port before they breakup or sink, but in this case there is not the same sense of urgency as far as we can tell. The first concern is to control and contain the fire. When that is done, the ship will be safe to tow anywhere.

Looking at prevailing winds and currents, and the effort required to tow a very big ship, a decision may be made to go to a port other than Halifax but that decision may not need to be made for a while. As long as the ship is generally headed northwest (that is toward eastern North America) they are making progress. It does not take much course deviation from that far out to shift to New York or Halifax.

3. What is with the tugs?

This what I know:

Atlantic Enterprise is en route back to Newark. I have no explanation of what its role might have been. If the plywood over the winch control house windows indicates damage to the winch controls themselves, that damage was not repaired in Halifax, and it returned to sea still with the plywood panels over the windows.

SMIT Nicobar was en route to Mexico when it was called in to assist. It has been released to continue on its way now that fleet mate Sovereign has arrived.

Maersk Mobiliser has exceptional capabilities and as the most powerful tug would be the most likely tug to tow the ship, but it is hired at a daily rate. Sovereign on the other hand is a SMIT company tug, and might be more economical. Then Maersk Mobilizer could use is greater  firefighting capability and be a base for firefighters, salvors, etc., There might also be less expensive resources available or if Mobiliser has other commitments, it could be relieved.

Horizon Star has additional resources aboard to assist. Its helicopter platform might be of use when it is closer to land, but as of now they are way beyond the flying range of any shore based helicopters.

Firefighting is the primary effort now. That would be followed by controlling drift if the wind is hampering fire fighting. Only then would towing to destination become a priority.

As I stated in the first post on this topic, fires on container ships are notoriously difficult to fight - particularly if they are deep seated within the ship.

End of Question Period.


Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Yantian Express - endless speculation - updated

People are eager to learn how how things are going with the fire fighting and salvage of the ship Yantian Express. This can result in speculation which spreads and is reported as fact. Regrettably this does little except to keep the situation on the front page. [I plead guilty].

Here is what we know for certain:

The Fire
HAPAG-Lloyd's press release of January 10 stated that the fire was under control.
That does not mean the fire is out.

The fire apparently started with containers on deck, but H-L warns that there is likely direct or consequential damage to containers below deck. [see previous posts]

The tugs SMIT Nicobar and Maersk Mobiliser have very good firefighting capability. However they would have limited quantities of foam on board, and if they were using foam, they may have exhausted supplies by now. If Maersk Mobiliser was towing the ship, it would be difficult for it to fight the fire at the same time. However it also has superior accommodation for evacuees. It is likely it brought fresh supplies of food, etc., from St.John's

As the more powerful tug on scene, it would make sense for it to tow the ship. It is also Canadian and presumably has been hired for the duration of the operation, and thus would be best to tow it to Halifax.
SMIT Nicobar was en route to Mexico when it was called in, so would likely be the first to be relieved of duties if it has contractual obligations elsewhere.

Sovereign (the former Union Sovereign), also a SMIT / Boskalis tug was due to arrive on scene today. It would be bringing fresh supplies as well as more firefighting capability. It is a slightly more powerful tug than SMIT Nicobar, with 178 tonne bollard pull versus 120 tonnes.

Atlantic Enterprise set out from Newark on January 7, but encountered bad weather. It did receive some damage too, so put back to Halifax, the nearest safe port where the damage could be repaired. It is sailing from Halifax at 1800 hrs this evening. Its exact role is certainly a question. It may have been carrying more fire foam, and it does have firefighting capability, though much less than the other tugs.

>>Update Atlantic Enterprise sailed from Halifax this evening giving its desintaiton as Newark, NJ.

Horizon Star another Canadian supply tug has also been dispatched to the scene. It sailed from Halifax early this morning. Also a very large vessel it is equipped with numerous resources, including a helicopter deck. Although well out of any helo rage now, that might change depending on weather and direction of the tow.
It also has survivor accommodation and would have stocked up in food, etc., Since Yantian Express's crew has been fed and watered for nearly two weeks on SMIT Nicobar, grub must be running low

The Tow
In most salvage contracts the destination port is designated. Halifax is the logical one, however weather and the safety of the ship is also a factor, so the actual destination of the tow will not be known for certain for a while.


Monday, January 14, 2019

Acivity north and south

There was activity at both ends of the harbour today.

In south end off Halterm, McNally Marine began to mobilize for its dredging contract. The tugs Mister Joe and J.F.Whalen moved the Derrick No.3 into position off the end of pier 42. One of the mud scows has also been moved from pier 9 to pier 23, which will be the operational base for the work.

The dredging is the first phase of the pier extension and is expected to take at least two months. A second phase is to build the concrete cribs that will be sunk in position to form the pier.

Rounding Ives Knoll in the southend the autocarier Siem Cicero headed inbound for Autoport.

The tugs Atlantic Willow and Atlantic Larch shepherd the ship around Ives Point.
(Atlantic Larch is temporarily assigned to Halifax while Atlantic Bear is in Saint John assisting with the LNG tanker Pan Europe.)

The ship has been calling here since its maiden voyage. See Shipfax July 21, 2017
With a capacity of 7,000 cars,  it is one of the larger autocarriers.

Moving from the southend piers to anchor in Bedford Basin, Onego Rio passed in and out of the late afternoon shadows from waterfront buildings.

The ship arrived January 6 and unloaded a cargo of rails at pier 27. This what I said in my January 7 post:
 " Onego Rio  is a 7576 grt, 10,300 dwt ship built in 2003 by Damen Okean in Mykolayiv, Ukraine. It carries a pair of 80 tonne capacity cranes."
Since there is no severe weather in the immediate forecast, the ship is likely waiting for orders. 
It will join another ship that is waiting for orders, although the orders may be well known:

Thorco Liva rests at anchor in a very frigid Bedford Basin Sunday morning.

Thorco Liva will likely be heading for Newington, NH to load fibreoptic cable, and is just waiting for the a date to be there.

At pier 9C in the north end, beside the usual crop of suppliers, Trinity Sea at 9C and Horizon Enabler fueling at 9, the tug Atlantic Enterprise appears to be getting some repair work to a window in its winch house. A piece of plywood has been hastily applied.

Atlantic Enterprise picked up a coating of frozen spray on its trip up from New Jersey, and perhaps a broken window in its winch control house.

For more on the tug, see: Tugfax January 13

What its role will be in the Yantian Express is a bit of a mystery. SMIT has dispatched another tug from Rotterdam. Sovereign is due at the ship Tuesday, joining fleet mate SMIT Nicobar and Maersk Mobiliser. Sovereign is well equipped for fire fighting with dual water/foam monitors.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

A touch of levity

In a bit of departure from the normal Shipfax post here is a touch of levity for a change.

"Buster" Keaton's 1921 move "The Boat" is a classic in nautical humour. The star is of course Keaton himself, but the boat called Damfino is certainly entitled to to at least second billing. It's name will become apparent during a Morse Code conversation at about minute 15 in the version I prefer.
(There are several versions on the net, but I like the one that includes the original titles.) 

See the movie here:
Built on a very fine lined hull, owing its ancestry to sailing craft, it was obviously cobbled together by the studio for comic effect.

However if you want a more realistic boat, another Keaton film may fill the bill.

"The Love Nest" (1923) features a schooner fitted out as a whaler with an unlikely crew:

There is of course the full length "Steamboat Bill Jr." (1928) featuring big stern wheel river steamers.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

CMA CGM Libra - biggest yet

The size of container ships calling in Halifax is creeping upward. Having passed the 10,000 TEU threshold last year, the new benchmark has been set by today's arrival, CMA CGM Libra.
Listed at 131,332 gt, and 131,292 dwt [CCS] the ship is a hefty 363.61m overall length x 45.6m width and draft 13m. Container capacity, depending on the source, is in the 11,200 to 11,388 TEU range, including 800 reefers.
Hyundai Heavy Industries in Ulsan built the ship in 2009. They also built its main engine under license from MAN B+W. It can propel the ship at 25 knots. CMA CGM has 13 sister ships in its fleet, so we might expect to see more of this size, although none are currently scheduled.

Atlantic Oak squares up to push on the ship's bow to make its turn. The tethered escort tug Spitfire III is out of view off the stern.

It is rare to find details about a ship's cost and value, however CMA CGM Libra was aground off Xiamen, China for eight days in May 2011, and an adjustor's report revealed an assessed value of US $120 mn for the ship. At the time is was only partially loaded, with 5,983 containers, but the cargo they contained was valued at $367mn and the containers themselves at $14mn. There was also in excess of $1.5mn in bunker fuel aboard. Even though there was minimal damage to the ship, some containers and some fuel had to be lightered off, and it took nine tugs to refloat. The salvage award was $9.5mn under a Lloyd' Open Form (No Cure No Pay) + SCOPIC. The owners declared general average and there was an 8% charge on contributing value for the cargo carried.

The days of larger ships are upon us, as CMA CGM Thalassa is due on February 2, and it is rated at 10,980 TEU.


Friday, January 11, 2019

What's in a name

Ship's names are always an interesting topic for research and speculation. These days ship names are becoming longer, often accompanied by a series of initials, or worse still, numbers, and thereby depersonalizing the ships.

The arrival on January 10 at Irving Woodside of a tanker with the three letter name Pag was therefore intriguing. Turns out there is no great mystery.

Pag is owned, indirectly, by Tankerska Plovidba DD of Zagreb, Croatia, a small operator of five tankers, but part of a larger company that also operates bulkers and cargo ships. Pag is the name of an island, and a town on the island, just off the Croatian coast in the North Adriatic. Croatian owners are fond of naming ships after their towns, and therefore this is a logical choice.

The ship was built, apparently under Turkish auspices by SPP Shipbuilding Sacheon in 2015. It is typical 
of its type, at 29,735 gt, 39,900 dwt, and flies the Croatian flag. It arrived from Saint John, NB with a partial cargo of refined product for Irving Oil, loaded orginally in Amsterdam.


ZIM Friday

 ZIM Vancouver arrived this morning signalling another step in ZIM's many service and route changes.

Zim Vancouver comes up on the turning point to back into pier 42 Halterm, in a light snow flurry.

It is a 4250 TEU vessel with gross tonnage variously reported as 39,906 or 41,482 (such a discrepancy is hard to account for). Deadweight tonnage is generally agreed to be 52,232. The ship was one of a large series built by Dalian Shipbuilding Industry. Launched in 2007 as ZIM Vancouver it was soon renamed Pearl River I and reverted to ZIM Vancouver in 2012.

ZIM's ZCA service calls in Halifax on Fridays, and ZIM Vancouver has been added as the eighth ship on its 13 port rotation from the Mediterranean to the east coast of North America. ZIM's remaining Halifax service, a weekly feeder links with their Kingston Jamaica hub.

The ZCA service is run in association with THE Alliance as their AL7 service, as is evident from the number of HAPAG-Lloyd/USAC, ONE and Yang Ming boxes on the well-loaded ship.

Competing shipping lines have often joined forces to maximize efficiency of their ships. In fact they formed shipping conferences and other forms of joint ventures that controlled rates. These were eventually declared monopolistic and banned  by the EU ten years ago. However the lines have continued to find other ways of working together.
These have included alliances of various sorts and even lead to the consolidation of the three major Japanese container lines under one common ownership.

Another aspect to all this is fuel costs. Surcharges to cover price increases and slow steaming by ships to save money have become a fact of life. By consolidating competing line services, adding more ports to a line, by reducing speed, and by sharing ships, and thus reducing the total number of ships required, the lines can increase profits.

ZIM was one of the last independent hold outs as the giants Maersk, MSC and CMA/CGM found work arounds by basically renting space on their ships to other lines.  The lines would still compete on rates and other charges, but would find it easier to fill their ships for each trip. By making better use of ships, the total number of ships required can be reduced and each ship would carry more cargo on each trip.

Faced with mounting losses ZIM has now done deals with the major world players to share routes and "swap" cargo space (slots) on the ships. This is not a bad thing - either for ZIM, the other lines and presumably for their customers. For now at least it assures that there will continue to be rate competition, and that efficient routes will be established. As long as ship supply exceeds demand, this situation will persist. The various deals allow ZIM to shed a number of chartered ships. It had the highest proportion of charters among major lines, and stands to save a great deal of money as a result.

The traditional ZIM service ZCS that began calling in Halifax in 1972 has been merged into the 2M alliance of  Maersk and MSC, and no longer calls in Halifax. Halifax has also been dropped as a port on ZIM's ZCI service. Instead there is the weekly feeder service to the Kingston, Jamaica hub. The ZCI service is now run in association with THE Alliance (HAPAG-Lloyd,  ONE and Yang Ming). ZIM also has arranged for space on the Columbus loop service operated by CMA/CGM, COSCO and Evergreen that does call in Halifax.

ZCA /AL7 serves ports in the following rotation:  Mersin, Ashdod, Haifa, Izmir, Livorno (added), Barcelona, Valenica, Halifax, New York, Savannah, Norfolk, Valencia, Tarragona, Mersin.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Paul Johansen

A delightful looking vessel is tied up at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. Since yachting season is well over, it is unusual to see a pleasure craft there at this time of year. However this is not an ordinary pleasure vessel.

 Cross moored at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic.
Paul Johansen is one of a class of thirteen boats built between 1963 and 1972 for the Norwegian Society of Sea Resuce and was intended to brave adverse conditions. In fact this one was based in the far north at the fishing port of Grylleford/Senjahopen (Troms).  

It came from the Smedvik shipyard in 1970 and is powered by two Detroit diesels of 264 bhp, and is fitted with a bow thruster and stabilizers. The steel hull is rated ice class "C" and the superstructure is aluminum. It sleeps six and is equipped with all the expected amenities.

Except for construction activity aboard CSS Acadia and the new Queen's Marque project, the Museum pier is otherwise idle for the winter.
After service with the Society it was owned from about 1990 by Simon Mokster Co of Stavanger, but since 1996 or thereabouts it has been in private ownership in Washington State. Used for pleasure and for chartering it has apparently travelled widely.

The current owner commissioned this emblem which also carries the boat's former rescue service number RS79. There is a more detailed description on the boat's web site.

I first spotted the boat in Lunenburg in 2017 while it was undergoing a refit, which seems to have been completed this fall. 

There is a website for the boat, but it is quite out of date. Perhaps there will be some revisions now that the boat  is back in service. From other sources the boat also appears to have been transported by heavy lift ship in 2016, but from where to where is a bit of a mystery. Perhaps west coast to east coast.