Friday, March 29, 2019

Ferbec - not ready yet

The bulker Ferbec arrived in Halifax March 13 to re-register in Canada on completion of a winter charter under the Barbados flag.

There have been some signs of life on the ship, but it apparently is not ready to go back to work yet. About mid-month the registry port of Bridgetown was painted over, and in the last day or two "Sorel" has reappeared on the stern. However as of this afternoon the ship was still flying the Barbados flag.

The delay may be due in part to ice conditions in the eastern Gulf where the ship will have to go to pick up cargo for its regular run. Havre St-Pierre was one of the areas hard hit by heavy ice, but now appears clear. However there is still quite bit of ice showing off Sept-Iles. The St.Lawrence River has a lot of broken and slush ice too depending on the area.

This particular ship is not the first  to use the delightful acronym "Fer" [iron] and "Bec" [Quebec]. The first Ferbec served CSL on the same Havre-St-Pierre / Sorel-Tracy run from 1977 to 2004 when it was retired and scrapped.
Ferbec number one, in the Narrows, lining up to enter the Novadock
While the colours in many of my older photos are "off" the slight pink tinge to the white bow paint is real. Despite constant hosing down, the iron ore dust clung to everything aboard the ship
A much bigger ship of 35,562 gt, 55,988 dwt, Ferbec (i) was a gearless bulker built by Ishikawajima Harijma [IHI] in Tokyo in 1966. It worked for NYK Line under the Japanese flag as Fugaku Maru. In 1977 Power Corporation of Canada Ltd, then parent company of CSL, acquired the ship and it took up the charter to QIT [Quebec Iron and Titanium]. From time to time the ship also carried iron ore from Port Cartier to Contrecouer.

Ferbec takes a break at its home port of Sorel.
In winter it was sometimes re-assigned, and I have record that it operated between Baltimore and Antwerp over the winter of 1979-1980. This may have been because of the Fednav position at CSL at the time.

As with the current Ferbec it was the largest ship in the CSL domestic fleet. In 1984 the ownership was vested in CSL Group Inc and in 1992 Canada Steamship Lines Inc, as the owners of CSL transitioned.

Ferbec did call in Halifax from time to time, usually for drydocking and layup. As an {old} Panamax ship, it fit neatly in the Novadock at Halifax Shipyard.

Lacuna, towing Pittco II towing Pitts No.12 past a very full Novadock.

CSL raised the ire of Greenpeace in December 2004 when the Ferbec was reported sold for scrap to India. The ship was believed to contain hazardous substances, which would not be recycled properly in that country due to its lack of environmental standards and unsafe working conditions.

On January 3, 2005 the ship's Canadian registry was closed and the ship was soon renamed Michalakis by new owners Sea Maritime Corp. The ship was admitted to Mongolian registry in the "port" of Ulan Bator and on February 1, 2005 it sailed from its layup berth in Montreal. It arrived, under its own power, at Alang March 24, 2005 where it was soon broken up.


Wednesday, March 27, 2019

A Doubly Glorious Day in Halifax for Ship Watching

Bright spring sunshine, but air temperature barely above freezing, would not normally register as a glorious day, particularly a doubly glorious day, however today was different. That's because there were two auto carriers in Halifax, one named Glorious Ace and one named Glorious Leader.  Operated by competing Japanese lines,  ~Ace by MOL, which calls all its auto carriers "ACE" for Autocarrier Express and ~Leader by NYK which calls all its auto carriers Leaders.

I have made note of Glorious Leader before, since it has called in Halifax many times, and its name likely reminds everyone of North Korea's despotic leader who likes to be thought of as glorious, just as his father did.

Glorious Leader on a previous visit.

Glorious Leader was built in 2007 by Stocznia Gdynia in Poland, has a capacity of about 6700 cars, and measures 57,692 gt, 20,999 dwt. Owned by Ray Car Carriers it is on long term charter to NYK Line.

Glorious Ace is a new one for me, built in 2010 by Minami Nippon, in Shitanoe, the 58,939 gt, 18,836 dwt ship has a capacity of 5291 CEU. It is fitted with a 100 tonne stern ramp, which allows for carrying some heavier cargo than just cars. However it is a relatively small ramp compared to some newer ships where the capacity exceeds 300 tonnes.

After unloading at Autoport, last night the ship moved over to pier 31 this morning where its giant sized name was just visible above layers of security fencing.
On departure the Glorious Ace held off until a tanker was past Ives Knoll inbound for Imperial Oil.

All but the smallest ships are using the western channel in and outbound these days as Dominion Diving is working off York Redoubt, I believe on underwater cables for the navy's static sound range. Since the western channel, also known as the deep water channel is relatively narrow ships are taking turns in and out to avoid meets.

Ridgebury John B makes its way inbound in the western channel, keeping well clear of Dominion Warrior (right background) working in the main channel.
The Marshall Islands flagged Ridgebury John B is a 28,063 gt, 45,975 dwt Mid Range product tanker, built in 2007 by Shin Kurushima, Onishi as Challenge Pioneer. It was acquired and renamed by current owners Ridgebury Tankers in 2014, an American company, and is assigned to the Danish based Norient Tanker Pool. It was here once before in November 2014, shortly after joining Ridgebury.

The ship is inbound from Ijmuiden (Amsterdam) for Imperial Oil, and has been waiting outside for a couple of days for Algonorth to off load. Normally ships from Amsterdam are for Irving Oil, so this is a bit unusual.
Algonorth has now gone to Bedford Basin to anchor. It has been doing the Lévis / Halifax shuttle (with its last trip from Montreal instead) for most of the winter, but may now be waiting out for a spell for a new assignment since the St.Lawrence Seaway is more or less open for business.

There was other traffic in the harbour today, but mostly regulars, including MOL Partner which made a good impression squeezing through the Narrows en route to Cerescorp in Fairview Cove.

The 6350 TEU ship is on its eastbound leg for the EC5 Alliance service. It was westbound March 9 and it appeared in that day's Shipfax.

I mention it again only because the three big Japanese shipping companies, K-Line, MOL and NYK are fierce competitors in most lines of shipping (see auto carriers above, for example) but agreed to merge their container lines to survive intense competition from the giants Maersk, COSCO, MSC and CMA CGM. However the merger has been much more difficult than originally hoped. The Ocean Network Express, ONE, (see magenta containers in photo above),  is losing money hand over fist as it tries to gain that magic "synergy" so beloved of merger fans. So far not so good. Vastly different corporate cultures and computer systems are at the root of the problem.

New ships are being delivered with magenta hull paint and ONE names, but the ships of the component fleets, at least so far, are retaining their "heritage" names and liveries. 


Jana Desgagnés - another update

Jana Desgagnés arrived early this morning in Sydney harbour, docking at the government wharf, safely delivered by the tug Lois M. and assisted through the ice by the CCG. Potentially nasty situation averted.

Jana Desgagnés docked in Rimouski, one of its regular ports of call. 
Note the ice knife over the rudder.

After posting my last I recalled that Jana Desgagnés' sister ship Dara Desgagnés (ex Diamond Star) had a similar rudder problem in 2013, and arrived in Halifax for repairs.

I took some photos of the arrival from the Macdonald Bridge which showed the rudder jammed off centre.

By coincidence perhaps, Dara Desgagnés is also arriving in Sydney this afternoon. The third sister Esta Desgagnés (ex Emerald Star, ex Emsstern) is trying its luck with the St.Lawrence Seaway, which is open for another season despite lingering ice. So far Esta has made it up to the US locks, and is likely to spend the night just below the Eisenhower Lock. CCGS Martha L. Black is breaking out the Thousands Islands area.

Other ships are bogged down, particularly at the east end of Lake Erie where ice has piled up similar to the situation in the Gulf, thanks to persiting west winds. Two CCG icebreakers, Pierre Radisson and Griffon, are beating their way through rafted ice to make a channel for Welland Canal traffic.

Nordpol - maybe last call

A pair of ships that have been regular haulers of bauxite to La Baie, QC for RioTinto Alcan have been sold to Chinese owners.

Nordpol and Nordkap were built in 2002 by Kanasashi Heavy Industries in Toyohashi, Japan as Kamsarmax ships of 40,066 gt, 77195 dwt. (Kamsar is a major bauxite port in the Republic of Guinea in West Africa, where ships are limited in size to 229m long). Originally owned by Wealth Line Inc and managed by Fukujin under Panama flag, they moved to the Danish International Register in 2006 for current owners Norden A/S. It is likely that the Norden were the owners all along, but the shipyard financing deal included some form of "charter to own". 

Both ships have called in Halifax before. Nordkap in February 2007 for propellor repairs due to ice damage.
Nordpol was last here March 7, 2013 for a similar repairs to ice damage. It is now due again (March 27) after a trip through the Saguenay and Gulf.  This time it appears to be for fuel, since the ship is only in port for a few hours.

I posted some photos during that last visit:

Since comparable photos are impossible nowadays due to port fences, this is the best I can do.

The new owners have not been identified by name nor is there any indication yet what trade routes they may follow, however the ships were built for the bauxite trade and china needs bauxite. The en bloc price was quoted as $14.5mn.


Monday, March 25, 2019

LeeWay Odyssey at work

The survey vessel LeeWay Odyssey was at work in the lower harbour today, sporting its newly acquired grey hull paint. The ship was drydocked in Lunenburg over the winter where it was repainted from the red colour it inherited when the ship was acquired from the Coast Guard in 2015. The ship has been operating for the last week or two, mostly in Bedford Basin.

LeeWay Odyssey glides along the Dartmouth shore this afternoon. It appears to be deploying some sort of survey gear as it goes.

Now operated by LeeWay Marine and based at The Cove in Dartmouth, the ship is used for what is described as  data acquisition, which includes a wide variety of surveys and soundings. It is also available for other types of research and patrol work.

Breton Marine of Point Tupper, NS (now defunct) built the ship as Cape Harrison and its sister vessel Louisbourg in 1977. They were to be mid-shore fisheries patrol vessels  and were built of aluminum with high speed MTU engines to achieve 20 knots. In a now familiar story, the boats had "weatherability" issues - in other words they could not operate in some conditions and were therefore not fully utilized.

Sister vessel Louisbourg, as delivered, arriving in Halifax at a smart speed. It was painted a smoky grey, much darker than RCN grey, to avoid detection by fishing scofflaws.

Cape Harrison was moved from Newfoundland to the Gulf of St.Lawrence for seasonal operation as a research vessel renamed Louis M. Lauzier in 1983. In 1986 its thirsty 4500 bhp MTU engines were replaced with 2145 bhp V-12 Cummins for a comfortable cruising speed of 13.5 kn.
By this time the Department of Fisheries vessels had been folded into the Coast Guard as the Minister of Fisheries took over CCG vessels from the Minister of Transport. Cape Harrison  and  Louisbourg had thus changed their designation from FPV (Fisheries Patrol Vessel) to CCG.

In 2005 as Louis M. Lauzier was converted back to security patrol work with accommodation provided for three RCMP officers. It was re-fitted with fisheries equipment from Louisbourg.  In 2014 the vessel was replaced on its patrol duties by the Hero class boats (which have their own "weatherability" issues) and laid up in Sorel, QC for disposal. It was renamed 2014-03.

LeeWay Marine was the successful bidder when it was finally sold in September 2015. They quickly renamed it LeeWay Odyssey and sailed for Halifax where it has been based ever since.

Leeway has refitted the boat for its own needs, and it has conducted a variety of survey work. Last summer it worked in James Bay surveying for a new submarine cable. LeeWay has also partnered with Kraken Sonar Systems to deploy sophisticated new survey equipment.   

For more on Leeway Odyssey see Shipfax 2015-11-16 

As for Louisbourg it was never converted for research and maintained its original appearance until laid up in Sorel. Renamed 2013-03 it was sold to the anonymous Panamanian Company Marant Corp SA, (with the usual list of phony directors) on May 18, 2015 for $220,000. Under the name La Cristy, it sailed from Sorel October 1, 2015 and has more or less disappeared into the usual Caribbean fog that seems to envelop most ships sold to that region.


Viking Sky - cruise of a lifetime

The Viking Ocean Cruises ship Viking Sky gave its 915 passengers and 458 crew the scare of a lifetime last week-end off the Norwegian coast. The ship, which called in Halifax three times in 2017 (but was never photo'd by Shipfax) lost power March 22-23 on all four engines in 38 knot winds and 8 meter seas.

 Sails might have come in handy for Viking Sky.  
This is the funnel of sister ship Viking Sea that called in Halifax in 2018.
It was perilously close to shore and drifting in severe conditions. The ship was also rolling heavily and uncontrollably, several windows were broken , water was sloshing about and some passengers had been injured.

The decision was made that the passengers had to be evacuated, and the only way to do it was by helicopter. The Norwegian Coast Guard had five helos available and Denmark contributed some more, and the hair raising process began.

Meanwhile tugs were on the way and finally managed to get the ship under control and headed for the port of Molde. By the time the ship was out of danger 416 passengers had been transferred to shore.

The painful process of lifting them from the rolling ship, in dangerous conditions, usually one at a time, over several hours, did not manage to retrieve even half the passengers and some of them were injured in the process.

Vking Sky, a new ship in 2017 supposedly had complete propulsion redundancy, with two separate engine rooms with two engines in each. In theory if one bank of engines failed the others would surely still be operational.

Reports indicate that due to high seas, cooling water intakes, which are submerged well below the water line in normal conditions, were sucking air and as engine temperatures rose, they shut down automatically.
Once that happened things only got worse. As the ship began to roll out of control, it was not possible to restart the engines since there was no consistent supply of cooling water. It is also possible that severe damage had already been incurred by the engines if the engineers had tried to overide the cooling alarms.

One can only imagine the response to such an incident in our own waters in hurricane season. Do we have five helicopters available on short notice, and Emergency Towing Vessels available to bring the ship into port? Answer: no. How close to land would the ship have to be in order to evacuate even half of the passengers in an emergency?

It may soon be forgotten, but a small cargo ship, that was near the Viking Sky tried to make its way to the scene to be of assistance. Unfortunately its cargo shifted and it began to sink. All nine crew members had to be rescued too, some with serious injuries. While this took some of the resources away from the cruise ship, it was still in the best traditions of the sea, to take risks to assist others.

In a similar situation off Nova Scotia, the proximity of other resources whether official or not, would the critical factor in potentialy saving lives or at the very least getting injured people ashore for treatment.

Emergency Towing Vessels are needed not just for broken down tankers, but for any kind of ship that is in difficulty.

Jana Desgagnés update

Jana Desgagnés remains in heavy ice off the mouth of St.George's Bay in western Newfoundland. According to reports CCGS Captain Molly Kool has resumed towing (hooray) until conditions improve and the tug Lois M can take up the assignment.

In my previous report I stated that the nearest ice class tug to the scene was Océan Arctique. That was not strictly true since another Groupe Océan ice class tug, Océan Sept Iles is based in Gaspé this winter, however it is kept busy docking ships at the McInnis Cement plant in Port Daniel, QC. Océan Arctique is also busy with ship docking assignments in the port of Sept-Iles. Neither one was dispatched to the scene.

I did not count on the McKeil tug Lois M which has been tied up in North Sydney and not dedicated to any particular work. I am not sure of the tug's Ice Class (if any) - none appears to be listed in any source I can find.
Lois M in Quebec City last summer when it was working for Groupe Océan.

However this is the tug hired to assist Jana Desgagnés. It required CCGS Louis S. St-Laurnet to escort the tug to the tnaker's position. Ice conditions in the Gulf are the worst off the west coast of Newfoundland as several days of westerly winds have pushed the ice eastward. Shipping though the Gulf is now routing south of the Magdalen Islands, rather than north, to take avoid the heaviest ice concentrations.

The plan is to tow the Jana Desgagnés to Sydney, which appears to be largely free of ice, thanks to the wind. However getting through the Cabot Strait will be the challenge.

Jana Desgagnés was seen in Halifax more frequently as Jade Star .

Jade Star topping up the tanks at Nova Scotia Power's Tufts Cove generating station in 2005

As mentioned in the last post, the ship arrived in Canada for the first time in March 1994 and its name was changed from Jadestern to Jade Star while docked at the Ultramar jetty in Eastern Passage.

 Crew members are overside repainting the name and port of registry on the stern, March 6, 1994. The ship's registration in Canada was effective March 7, 1994.

The ship was operated by Desgagnés for several years before they purchased it outright in 2008 and renamed it in 2010.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Is it weather or is it climate

Following another day of intermittent withdrawal of pilotage services in and out of Halifax, and challenging ice conditions in the Gulf of St.Lawrence and Cabot Strait, it is fair to ask the question. Is it just that this is a bad year for weather related events or is it a new condition brought about by change in the climate?

Substitute pilot boat Captain E.T. Rogers dips it nose in a swell within the harbour, on its way outbound this afternoon.

Conventional wisdom now is that there is climate change, and one of the signs of it is more extremes in weather. Whether this will become the norm, and what can be done about it is an important issue. Certainly as a port, Halifax cannot become known as a place where you can expect delays because it is too rough for pilots. Schedule is important in container shipping, and other port users, so a solution needs to be found.

As for ice in the St.Lawrence there are several issues there as well, including the Canadian Coast Guard's ability to keep ships moving, and the adequacy of the ships themselves.

Periods of high winds and rough seas made it unsafe to embark and disembark pilots Friday and into this morning with several ships delayed or postponed.

The autocarrier Goodwood arrived early Friday morning but kept the tug Atlantic Willow alongside for the better part of the day. Whether this was due to high winds or some other issue with the ship, I have not heard. The next ship for Autoport, Boheme was due to arrive early this morning but it was put off  until noon time. Goodwood got away from the dock but went to anchorage number one, with two anchors down, where it remained until late this afternoon with a tug alongside for a time. (This suggests an engine problem.)

Goodwood weighs anchor after spending the afternoon in number one anchorage.
Boheme is tied up at Autoport in the background.

The gypsum carrier CSL Tacoma was due yesterday evening but has held off and for a time was scheduled for today, but is now due to enter tomorrow morning. It is outside the harbour drifting because the outer anchorages are not reliable in these conditions.

The container ship Zim Monaco was due to sail yesterday afternoon, but it remained in port over night and sailed this morning. The coastal container ship Nolhan Ava was due to sail yesterday afternoon, but went to anchor in Bedford Basin instead and may sail this evening. It is still under some regulatory restrictions and requires tug escort in and out of port.

Without harping on this anymore, is it possible that the port's pilot boarding arrangements make it too hazardous under certain circumstances, and if so, are there other arrangements that can be made?

Observers agree that this has been a year of very heavy ice in the Gulf of St.Lawrence. With ferry service disrupted the Canadian Coast Guard ended up delivering food stuffs by icebreaker to Strait of Belle Isle communities where many store shelves were almost empty of perishables. Milk was to be delivered by airplane. Even icebreakers could not keep the St.Barbe / Blanc Sablon ferry running.

Ice-related casualties have been rare however, there is one in the news now, The Quebec based tanker Jana Desgagnés  suffered steering failure Thursday March 21 in very heavy ice about 16 nautical wiles SW of Port aux Basques. As a result the ship was going to go where the ice took it and there were concerns since the tanker was fully laden with cargo loaded at Come by Chance and bound for Quebec.

Jana Desgagnés has an icebreaking bow and large ice knife at the stern to protect the rudder, but that was not enough in the difficult condition this winter.

The tanker, a veteran of many years of winter ice navigation on the St.Lawrence and arctic supply work, is certainly equipped for these kinds of conditions, but rudders are the most susceptible to being jammed by ice, and that it likely what happened in this case.

The ship was built in 1993 by MTW Schiffswerft, Wismar as Jadestern for Rigel Shipping. It arrived in Halifax March 5, 1994 under that name and was renamed Jade Star while docked at Ultramar, Eastern Passage. It worked for Rigel's Canadian subsidiary and on charter to Pétro-Nav, Desgagnés' tanker company for Ultramar until 2010 when it was acquired by Transport Desgagnés Inc and renamed Jana Desgagnés. A small ship of 6262 gt, 10,550 dwt, it distributes fuel for Valero's (formerly Ultramar) refinery in Lévis, QC.

The Coast Guard response, while timely and useful, does bring to mind a number of issues. First Canada's "newest" icebreaker CCGS Captain Molly Kool the former Swedish offshore supplier Vidar Viking, in its first season of work, was on scene quickly and stopped the ship's drift.  Captain Molly Kool is still apparently fully equipped for towing, and using tow wires nestled the tanker's bow into a notch in its stern and made fast.

Sometimes referred to as a Baltic stern notch, this form of close-in towing, is rarely used in Canada for several reasons. First it is contrary to CCG policy except in direst emergency, to actually tow a ship. And secondly because no Canadian icebreakers are fitted with a Baltic stern notch.

CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent's remarkably clean fantail is totally unequipped for towing, as per CCG policy.

The last CCG icebreaker to be so equipped was CCGS Labrador (which was built to the USCG Wind class design, and originally sailed for the RCN)  which was scrapped in 1989.

CCGS Labrador emerging from the Graving Dock at Halifax Shipyards, shows the stern notch and rope work pudding to protect the escorted ship's bow.

USCG Westwind, was similarly fitted. Apparently the USCG had no strictures against towing,

It is interesting that Captain Molly Kool retained this feature, because it was exactly what was needed in this case.

Had the Captain Molly Kool been an emergency towing vessel (ETV) which it could have been, it then would have towed the Jana Desgagnés to a safe port and sent the owners a bill for services or lodged a salvage claim.
However as a Coast Guard vessel it is obliged to stand by the tanker until a civilian tug arrives. The nearest available ice class tug is apparently Océan Arctique out of Sept-Iles. It was dispatched to the scene, and CCGS Louis St-Laurent was sent off to escort it to the scene. [See Updatre - March 25]

This seems a huge waste of resources where two CCG ships are tied up for days, when one ship (either CCG or a privately operated ETV) could have dealt with the matter in a day.

My previous cries for ETVs on this coast, that apparently fell on deaf ears, are hereby renewed.

In other CCG news Pierre Radisson has been assigned to spring break out on the Great Lakes and was the first ship up through the St.Lawrence Seaway on Thursday several days before the waterway re-opens for commercial traffic. The 'breaker is bound for Lake Superior (eventually) but has stopped off in Toronto, I hear because of engine problems.

This is not the first time the Radisson has gone to the Lakes, nor is it the first time it has had engine problems, despite several rebuilds and a re-engining.


Thursday, March 21, 2019

Ferry News, good and bad - Part 4: NS -CORRECTED

Controversies about ferries are nothing new in Nova Scotia, which has a small Provincial Government service that is part of the highway system and three four "extra provincial" operations.

The Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal operates seven ferry routes in Nova Scotia, four of which are cable ferries and four are self-propelled. All have had their share of issues over the years, but this year two seem to have made the headlines. Prime among these is the Englishtown to Jersey Cove cable ferry in St.Ann's Bay, Cape Breton. Engineering issues with the landing ramp sidelined the ferry for ten months last year and since it resumed service in October 2018, the Province has waved the $7.00 fare in order to lure customers back. An estimated $2.9 mn repair to the ramps escalated to $3.8 mn and resulted in the longer shutdown. And the work isn't completely done yet. Some of the work may have to be re-done since cars were bottoming out due to the slope of the ramp.

It is reported to be the busiest of the Province's cable ferries, but also the shortest route at - wait for it - 410 feet, with a voyage duration of 2 minutes.

Torquil MacLean during its 2014 refit in Pictou.

The Englishtown route is served by the ferry Torquil MacLean. That vessel has had its fair share of controversies too. Built in 2007 by A.F. Thériault in Meteghan River as Angus MacAskill II it underwent a major overhaul in 2014 that started out at $776,000 but increased by at least $280,00 before it was done.

Another cable ferry, this one on the Nova Scotia mainland, also made the headlines this winter when it stranded passengers and crew for eight hours after a mechanical breakdown. The La Have ferry crosses the river of the same name and when its bull wheel fractured February 11, the boat came to a halt 200 meters from shore.
It was not until a Coast Guard Vessel came to their aid that the boat was able to reach shore and offload its eight passengers, their vehicles and three crew. The bull wheel is the device that picks up the cable and advances the boat along its length. The ferry has no alternate means of propulsion. A ferry on the same route went adrift in an icy storm in January 2014 and eventually ran ashore. Its one passenger and two crew were rescued by Zodiac.

In the latest incident repairs took some time and the ferry has also been delayed by ice. The boat in question was Scotian built in 1983 by Ferguson Industries in Pictou. It is not the usual boat on the service. That is the Brady E. Himmelman which was off the route for refit. Scotian often moves around to different routes a substitute vessel, and in fact filled for Torquil MacLean during its 2014 refit, but was plagued by hydraulic and other problems during its tenure.

The bigger story for Nova Scotia of course is the Bay Ferries Ltd service connecting Yarmouth and Maine.
After a lengthy history of off again, on again, failed operators and changing ships and routes, it appeared that things were going too settle down in 2016 when the Province signed a ten year deal with Bay Ferries to resume sailings between Yarmouth and Portland, ME. Bay had leased a high speed catamaran vessel and resumed sailing in June.

BFL marketed the new service as The Cat,  the name used in the previous service which was abruptly cancelled when a  previous Provincial government refused to pay subsidies.  There had been no service to the US from Yarmouth since 2009* [see correction below] with devastating effect on tourism in the area, and everyone realized that it would take time to build ridership again. It had increased to more than 50,000 in 2018 but that was still below desired levels.

While the new Nova Scotia government was keen to get the service up and going the State of Maine and the port of Portland were less enthusiastic. Their opinion seemed to be that without the ferry tourists would just stay in Maine. With a ferry however they were more likely to drive right through Maine and not leave any of their money behind.

Continued issues with the condition of the Portland terminal, and Portland's desire to have cruises ships, not ferries,  finally ended up with BFL pulling the plug on Portland and signing a five year $1.3 mn lease with Bar Harbor, Maine for the US terminus, starting in 2019. The traditional US landing spot for CN Marine and Marine Atlantic's Bluenose ferry service, it had also been used by Bay's first Cat service.

However controversy erupted again when the Province refused to release financial details on BFL's management fee, citing the need for commercial confidentiality. The loyal opposition decided to sue the Province to get the information, and that is still in court. BFL got about $10.9 mn in 2018, but NS may have paid more to cover losses.

It was also revealed the the Province is paying to upgrade the Bar Harbour facilities to the tune of $8.5 mn, including the cost of salaries for US Border officials. Renovations to the terminal building are needed after ten years of idleness, and the docking facilities will need modification for the current ship.
A floating landing stage used in Portland will be towed to Bar Harbour to make the ship to shore transition.  Because of these changes The Cat will delay its  start up until June 21 at the earliest. They hope to be able start service on Memorial Day in 2020.

Upgrades are always being made in Yarmouth too, and those costs have not been mentioned lately.

The ship used for the BFL service is officially called HST-2. Leased from the United States Maritime Commission, it is the former USNS Puerto Rico and Alakai. Built in 2007 by Austal USA in Mobile, AL, it operated a ferry service between the Hawaiian islands of Oahu and Maui. When that service was discontinued in 2010 (another controversy) the ship was auctioned off and purchased the the US Department of Transportation's Maritime Administration (US MarAd). In 2012 they transferred it, and a sister ship to the US Navy for troop and equipment transport. It was renamed USNS Puerto Rico to be operated by the Military Sealift Command (US MSC).

However it was little used and in 2016 US MSC renamed it HST-2 and chartered it to Bay Ferries Ltd. Upon starting the charter however it reverted to Alakai and that is the name painted on the bow.  It remains registered in the United States under the ownership of US MSC.

Although Nova Scotians receive a discounted fare, once aboard ship, all transactions are in US dollars.

It can reach 35 knots, and is likely to cover the Yarmouth to Bar Harbor route in  3.5 hours.  Issues with the damaging wake from the previous high speed Cat forced slowdowns in Bar Harbour itself. Although the ship's route is south of the Bay of Fundy right whale protective zone, I expect there may be speed reductions required depending on whale sightings.

The other "extra provincial" ferry routes have been covered in earlier parts of this series or in previous posts:
Northumberland Ferries: Caribou, NS - Wood Islands, PE
Bay Ferries Ltd: Digby, NS - Saint John, NB
Marine Atlantic: North Sydney, NS - Port aux Basques, NL and Argentia, NL in season.

Thanks to a reader the error in this statement was brought to my attention.

Bay Ferries stopped their previous Cat service in 2009, but another operator began a new service in 2015.

Nova Star Cruises operated the ill-starred Nova Star ferry betwen Yarmouth and Portland in the summers of 2014 and 2015. The heavily subsidized service fell short of projected ridership and the company filed for bankruptcy in April 2016 with debts in excess of $15mn. It had received $39.5mn in subsidies.
The history of that ship and the service was covered by several posts in Shipfax between 2013 up until 2015 when the Province cancelled the deal.
Enter "Nova Star" in the search box on the left to read that sad story.


Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Ferry News, good and bad - Part 3: QC

Ferry woes continue in Quebec, and the Société des Traversiers du Québec (STQ) is scrambling once again to keep some sort of service operating on the lower St.Lawrence.

It all started, as reported here in December when F.-A.-Gauthier had to be removed from service for repairs. The sophisticated LNG powered ship has had continual teething problems since it was delivered by Fincantieri in Italy in 2015.  The most recent crisis resulted in the ship being sidelined December 16 due to "technical issues" involving its propulsion system. It was sent to drydock in Lévis in mid-January, for investigation, with no estimated timetable for repairs, much less return to service.

The ship provides the only year round service between the north and south shores of the St.Lawrence below Quebec City. Linking Matane with Baie-Comeau and Godbout on the north side, it forms a vital link in transportation of people and goods. Without it, a  lengthy road trip is required via Quebec City in winter. Even in summer the three seasonal ferry services farther upstream are limited by the  number of trucks they can carry (if any) .

For a time STQ was able to charter the C.T.M.A. Vacancier - the only similar ship available - from the Magdalen Island service, but it had to be returned to its owners by the end of January. They then secured its fleet mate, C.T.M.A. Voyageur for a time. Meanwhile STQ had been obliged to provide air service for passengers.

In a panic move, STQ purchased the ferry Apollo, sight unseen, from the Woodward Group. Built in 1970 it was just about to be retired from the St.Barbe - Blanc Sablon route on the Strait of Belle Isle. The new ferry Qajak Wwas rushed into service there to accommodate the Apollo's transfer to Matane in early February.

On February 25 Apollo made a hard landing in Baie-Comeau and damaged its bow visor. Repairs to the visor and incidental damage caused by those repairs took until March 7.
Then on March 16 the ship made another hard landing, this time stern BOW FIRST in Matane. Damage to the stern gate VISOR AND HULL resulted in STQ retiring the ship for good. The air shuttle for passengers was resumed and another arrangement was made with CTMA for use of C.T.M.A. Voyageur for two round trips, three days a week starting March 21.
Apollo had been in service for less than twenty days in total, and had cost $2.1 mn to purchase. But the cost of modifications and repairs has now added up to $3.5 mn. An expensive taxi.

STQ has already inspected a replacement ferry that they hope to have in service for the summer vacation season, since the earliest estimate for F.-A.-Gauthier's return is now late August. The ship is a sister to Woodwards Qajak W. Currently carrying the name Saarema it is in Cuxhaven and may be in Quebec by late April. No in-service date has been confirmed yet.

Meanwhile CTMA got some good news. In yesterday's Federal budget a promise was made to replace  Madeleine. That ship, which operates between Souris, PE and Grindstone (Cap-aux-Meules) in the Magdalen Islands, was in the news recently when Souris was so plugged with ice that the ship could not reach its dock. Instead it had to use North Sydney as its "mainland" port, again resulting in very long drives for customers, including trucks. Most of those are from Quebec, so the added five hours was a major inconvenience. It has been able to access Souris again this week.

Madeleine, built in 1981 by Verolme Cork Dockyard Ltd, was acquired in 1997 after Irish Sea service as Leinster, Isle of Inishmore and Isle of Inishturk.
The ship arrived in Halifax June 14, 1997 still with its last Irish name and sailed a week later after Canadian compliance work was completed at Halifax Shipyard. Its new name was not displayed nor was it repainted. All that work took place after it had arrived in the Magdalen Islands.

An Irish ferry in Halifax - a little off course?

Aside from plating over some side ports, the ship is little changed although it has received several  several paint schemes since.

This first paint scheme has since been superseded.

Madeleine is owned by the Federal Minister of Transport, and was registered in Ottawa, June 20, 1997 and only managed by CTMA. That is why its replacement was announced by the Minister of Finance.

CTMA's other two ferries, mentioned above, are owned by CTMA directly. There is still no news on C.T.M.A Vacancier's replacement. That potential vessel was announced by the last Quebec provincial government, but cancelled by the present one.  


Ferry News, good and bad - Part 2: NS / NF

Good news for Newfoundland ferries has been hard to find in recent months, with continuing woes for some of the government's fleet and heavy ice hampering service for private operators.

Atlantic Vision, built in 2002, was first chartered by Marine Atlantic in 2008 and has had that charter renewed continually ever since.
With no drydock in Halifax anymore, we don't expect to see the ship on its occasional refits. In the photo the ship is high and dry on the Novadock at Halifax Shipyard.

So it was a bit like good news to learn that Marine Atlantic has renewed the bareboat charter of Atlantic Vision until November 2020 with an option for two more years. The flagship of the fleet is a popular ship and has served well. Although primarily for the seasonal North Sydney - Argentia service, it has operated on the Port aux Basques run too.

Owners Tallink of Estonia may have other plans for the ship after next year, so I hope Marine Atlantic has some options if they can't renew.

Northern Ranger (dating from 1986) has been retired retired, along with the pre-historic RoRo Astron  from the passenger and cargo (respectively) service out of Lewisporte to the Labradfor coast via Cartwright.

 Astron, built in 1971 has operated on the Newfoundland and Labrador coast, but also substituted on the Halifax St-Pierre service (in 1988),  for Atlantic Searoute between Halifax and St.John's (1989) and between Black's Harbour on the Grand Manan, NB. It has also been declared a constructive total loss at least once.

Woodward's newly acquired Saaremaa  Hiiumaa (to be renamed soon) which is in process of delivery from Europe, will start a new Labrador service in June, but not from Lewisporte. Instead it will operate from Goose Bay. It will be able carry passengers and freight on the same boat, something that could not be done with the previous duo. Of course there are always critics, but I wonder how this ship will make out on the Labrador coast.

Woodward's sister ship Qajak W entered service between St.Barbe and Blanc Sablon in January and has had mixed reviews. What may be abnormally heavy ice this year has prevented the ship from operating on schedule, and store shelves on the north shore of the Strait of Belle Isle have run out of many essentials. Emergency delivery of milk by plane has become necessary and other foodstuffs are now coming in from Quebec, at huge added coast.
I don't think it is fair to blame the ferry when even heavy icebreakers can't make way on the Strait.

Newfoundland's coastal ferries continue to be troublesome. Veteran now needs a new engine and had to be removed from service, with sister ship Legionnaire transferred from Bell Island, filling in, but it had issues too. Without ferry service for a week airplanes had to be chartered to serve Fogo IslandThe Damen built ships have been lemons by all accounts and they have not solved Newfoundland's problem of aging and decrepit ships.

When Legionnaire moved to Fogo Island it left the aging Beaumont Hamel (with no serviceable elevator) and Flanders to cover the Bell Island route.


Ferry News, good and bad - Part 1: NS / PEI

Finally there was a glimmer of good news for Canada's beleaguered ferry systems in yesterday's federal budget. Supposing you had been able to hear the finance minster's presentation in the House of Commons, (it was drowned out by opposition memebers pounding their desks) you would have heard that a new ferry has been promised for the Northumberland Strait. The ferry service between Caribou, NS and Wood Islands, Prince Edward Island has been struggling in recent years with aging and inefficient craft. Both the existing ferries, Confederation and Holiday Island are owned by the federal government's Minister of Transport and operated by Northumberland Ferries Ltd, a Prince Edward Island based company.

Holiday Island built in 1971 for the Cape Tormentine, NB / Borden PE service, it was transferred to the second crossing after the opening of the Confederation Bridge in 1997, and it is the one to be replaced. 

Holiday Island is a double deck, doublend ship of fairly simple design. 

Now the not so great news. Holiday Island is to be replaced, the budget promises, with a newly built ship, but no timeline and no dollar figure was given. This means, in my mind, that if a new government comes in after the Autumn 2019 election, the process could be re-started or canceled altogether.

In view of the string of bad luck with foreign built ferries recently (see Newfoundland and Quebec in Part 2 and 3 of these posts) it is very likely that the boat will be built in Canada. The Davie shipyard in Quebec will no doubt be first in line to want that contract. Davie has now completed two new dual fuel diesel / LNG ferries that are not too different from what would be needed on the Caribou / Wood Islands run, so Davie can make a good case for itself.

As part of the budget, the current Federal subsidy to the service has been renewed until 2022. That might be long enough to get the new ferry into the construction stage, but also leaves room to open up competition for a ferry operator.

It is well known that the Woodward Group of Newfoundland would like to take on the service, and in fact it is believed they have access to a ferry that could be in service as early as this summer if wanted. Woodward has two ferries of similar design to Confederation, but ice class, in its fleet now. The first, Qajak W., has been operating between St.Barbe and Blanc Sablon this winter. Although hampered by unusually heavy ice this year, it seems to be doing well. As a used vessel acquired from Europe, it has had any bugs ironed out long ago. The advantage of a Woodward contract is that with three similar ferries in the fleet, they could rotate them out for maintenance. Particularly with the Northumberland service closed for the winter, the boat assigned to that run could operate elsewhere from December to May where its ice class rating would be of use.

However in order to extract the maximum political benefit out of the deal, the government is unlikely to go with the Woodward option.

Here's the scenario:
1. Promise the ferry now and get re-elected in October. Maybe deliver it later.
2. Build a new ferry in Canada, maybe in Quebec = votes in Quebec.
3. Renew contract with PEI company = votes in PEI.

Please remain in your seats. After a brief intermission, Part 2 of this episode will begin.


Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Spring Break in the Basin

With the first day of spring just over the horizon, it looked like spring in Bedford Basin this morning as ships came and went from Cerescorp.

YM Enlightenment arrived from New York, eastbound on the AL1 service, operated by THE Alliance and ACL.

Some very thin shore ice has broken away and is working its way out to the harbour.

The 4662 TEU ship, built in 2015 by China Shipbuilding Corp in Kaohsiung, comes in at 47,952 gt, 56,500 dwt.

YM Enlightenment had to hold off for nearly an hour as the incumbent at Cerescorp finished loading.
Brighton is on the eastbound leg for THE Alliance's EC5 service - next port Jebel Ali.

The 71,786 gt, 72,982 dwt ship, with a capacity of 6350 TEU, built in 2007 by Koyo Dockyard Co, Mihari, joined the 11 ship rotation in January. It has been chartered from Zodiac Maritime Ltd, having previously served other lines as APL London from 2007 to 2013 and Zim London from 2013 to 2015. While not a direct replacement for the fire damaged Yantian Express it the rotation, it does fill out the roster so that a weekly service is maintained. It is also assuned that it has been chartered by HAPAG-Lloyd.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Lomur revisited

When the Eimskip ship Lomur arrived this morning, I could not see any particular sign that the ship had encountered heavy weather nor had damage to containers. However that observation was made in very dim light and from a distance. [see previous post]

Today's scheduled stop (westbound) was to be a brief one, but when its departure was advanced from 10:30 to 12:00 and then it did not sail for more than an hour, it was apparent that there was more work involved than planned.

Damaged containers in the first three bays are more than evident even from a distance. Damage to the ship is harder to detect. The railing around the bow davit and the access ladder to the forward crane are certainly mangled. This could have been done by seas smashing down on the ship, or by loose or wayward containers.

As it pulled clear of Halterm there certainly was evidence of the "deformation" of containers mentioned in the casualty report.  Since the ship is westbound from Iceland to Halifax and on to Portland, I presume those damaged boxes will be dealt with in Portland. The Halifax stop normally involves unloading a few Eimskip containers, and perhaps picking up some empties.

There did not seem to be any damage to containers aft of midships, but because some of those are CMA CGM, I expect there were loaded here today.

Eimskip also operates a dedicated shuttle service from Halifax to and from New England for CMA CGM, so those boxes would have been loaded in Halifax. Export boxes from Halifax for Iceland would normally be picked up on the eastbound leg.


Coast Guard in - Coast Guard out

A sunrise arrival today was CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent a fairly rare sight in Halifax in recent years after its political transfer to Newfoundland.

Whether the ship was actually escorting the Icleandic Lomur (see yesterday's post) can't be confirmed, but that ship arrived a very few minutes later. There was no damage visible to Lomur from a great distance, and the containers I could see appeared intact.

The Louis S. St-Laurent had been on ice operations in the Cabot Strait, and tied up at Irving Oil in Woodside. Ice has retreated dramatically from the Nova Scotia coast in the past week thanks to warm temperatures and favourable winds. While there is still considerable ice in the central Gulf, even that is diminishing rapidly.

After the Louis had been tied up for a while it was time for the departure of USCG Seneca WMEC 906 that had been in port since Friday at HMC Dockyard. There are often US vessels in port to commemorate important historical dates, but I can think of none this time. Maybe St.Patrick's day? If so at least some of the 100 strong complement were able to stand on deck for the departure.

Seneca is based in Boston, but gave Portland, ME as its last port of call before arriving here.
A member of the Famous class of Medium Endurance cutters, it was laid down in 1982 and launched in 1984 by the Robert Derektor Shipyard Inc in Middletown RI. It was in service in 1986, but not formally commissioned until 1987.  Despite their age, the Famous cutters are expected to remain in service until the 2030s, thanks in part to the transfer of weapons and equipment from decommissioned Oliver Hzard Perry class frigates.


Sunday, March 17, 2019

Seeing the Light of Day - maybe

An early morning visit to Autoport was intended to get a view of Horizon Highway from the sunny side. Unfortunately my arrival coincided with sunrise and a blaring golden light washed out the colour of the ship from my usual vantage point. Moving to other locations didn't quite seem to capture the essence of the ship as it was partly blocked by construction equipment, Tim Horton's signs, railway tracks or McAsphalt tank trucks. But to paraphrase the adage of one of my early mentors - any picture is better than no picture / and you can always take a better picture.

Herewith the results.

Exhibit A

The land of the rising sun apparently arrived in Halifax along with the ship- even though it is registered in Panama.

Exhibit B

The "new" K-Line RoRo  / Car Carrier livery was the main reason for the visit, so I did manage to capture it despite the busy foreground.

Built in 2016 by Shin Kurushima, Onishi, the ship is a 7,539 CEU carrier of 75,036 gt, 20,586 dwt.

Another vessel that may or may not see the light of day in its entirety is the Defence Research and Development Canada-Atlantic (DRDC) barge that is normally anchored in Bedford Basin off Birch Cove.
It was recently moved to HMC Dockyard for refit, possibly with the intention of lifting it out of the water on the synchrolift.

Tucked at HMC Dockyard, with the tank cleaning barge YRG-62, the DRDC barge awaits a refit.

However I hear that the synchrolift is out of commission due to a burnt out lift motor, temporarily trapping HMCS Windsor in the sub barn and preventing Sackville from going in for finishing touches on its major refit.

The DRDC barge, believed to be YLP 451 and built at Halifax Shipyard in 1959, gets a refit every five years or so. It was last reported here in the spring of 2014 on the synchrolift. See: Shipfax 2014-05-22

Meanwhile its place in Bedford Basin is occupied by the Dockyard camel YC 600 which is illuminated at night and provides an alternate perch for the resident gull population during the refit.


Saturday, March 16, 2019

Lomur takes another hit.

The Gibraltar flag Lomur sailing for the Icelandic shipping company Eimskip was in Halifax on February 2 for the first time, with heavy ice built up forward. As a small ship, with very little freeboard, this was not surprising in view of the winter conditions at the time and the vessel's route between Iceland, Argentia, NL, Halifax and Portland.
I posted the following photo of its arrival, see the entire post here: 2019/02/lomur-for-eimskip.html

News has now reached me that the ship encountered more serious problems on March 11 while en route from Iceland in heavy weather. It sustained damage to 18 containers, including "deformations" and  there was damage to the ship itself including winches, deck machinery and deck fittings. Some repairs were apparently possible while the ship was underway, but one can only imagine the conditions.  There were no reports of containers lost overboard.

The ship arrived in Argentia March 14 and sailerd for Halifax today. It is due March 18. It is not clear how many of the damaged containers might have been discharged in Argentia or how much damage remains to be repaired.

This post will be updated if more becomes known.

As I observed in the previous post, this is a very small ship for winter North Atlantic.


Friday, March 15, 2019

Sampogracht and scrubbing

The Spliethoff multi-purpose carrier Sampogracht made a brief call at Fairveiw Cove this morning and sailed before noon, heading for Rotterdam.

One of the S2L class ships in the fleet, the 18,321 gt, 23,688 dwt vessel is equipped with three 120 tonne cranes. It is able to protect forest products while loading, using its three side doors, which swing up as awnings. It can carry containers too, which appears to be the case on this trip, with some spent uranium cask containers (likely empty) on the deck forward.

On leaving the Cerescorp terminal in Fairview Cove the ship made a wide turn out into Bedford Basin awaiting the inbound YM Modesty to clear the Narrows. 

Once the container ship had turned around the Seaview Point buoy Sampogracht made its way outbound.

Spliethoff converted all their "S" class ships with Alfa Laval Pure SOx exhaust gas scrubbers. It was quite a task to fit them to an existing ship, and it was necessary to build a new enclosure adjacent to the superstructure on the starboard side. A large takeoff pipe from the funnel leads to the scrubber casing and filtered exhaust emanates from the new stack on top. .

Ship owners are not usually too concerned about aesthetics, but Spliethoff decided to reduce the visual impact of the added casing by painting on false windows. The black fakes are the same size as the real windows and only on close inspection are they revealed to be imposters.

Other scrubber fittings, such as on the Irving Oil tankers and the Nolhan Ava were more difficult to conceal.

  The cement carrier NACC Quebec, which arrived earllier this week also has a scrubber, but it appear whether it is concealed in its odd looking funnel is uncertain..

 Some ships even have the scrubbers exposed, such as CSL's Spruceglen.

Scrubbers installed when ships are built are almost impossible to detect, except by their vapour plume.

In very cold or very humid conditions, the water vapour dissipates very slowly and remains visible after the ship has passed. The Algoma managed G3 Marquis shown above leaves a trail at least as long as the ship if not longer.

Scrubbers essentially wash the exhaust gas with water. Depending on the salinity of the water it will neutralize Sulphur Dioxide or Nitrous Oxide (SOx and NOx). In fresh water or areas of low salt content, caustic soda is added to the wash water.
With some scrubbers, called open loop, the wash water is released back into environment. This process has been banned in some areas, notably China, over concerns that dilution is not sufficient treatment.
Closed loop scrubbers collect the waste with ceramic or other filters and store it for disposal in port. So far no re-use has been determined for this waste.