Friday, May 31, 2019

Container Competition

Halifax has always had competitors in the container  business, but now there will be a new one. The Port of Quebec City has just announced that they have selected Hutchinson - a world wide terminal manager - to develop and operate a brand new container facility in the Beauport sector of the Port of Quebec.

Quebec City's new container terminal will be on newly created land at Beauport.  The city itself is toward the bottom left, and there is a small sandy bay to the top right.

As the closest port to Europe on the North American eastern seaboard Halifax has always enjoyed an edge over other ports due to the desire of shippers to land their boxes and get them on the train or on the road to destination as quickly as possible. Main competitors have always had a number of disadvantages that have helped Halifax, but these are all gradually diminishing. New York had draft and bridge clearance issues, but those have been eliminated, at great expense, in recent years. Rail constrictions have been and remain an issue. Nearby ports of Baltimore and Philadelphia have picked up some of the slack.

The many ports farther south on the US East Coast were farther away from ports in Europe, but had the advantage of being closer to US distribution points. With manufacturing in the US moving south, they now have the advantage of being closer to the source of export cargo and needed imports.

Those US ports, particularly Charleston, Savannah and Jacksonville have been given a big boost with the expansion of the Panama Canal. Very big ships can now reach those ports from Asia and the ports have responded with huge investments in dredging, berth expansion, and larger cranes, more rubber tired gantries (RTGs), etc.,

Halifax's position is reversed when it comes to ships from Asia via the Pacific/Panama. We are the farthest away, and with the smallest source of, or destination for, cargo, the port is the last on the list if we appear on the list at all.

Ships sailing directly from western Asian ports, via the Suez and Mediterranean can still compete with the Pacific/Panama route but in order to make time must not stop at too many Med ports. Halifax is an ideal port for them since it involves the least sea time.

As for other eastern Canadian ports, Halifax had many advantages, but again they may be eroding. When container shipping took off in the late 1960s, Halifax was soon ready. However Canadian Pacific Steamships, as they were then, established a container facility in the Port of Quebec. It was a good idea at the time, since there were no bridge height limitations. It was well down stream of the Quebec bridge and the St.Lawrence River above Quebec City was too shallow for large ships. It was also in a somewhat better position than Montreal in terms of winter ice. CPSS and Manchester Liners  working together already had ice class general cargo ships that they converted to carry containers.

CPSS established a small, one crane terminal close to their own rail line, which served the area of the port below the famous ramparts and connected to the main line via an 1800 foot long tunnel under the Plains of Abraham battle field. Built in 1930 to serve the needs of passenger ships, it was restricted to single stack containers and had grade and icing issues. It imposed severe restrictions on container traffic and within ten years CP closed the terminal and moved to Montreal.

Since then Montreal has become a major container hub despite being a thousand miles inland. Not only has the port invested in infrastructure with rail on dock, cranes and other equipment, it has the advantage of three rail connections. CN, CP and CSX, all serving the US mid-west, the major destination for a large portion of import cargo. It is also a fact that transatlantic trade has not suffered the ups and downs of Asian trade and this is the major area of concentration for Montreal. Montreal, and Toronto (reached by rail or truck in less than 24 hours) are also the major population centres in Canada.

To help matters, the St.Lawrence River channel between Quebec City and Montreal has been deepened, but more importantly has been widened. Shipping lines have been able to use some quite large (and wide) ships, loaded to less than their maximum depth to serve Montreal. Some lines have built ships specifically for the St.Lawrence route, with improved ice capability, and relatively shallow draft. Montreal is also working on a new container facility downstream on the south shore at Contrecouer, that will have excellent rail access, but also far less congested road access. As free standing adjunct to the Port of Montreal it has expansion capability, unconstrained by other port infrastructure.

Big container ships, lightly loaded to reduce draft, can operate at speeds of 20 knots on the lower St.Lawrence. They could load to maximum draft if sailing only as far as Quebec City.

Montreal will always have the ice and draft issues, and Contrecouer is not expected to host much larger ships, but will add to the Port of Montreal's capacity and speed in clearing cargo. (Montreal is a terminal port - that is to say that most container ships unload all their cargo there, and load afresh, whereas Halifax in most cases is a way point on a string of ports.)

Quebec City, which, since CP closed their terminal, has had no dedicated container terminal and no regularly calling container lines. They have apparently been jealously watching that traffic sail by their piers without stopping.

Another lightly loaded container ship turns its tail to Quebec City and revs up its speed. It has just exchanged pilots and is about to make the wide turn around Pointe Levis.

Quebec's new facility, to be called Laurentia, will be state of the art, and have a small carbon foot print (read electric RTGs - Halterm take note), is on a brand new site, which does not exist at this point. It will be created on fill at the end of the current string of Beauport flats bulk docks, so will be able to take ships of any length. And it can be expanded more or less indefinitely. It also has deep draft - the river gets shallow farther upstream). There are no bridges to restrict the height or width of ships between the port and the Atlantic Ocean and it will have direct, free air, rail access via CN Rail with rail on dock. Ships can travel at relatively high speed almost all the way from the Atlantic to Quebec City (except for whale protection zones), unlike the upper river with its winding channels where speed is restricted, pilotage costs are higher and winter delays can be expected due to ice. The time for a ship to reach Montreal from Quebec City is roughly a day. A truck can do it in 90 minutes half that time.

The current Beauport docks (which would be off to the left of the aerial view) host bulk commodity cargoes such as petroleum, coal, and ore. The new extension would be to the right of these views.

Quebec City has its eyes firmly set on larger ships and is in direct competition with Montreal for business. Naming the facility "Laurentia" focuses on serving the huge St.Lawrence Basin area, which includes the Great Lakes region. (Whether they have any thought for Halifax is doubtful.)

It all sounds ideal and it certainly has numerous advantages. Except that there are serious environmental issues relating to adjacent wetlands for migratory birds and recreational activity. The once bucolic basin where the Riviere St-Charles empties into the St.Lawrence has become an industrial hub, but the north side is a recreational zone for wind surfers. The tidal flats still host snow geese and other migrators that have somehow survived this desecration. They will continue to take the back seat to port development.

This 1860s view of Quebec from Beauport, with the Citadel off to the left of centre, shows the St.Charles flowing in from the right. From there almost to the foreground is now heavily industrial.
(Edwin Whitefield lithograph Mac Mackay collection- edited for this post)

How will this new port effect Halifax? With many of the restrictions to St.Lawrence ports reduced or eliminated, cargo will no doubt be siphoned off to Quebec. I still see ice as a major encumbrance since few if any of the giant container ships (10,000 TEU and up) are ice class, and in fact few of the intermediate size (7500 to 10,000 TEU) are ice rated. Nevertheless many non ice rated ships would still be able to serve the port for at least nine months of the year.

Whether the project is successful, depends more on the efficiency of the rail connection, and the demand for ships that are too large for Montreal. Its distance from the ocean will still be another important factor, but not for the strictly transatlantic trade. Quebec is also looking for trade via the Panama Canal, but I see this as a major stretch, Quebec is even farther away from Panama than Halifax. However Hutchinson's deep Asian roots are not to be discounted.

CN Rail, which also serves Halifax and the other major Canadian ports of Vancouver and Prince Rupert is a common factor. Since their bid to acquire an interest in Halifax's Halterm container terminal was not accepted, their loyalty to Halifax will be put to the test.

Certainly the news about Quebec will not be well received by Sydney or Melford, NS, both with aspirations to become container ports. (see more below)

It is another reality (proven over and over again in history) that Halifax does not have much political clout, and therefore port infrastructure built with pots of federal money will always go where the most votes are. That is why it is imperative that the Port of Halifax develop a master plan that looks into the future while still performing emergency surgery on its current port infrastructure.

A green field site is the only answer and it will cost billions. If the money is not available, the container trade in the Port of Halifax will die by inches. Will that be the end of the port as we know? Likely. It will become a minor adjunct and outport, concentrating on cruise ships and small feeder services shuttling containers to major hubs.

Halifax should be one of those major hubs, but lack of progress on re-development may mean that the opportunity has been lost. Certainly overhauling the current port lands is necessary but there is still not enough room for what is needed in the long term.

Nothing short of a multi-berth (four 10,000 TEU ships at a minimum) facility with unlimited backup land and clear rail access, to completely replace what we have now is the least that will be required. Ice free, deep draft and no bridges are what we have to offer, and it should be promoted intensely in the run up to the federal election. Regrettably there is no mature plan to promote, and we will end up with a short term fix to the determent of other port business.

Read more about the Port of Quebec's plans on their website:


Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Variety of Shapes

Another gloomy day greeted cruise ship passengers today, although one benefit of their mid-morning arrival meant that showers had largely ended. Sales of hoodies were expected to boom as cool temperatures remained.

Adventure of the Seas features a plain white livery with barely visible blue stripes running almost the entire length of the ship. So far Royal Caribbean International has not succumbed to the super graphic / alias graffiti of other lines, although on this ship a huge water slide mounted high over the stern does detract from its clean lines. The yellow lifeboats and tenders are change from the usual safety orange.
Built in 2001 by Kvaerner-Masa, Turku, Finland, the 137,246 gt ship has a passenger capacity of 3,114 and crew size of 1,180 according to most sources.

As a contrast in appearance the next arrival lacked some of the grace of the previous one.

Carrying more than enough cars  to outfit every passenger and crew member of the cruise ship, Victoria Highway arrived an hour later. The 73,528 gt, 21,114 dwt ship was built in 2018 by Tadotsu Shipyard Co in Kagawa, Japan. It has a capacity of 7,450 CEU.
The ship features the new paint scheme adopted by K-Line for its autocarriers and looked quite striking as the tugs Atlantic Bear and Atlantic Fir came alongside to nudge the ship towards Autoport.


Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Nordika Desgagnés pit stop - UPDATED

The Canadian owned Nordika Desgagnés is making brief visit to Halifax this morning at pier 27. Like many of the Transport Desgagnés ships it spends part of the year operating under foreign flag, and is currently registered in Barbados. Its last port of call is listed as Houston, TX.

Built in 2010 as BBC Oder by Tianjin Xingang in China, the 12,974 gt, 16,953 dwt ship carries three 60 tonne cranes. Desgagnés acquired the ship in 2017 and it was registered in Quebec City under its new name in June of that year. The timing of the purchase allowed the ship to participate in the northern sealift for that year. It was flagged out again in the fall.

In March 2018 the ship lost its ability to steer east of Louisbourg, NS during a storm. With CCGS Sir Wilfred Grenfell standing by, the tug Atlantic Larch set out to take it in tow. However the first attempt failed and eventually Atlantic Tern secured a line. CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent also stood by for a time.
The ship was eventually tied up at the paper mill dock in Point Tupper, NS. Repairs took considerable time, but the ship was able to return to Canadian flag in June 2018 for sealift work until November 2018 when it reverted to Barbados flag again.

The ship appears to be in ballast and it likely to return to Canadian flag in the next few days.

It was slightly more than a pit stop for Nordika Desgagnés . In fact it the ship worked cargo all morning, and appeared to be unloading. It was not possible to see what the cargo was, but the ship used its own number 3 crane working the hold immediately forward of the accommodation.
The ship did not take fuel (and did not change tires!), so it was really not a pit stop at all.

Early this afternoon the ship returned to anchor outside Halifax, probably allowing its charter to run out. Once the charter has expired, the ship will be transferred back to Canadian flag, and will be obliged to sign a Canadian crew.


Monday, May 27, 2019


Fog and rain eventually hampered visibility in the harbour late in the afternoon, just as the autocarrier Pleiades Spirit was sailing. I was hoping to catch this ship since it does not belong to one of the well known lines. Built in 2008 by Toyohashi Shipbuilding, it is a 60,330 gt, 17,424 dwt vessel with a capacity in the range of 5232 to 6303 CEU. It is managed by World Wide Marine Co Ltd of Japan as one of 17 autocarriers in its 128 ship fleet. Interestingly the ship arrived from New York and is sailing for Southampton - the reverse of the usual autocarrier route.
Originally to be operated by Nissan, it has been operated by World Wide since 2009. It seems to be on charter to MOL but this can't be confirmed independently.

At Fairview Cove, Yantian Express (photo'd early yesterday) was due to slide back along to the west end of the pier to resume unloading. There are still a lot of the 3200 container still on the ship.

Shippers are being advised that when their boxes are released, upon posting of security, they will be sent to destination, by rail, truck or ship, without inspection, since there is no room to do that in Halifax.

Another "reverse" arrival was Elka Nikolas tying up at Irving Woodside last night. The ship came from Saint John and has a small amount of cargo for Halifax.

Built by Brodosplit in Croatia in 2001, it is a 27,542 gt, 44, 787 dwt ship of the MidRange type. It is part of the European Product Carriers Ltd fleet, based in Athens. Shortly after delivery, the ship was renamed Fusus but reverted to its original and current name in 2009.
Sister ship Elka Eleftheria, built the same year at the same yard, was here May 13, but came from Ijmuiden / Amsterdam then sailed to Saint John.
The ship is due to sail early tomorrow morning and its place will be taken within an hour by Irving's East Coast.

There was no call by Maersk /CMA CGM's Maersk Patras over the weekend. It was scheduled to call May 25, but perhaps the fatal accident last week resulted in a delay. The second officer was lost overboard off the Escoumins pilot station May 19 and his body has not been recovered.
There were protests for safer working conditions when the ship docked in Montreal. Instead of sailing for Halifax, the ship headed directly for Bremerhaven, the next scheduled stop.


CME plans to grow

The locally based Canadian Maritime Engineering Company (CME) is on a growth curve. Its latest acquisition will increase its footprints in eastern Canada.

CME's parent company Russell Industries Corp is involved in project and maintenance work related to power generation and heavy industry. CME serves the marine sector with a variety of services related to repair and maintenance. Over time CME has acquired various small shipyards that allowed them to to do marine repair and various kinds of industrial fabrication in their own facilities.They are also builders of small craft, usually work boats, and are dealers in marine engines.

Their current list of yards includes CME Halifax Harbour Shipyard in Sambro Head, formerly Brenton Grey's Boatyard. It has a 150 ton and a 300 ton slip. They also operate the North Sydney Marine Railway with a 2500 ton capacity slip. These are complimented with a fabrication facility in Barrington Passage, and several other divisions including coatings, and engine sales and servicing for major manufacturers. They also do alongside repairs at locations where ships are berthed.

Their west coast operations include Port Alberni with two 150 ton and one 250 tons slip and Nanaimo with an 80 ton and 150 ton slip. They also do work in Esquimalt using the publicly owned drydock. There is a further division based in Niagara-on-the-Lakes, ON.

Their latest acquisition is still pending. CME is the preferred bidder for the Clarenville Shipyard in Newfoundland, owned by the Burry Group, that went bankrupt in 2018. The yard became insolvent, owing nearly $5 million when several projects went wrong for them and continued financial backing was no longer available.

CME's bid, apparently the highest of several, is less than 75% of the assessed value of the yard and will have to approved by the courts before it becomes final. When it was operating the yard carried out repairs to Newfoundland government ferries and other local craft, and was a major employer in the area.

CME received some unwelcome publicity last winter when its Sambro yard was the target of vandalism. Wires securing CCGC Corporal McLaren MMV were cut during the night and the ship slid down the ways, fell on its side and nearly capsized. Although it has since been recovered repairs have not been completed, and other work planned for the yard is backing up. The two retired Halifax-Dartmouth ferries are waiting in Sambro and would be drydocked before sailing to Toronto.

CCGC Corporal McLaren M.M.V. back up the slipway, will require extensive repair to water and other damage before it can return to service.

Burry's yard made a $500,000 write down on a failed bid to acquire the Marystown Shipyard They lost a further $1.3 mn when the owners of the ex ferry Sir Robert Bond refused to pay a $1.3mn bill for conversion work. (The ship was to be used for transporting peat moss, but the work was suspended, the ship was removed from the shipyard and was eventually sold for scrap - see previous post.) The last straw was an incident involving the Newfoundland government ferry Gallipoli that "shifted in the cradle", damaging both ship and cradle. The government cancelled the refit contract and removed the ship.

Another Burry Group company, Norcon Marine Services supported the shipyard fiancially for a time, but is listed among the creditors and are owed $1.6mn. Norcon owns and /or operates ferries for the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador and for a fish farming company and were also a major customer of the shipyard.

CME has a small presence in Newfoundland, but should this acquisition go through they will become a significant player there.


Saturday, May 25, 2019

One Summer(like) Day

A rapid turnaround in weather gave Halifax a summer-like day and thus the land side of the waterfront was jammed with people and traffic. This imposed serious limitations on photographic mobility, and so coverage of today's port activity is a little thinner than usual.

Late last night the tanker Zephyros arrived and anchored in the lower harbour.  It is not common for these ships to anchor inside the harbor, particularly when the destination berth is unoccupied. Coming from Port Arthur, TX, the ship has refined product for Imperial Oil.

Built in 2013 by SPP Shipbuilding in Sacheon, South Korea, the 29,924 gt, 50,155 dwt ship flies the Panama flag for the anonymous Zefyros Trading SA of Greece. Management of the ship is handled by Benetech Shipping SA, employing a crew entirely of Georgian nationality through Elvictor Ltd, also of Athens. (The pyramidal shape symbol on the funnel is the Benetech logo.)

The ship is expected to move to Imperial Oil by midnight tonight.

Also at anchor for the morning CMA CGM Libra required an Asian Gypsy Moth inspection before it moved to Halterm for noon.

Cerescorp remained busy today, with Atlantic Sun arriving this morning, sailing this afternoon, and its berth taken by MOL Partner soon after.

MOL Partner works its way inbound with the tug Spitfire III as tethered escort.
The tour boat Peggys Cove Express speeds along inbound for the Cable Wharf.

The Yantain Express did not go to anchor in Bedford Basin last night as expected. Instead it was still working cargo at the west berth through the night. It finally moved to the east berth at 0400hrs this morning. It remained idle today.

One of the large stacks of boxes offloaded from Yantian Express.

It has been reported that it will take twelve days to unload the Yantian Express's cargo. Containers that have been cleared by the insurers will be arranged on the dock to allow forwarding by rail or ship. Another stack will be created for those boxes for which security has not been posted. Their fate remains unknown.

An unusual Saturday arrival at Halterm was Oceanex Sanderling. It normally sails for St.John's weekly on Fridays. However this week it arrived and sailed on Tuesday, making a quick turnaround at Halterm and Autoport. It will now make another hasty round trip, due to heavier summer demand, sailing early tomorrow morning. 

Also from Halterm, dredging work stopped early this week. The last I saw the dredge Derrick No.4 working was on Wednesday. 

McNally's barges and tugs and other gear are now at pier 9 and pier 9C setting up for construction of the cribs for the Halterm extension. The Port Authority states the extension work will be completed in the first quarter of 2020.


Friday, May 24, 2019

Harbour Business - More Rain and Fog - and some updates

Today's weather forecast is for more rain and fog, so harbour picture taking will again be curtailed. Harbour business continues unabated however.

The Nirint Shipping Augusta Mars at pier 31 is expected to complete unloading the latest consignment of nickel sulfides from Cuba this afternoon then sail for Europe.

The ship arrived yesterday under ideal conditions, and was assisted to its berth by the tugs Atlantic Fir and Spitfire III.

As the ship made its way to pier 31, the outbound container ship Brighton encountered what was believed to be an inattentive pleasure craft crossing its course just south of George's Island. The ship had to sound its signal horn five times to warn off the boat. The ship may also have had to reduce speed or even attempt to stop. It was certainly going very slowly by the time it reached Ives Knoll. The incident was blocked from my view as I was taking the above picture.

Pleasure craft are are an inevitable hazard in summer time and it is a wonder there have not been more serious incidents. Boaters seem oblivious to the presence of big ships and their right of way.

At Fairview Cove, work continues to unload the Yantian Express. The ship has shifted from the west end (big cranes) to the east end (small crane) and back again to make room for other ships, and this evening is expected to move out to anchor in Bedford Basin.

Yantian Express gets ready to shift from the west to east berth at Fairview Cove on Wednesday evening to make room for the Brighton. It moved back again after Brighton  sailed.

Yantian Express will unload all of its cargo in Halifax before sailing to China for permanent repairs to fire damage. Thanks to the trade imbalance with Asia, empty containers continue to pile up in North American and European ports. It is difficult to find room on ships with paying cargo to return the boxes to China for re-use. Several ideas are in the works including folding boxes that can be reduced to about a third of their normal height, and stacked to take up less space for the return trip.

Yantian Express's "non-revenue" trip to China is an opportunity send a number of those empty boxes back (believed to be in the range of 1,000).

More information has emerged about the incident aboard Maersk Patras on Monday when the ship's second officer was lost overboard. The man's apparent death (his body has not been recovered) had nothing to do with pilot boarding, and may have only been coincidental to the ship's position off the Escoumins pilot station at the time.

Maersk Patras heads to sea from Halifax in 2013. The lashings on the containers, secured by longshoremen,  are clear to see - they are the large X-shaped bracing rods connecting the corners of the containers.

The International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) has condemned the dangerous practice of unlashing containers while the ship is underway on the St.Lawrence River. Montreal is one of the few if not only ports in the world where ships are expected to arrive in port with the containers unlashed. The heavy retaining rods are removed by the ship's crew to make the ship ready to unload immediately on arrival.

The ITF states that this dangerous work should be done by qualified longshoremen, while the ship is in port, and not by ship's crews who may be inexperienced and may be shifted off balance while handling the heavy lashing gear at sea. The ITF has requested that the practice be banned by Transport Canada and the Port of Montreal, stating that they have allowed the practice to continue despite warnings about the dangers.


Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Coast Guard Renewal

The much anticipated Coast Guard renewal process was announced today by the Prime Minister at a photo op in Vancouver. With a federal election coming in the fall everything is now timed to maximize political benefit.  This announcement could have (should have) been made years ago, but at least the wheels are in motion.

The essence of the announcement as I understand it is as follows:

Halifax Shipyard / Irving Shipbuilding:
  •  will build two Arctic Offshore Patrol vessels for the Coast Guard. These will be adaptations of the six AOPS currently contracted for the RCN. (This will provide more stop gap work until the 15 ship surface combatant project gets rolling, and will likely be added at the end of the AOPS program. (That grinding sound you hear in the background is the gnashing of teeth in some CCG circles.) The AOPS ships are the great "unloved" of the RCN and now the CCG!

Vancouver Shipyard / Seaspan:
  • will build 16 multi-purpose vessels to include light [I hope this means medium duty at least]  ice breaking, environmental and SAR duties. This represent replacement of the entire current CCG fleet of medium and light duty icebreakers, navaids vessels and offshore patrol vessels of any significant size, except the three recent ex Swedish supplier/icebreakers. There was no indication in the announcement I saw today of how many classes of vessels are involved, but I think there will need to be at least two. One would be medium/heavy duty icebreakers and one would be light icebreaker/navaids types. 
  • VSY is also committed to building the polar icebreaker but just when is the question. The plan was for it to follow the JSS (Joint Support Ships) for the RCN which are underway now.That would mean that some of the newly announced vessels could start construction in 3 to 5 years.
"Another Yard"
As part of the announcement the PM said that the CCG will also get a new class of inshore, shallow draft, multi-mission vessels that can do inshore science.
No yard has been selected, but commentators expect that Davie will get the work.
I am not so sure. Details are skimpy on these vessels as of now, but in view of several past decisions, "in-shore" means undersized. Certainly well below the capabilities of Davie, and well within the capabilities of several smaller yards, mainly in Quebec, such as Meridian in Matane and Forillon in Gaspé, perhaps acting in consortium.
Davie has just been handed the Holiday Island and Madeleine replacements, which will be largish ships of medium to high complexity, particulary if they go with eco-hydrid types.

Since the vessels announced today will be some time (5 to 15 years) to complete, the CG has been allotted $2 bn to refit and life extend ships. Some of those will be limping to the finish line, but it will provide work for a variety of yards outside the National Shipbuilding Strategy program.

The National Shipbuilding Strategy already in place has committed to the following:

Vancouver Shipyard:
  • 3 Offshore Fisheries Science Vessels (DFO /CCG)
  • 2 Joint Support Ships (RCN)
  • 1 big icebreaker (CCG)
  • 1 Offshore Oceanographic Science Vessel (DFO/CCG)
Halifax Shipyard:
  • 5, recently increased to 6, Arctic Offshore Patrol Vessels (RCN)
  • 15 surface combatants - 12 frigates and three? destroyers

Still Missing:
One more interim supply ship for the RCN.  Maybe another sop to Quebec if the election polls are looking bad?


Grandeur of the Seas - but things not so grand for others.

It was a blustery mid-morning arrival for Grandeur of the Seas today. Its last port was Saint John, NB, so perhaps the skipper decided to take it easy and not press the ship into high winds and seas to get here earlier.

The ship is a familiar visitor to Halifax. Now based in Baltimore, it has been calling here since at least 2001. Built in 1997 by Kvaerner Masa in Helsinki, the 73,817 gt  ship has a passenger capacity of 2446 with 760 crew. The Port of Halifax schedule indicates it may be carrying 2000 passengers on this trip. Weather is always an issue this early in cruise season, especially for the smaller ships.

Yesterday's caller, Pearl Mist bravely set out last evening for its next port of call which is to be Pictou.

Two cruise ship visits to Halifax have already been cancelled this year. The small cruise ships Victory I (scheduled for May 5) and Victory II (scheduled for today) are now operated by American Queen Steamboat Co. Last year they took over Victory Cruise Lines that market summer Great Lakes region cruises.  Victory I may simply have bypassed Halifax due to weather. The ship is already on the Great Lakes.
Victory II has just left West Palm Beach, FL, and is due in Montreal May 30. It may have experienced some sort of technical issue.

Not included in the regular Halifax cruise schedule are the ships of One Ocean Cruises. A Canadian company that organizes Arctic and Antarctic cruises they have been using the Russian research ships Akademik Sergey Vavilov and Akademik Ioffe since 2011. Last year the latter ship ran aground in the arctic and evacuated all passengers and non-essential crew (more than 100 people) to the former ship. The damaged ship then spent several months at the Verreault Shipyard in Méchins, QC undergoing repairs.

This year One Ocean planned extensive cruising in the north and had been granted a coasting license for the Akademik Ioffe starting in July. However it is now reported that the Russian Shirshov Institute, owners of the ships have withdrawn them. Fortunately One Ocean has a third ship, Resolute, with available space and it appears that the summer season will not have to be cancelled.

The two Russian ships have called in Halifax from time to time for stores while repositioning from the Arctic to the Antarctic, but have not been regular cruise ship callers since they are not usually carrying passengers when they call here.

They have been covered in previous posts:


Monday, May 20, 2019

Fire not the only hazard

Today's arrival in Halifax, the Yantian Express, is just one of several ships that have suffered fires at sea recently. Ships of Grimaldi Lines (parent company of ACL) have suffered two fires in past months, one of which resulted in the total loss of the ship when it sank in the Bay of Biscay. In the other, two fires broke out in the same ship on different decks within an hour or so. In that case the crew was able to extinguish both  fires and minimize damage.
The chairman of Grimaldi Group is calling for stronger regulation to control the contents of  containers, and the condition of automobiles shipped by sea.

Recent fires have been traced to containers that were improperly labelled or stowed, but there are other causes too. Another regular caller in Halifax suffered a serious fire in the engine room. November 1, 2016 while 90 miles ESE of Las Palmas, a major fire erupted in the engine room of Maersk Patras knocking out the main engine and generators. Fortunately the fire was suppressed by the on board CO2 system and no lives were lost. The ship eventually returned to service and is on the Canada Atlantic Express operated by Maersk and CMA CGM, calling in Montreal and Halifax.

 Maersk Patras with its accommodation ladder raised.
 It will be lowered when it is time to disembark the pilot. No pilot ladder will be used

On Sunday May 19 while Maersk Patras was inbound on the St.Lawrence River to embark a pilot at Escoumins, QC, one of the crew members fell overboard. Despite an immediate response with the ship's own rescue boat and the pilot boat and a large SAR operation with Coast Guard vessels and aircraft, the victim was not recovered from the 6 degree C waters. Reports indicate that it was the ship's second officer that was lost, and that he was not wearing a PFD or life line.

Particularly with high sided craft such as container ships and tankers in ballast, ships use what is called a "combination ladder", that is  an accommodation ladder in combination with a pilot ladder.

 Making the awkward transition between pilot (rope) ladder and accommodation ladder is difficult enough in calm harbour conditions at anchor let alone with the ship underway in any kind of seas.

Some container ships and autocarriers have side port doors low on the hull to eliminate the need for a combination ladder. That is no guarantee of safety however. In a recent incident a sea broke into the opening as two crew members were opening the inner door. One man was swept away and the other injured.

Crew members frequently have to use the accommodation ladder while the ship is underway to ensure it is rigged properly for the pilot. And pilots have to use the ladders all the time while embarking and disembarking. It is unfortunate, but accidents still happen despite measures to make boarding and disembarking safer.

Maersk Patras is due in Halifax next weekend on its way back to Europe. As with any ship that calls in certain ports regularly, crew members have friends or family in those communities, and I am sure there will be many in Montreal and Halifax who will be grieving the loss of this officer.  I extend my sympathy to those effected.

Yantian Express arrives

The much anticipated arrival of the Yantian Express this morning was obscured to a degree by rain. As the ship worked its way up the harbour, the rain intensified, but it was still possible to see some of the impact of the fire that destroyed 202 containers and damaged as many as 460 others.

The ship was en route to Halifax January 3 when the fire broke out northeast of Bermuda. Weather conditions were severe and firefighting was difficult for the small crew. Help arrived in the form of a nearby tug Smit Nicobar and over the next several days it was assisted by the Maersk Mobiliser out of St.John's and Horizon Star from Halifax and relived by the Sovereign, sent out from Rotterdam. By the time the ship finally arrived off Freeport, Bahamas January 30 the fire was subdued, although there was still concern about hot spots.

The laborious process of removing damaged containers and inspecting others, then cleanup and making repairs to the ship's hatch covers took until early this month. The ship was finally cleared to sail May 15.

On arrival today two other ships were occupying the berths at Fairview Cove and they had priority, so for the present Yantian Express is anchored in Bedford Basin awaiting its turn.

The ship is carrying no containers in the forward holds where the fire took place, and thus is trimmed down slightly by the stern, with the top of the bulbous bow just visible above the waterline. Containers originally destined for Halifax will be unloaded here, but it is unclear how the other containers will be dealt with.

Atlantic Bear on the flank and Atlantic Fir on the stern escort the ship to the anchorages.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

No Holiday

Although it is the Victoria Day holiday weekend on land, it does not appear that Monday will be a holiday at sea. The three herring seiners that have been in port since Friday sailed this afternoon for the fishing grounds.

 Morning Star is the newest and smallest of the three, built in 1991 by Caraquet Marine in New Brunswick. First owners, from Wilson's Beach, Grand Manan Island, registered the vessel in St.Andrews, NB. Ownership has since changed to Scotia Pelagic Inc of  Yarmouth, NS, but the port of registry remains unchanged.

Quick snap from my phone caught Morning Star easing away from its dock at Bishop's Landing early this afternoon.

Once Irving Oil's East Coast completes its work at Woodside early tomorrow morning. Its place will be taken later in the day by DL Rose which is currently unloading at Imperial Oil's #3 dock. (see yesterday's post).

East Coast is due to sail in the wee hours.

Since DL Rose will only be at Irving Oil for a few hours, I expect it will be there to take on bunkers rather than discharge or load any cargo.

The harbour looks to be quite busy tomorrow with three ships scheduled for Fairview Cove. Regular callers Atlantic Star and Budapest Bridge will dock on arrival, but the third will go to anchor.

That ship is the much anticipated Yantian Express, originally due the first week of January. Delayed by fire and the subsequent cleanup and repair in Freeport, Bahamas, the ship will now arrive with the surviving cargo destined for Halifax. There is no clear information from the shipping line or insurer what will happen then. I expect only the Halifax cargo will be unloaded here and the ship will proceed to New York for cargo that was destined there and on to its other east coast ports until all cargo is discharged. 

It is also unclear what condition the ship is in, and whether it will take on new cargo or will only unload  and eventually proceed to a shipyard for refit. Reports indicate that the hatch covers that were damaged by the fire have been repaired sufficiently for the ship to sail safely, but there must be other damage that will require substantial repair work.


Saturday, May 18, 2019

How Windy Was It

Very high winds earlier in the week forced many ships to remain in port and even dredging off Halterm was suspended for for Tuesday and Wednesday. Conditions improved by Friday and some ships decided to sail, others opted to wait until today, but then winds picked up again. However but it was business as usual.

The cruise ship Fram must have changed its itinerary a couple of times after arriving 12 hours late on Wednesday. It was supposed to sail later then same day, then yesterday, but finally got underway today.

Tucked in out of the wind at pier 24, the ship had an extended stay in Halifax.

Another departure after a short stay in port was the schooner Avontuur.  It arrived in Halifax Tuesday (see previous post) May 14 and off loaded a part cargo of fair trade coffee beans.

Getting away early this evening, the vessel made a maneuver that is rarely seen today. Berthed bow in at pier 25, the ship turned in camber using a spring line from the starboard quarter.
(The spring line ran to a bollard on shore, that appears just off the ship's stern in this photo)

Once turned about 180 degrees, the line was let go and the ship moved out quite smartly under power, destination Horta, Azores.

Arrivals seem unhindered by today's weather, but precautions were taken.

Glen Canyon Bridge took its stern escort tug Spitfire III well before reaching the lower harbour and had the tug Atlantic Oak on its port side until rounding George's Island. It then stood round to the starboard for the bridge passages and the Narrows. A fair amount of spray was in evidence.

Geln Canyon Bridge, still wearing K-Line colours, is now part of ONE ( Ocean Network Express) the amalgam of the three primary Japanese container lines. Built by Hyundai Heavy Industries in Ulsan in 2006 it is a 68,750 gt, 71,291 dwt ship of 5624 TEU (including 600 reefer) capacity.

Happily in shelter for the weekend were three herring seiners. The familiar Sealife II, Morning Star and Lady Melissa are the usual scouts sent out to find the spring migratory herring run.

Also sitting calmly in the harbour discharging its cargo at Imperial Oil is the Koean tanker DL Rose

Although the vast majority of MidRange tankers were built in Korea, we don't often see them owned and flagged from that country. DL Rose is the rare exception. Built by SPP Shipbuilding Co in Tongyeong in 2007  it is owned by the Daelim Corporation. Management is by Wilhelmsen SM's Indonesia operation. It is of typical MR size, 39,990 gt, 49,997 dwt. It also exhibits its name in Korean lettering on the bow, just above the name in English. Its last port was Antwerp.

Arriving early this morning at Autoport was a new to me autocarrier. Morning Celine belongs to the Eukor fleet and was built in 2009 by Imabari Zosen in Marugame, Japan. At noon it moved over to pier 31 to offload some  other RoRo cargo.

Tugs Atlantic Fir and Atlantic Bear have accompanied the ship from Autoport and are preparing to turn it to back in to pier 31. They are in the lee of the north wind.

After unloading some heavy cargo at pier 31, using the ship's 100 tonne capacity stern ramp, the ship sailed early this evening.

With the tourist season now in full swing the tour boats are back in business, including Kawartha Spirit returning from a Northwest Arm tour butting right into the headwind.

What ever happened to the plan to rename the boat something more appropriate to Halifax?

Friday, May 17, 2019

Usual and Unusual

Traffic in the harbour has been nearly as per usual in the past couple of days, with a few unusual twists.

Today Lomur arrived from St-Pierre, on its pinch-hitter role for SPMI while Nolhan Ava is in refit in Freeport, Bahamas.

Lomur rounds east of George's Island en route to Fairview Cove, inbound from St-Pierre.

According to press reports, Macquarie, the former operators of Halterm (they sold it to PSA last week) are still seeking in excess of $1.2 million in damages from the March 23, 2017 alision of Nolhan Ava and one of Halterm's old unserviceable cranes. Nolhanava (as it was then) was approaching the berth at pier 36-37 when its bridge wing struck Crane #2. The crane was shifted out of position, striking a concrete barrier which in turn struck Crane #3. Apparently Halterm is claiming that damage to #2 crane was so severe that immediate demolition was necessary. That is a matter for the courts to decide.
Damage to Nolhana Ava was apparent shortly afterwards.

Crumpled bridge wing was tarped for safety until permanent repairs could be made. In order to damage the starboard bridge wing and impacting the crane, the ship had to be backing in towards the berth

As far as "immediate" goes, it was not until early September that a large crane was set up to begin demolition of the crane. (The crane boom is lying flat on the pier and has not been raised yet.)

It was past mid-month before demolition actually got under way on crane#2, with demolition of #3 and #1 following.

Today it was just another in the seemingly endless stream of autocarriers  Eurasian Highway made its call at Autoport. The ship was here before in 2016, but I did not get a photo then.
The ship is still in the old (and boring) K-Line livery of plain grey hull. Newer ships have adopted a more dramatic colour scheme shown here recently.
 Eurasian Highway 59,029 gt, 18,709 dwt, built in 2012 by Imabari Shipbuilding Co Lt in Marugame, Japan has a capacity of 6215 autos.

Not so usual
Not so usual visitors sailed last evening (Thursday) for Boston. The tug Salvage Monarch, towing the tall ship Caledonia had arrived Sunday to get out of high winds in the area. No photos were possible for me, but there are some excellent ones of Shipspotting Canada-East Facebook among other locations.

Caledonia was covered here recently and the tug Salvage Monarch is the subject of a Tugfax post today.

Another not so usual visitor is the Brigitte Bardot the latest in a long string of Sea Shepherd Society protest vessels to call in Halifax. Several of these have had lengthy stays here through arrest or other circumstances. 

Brigitte Bardot (the boat) features two outriggers for stability, and a narrow main hull permitting speeds up to 27 knots (50 mph) using diesel fuel. Prior to Sea Shepherd ownership it set a (since broken) speed record for round the world sailing. 

This one appears unlikely to have an extended stay.  It is named the now 80 something French film star, a long time animal rights advocate, whose fame drew considerable attention to the east coast seal hunt when it was still a major commercial enterprise. She ventured out on the ice to see the seal pups for herself in 1977, bringing down the wrath of Newfoundland sealers.

Brigitte Bardot has been based in Australia since it was acquired by Sea Shepherd in 2010.


Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Why No Posts

It's not as if there has been no activity in Halifax harbour since Friday, but weather has not been conducive - particularly for photography. Here are some highlights.

On Monday the Liberian flag, Greek owned tanker Elka Eleftheria arrived at Irving Oil Woodside from Amsterdam.

Photo taken Tuesday, by which time some cargo had been discharged. The large white shapes that appear to be on the ship's deck are in fact on shore and are part of Irving Oil's propane terminal. The Imperial tank is actually next door to the Irving facility, and the checkerboard tank on the horizon is part of Canadian Forces Base Shearwater.

The 27,539 gt, 44,787 dwt ship dates from 2001 when it was built by Brodosplit in Croatia as Fulgar. It was very quickly renamed  by European Product Carriers Ltd of Athens, part of European Navigation  Inc. All its product tankers carry the name "Elka"  followed by a Greek geographical or mythological name.

Arriving Tuesday under marginal sea and weather conditions the diminutive cargo schooner Avontuur tied up at pier 26.

The crew rig tires as fenders as they prepare to berth. Sea conditions outside prevented the pilot from boarding at the usual place, and so it had to lead the vessel in to a point inside Maugher's Beach where it was safe to get aboard. Conditions did not deter lobster fishermen as they enter the final weeks of the season and try to maximize their catch.

Built in 1920 by Otto Schmidt in Stadskanal, Netherlands, the 138 gt vessel plies the world's trade routes with paying crew, transporting cargo (for example coffee) and spends as much time under sail as possible.

On Tuesday pilotage operations were suspended due to extreme high winds and building seas. Operations did not resume until late this afternoon, and even then some ships did not arrive until  after 1900 hrs.

Grande New York was one, and it only became visible through the rain when it was well into the Middle Ground area.

The 62,134 gt, 18,360 dwt ship was last here 13 months ago - to the day. With a 6700 CEU capacity, the ship was built by Jinling, Nanjing in 2017. After off loading some cars at Autoport, the ship will move to pier 31. Its last port was Valencia, Spain, and unusual source for autocarriers, but it likely came from Italy before that.

Also inbound a few minutes earlier, YM Movement was barely visible until it got well into the harbour.

 It was still raining heavily when the ship passed under the MacKay bridge. A regular caller on THE Alliance EC5 service, the ship has a 6258 TEU capacity, and measures 71,821 gt, 72,370 dwt. Koyo Dockyard in Mihara, Japan built the ship in 2013.

Last to arrive this evening was the little cruise ship Fram. It sailed from Saint John yesterday, expecting to disembark passengers in Halifax first thing this morning. Instead they spent the day rolling around outside the harbour, before finally tying up about 12 hours late. The ship was to sail this evening, but will now stay in port until tomorrow afternoon.

The famous Norwegian coastal passenger line has extended its range to include the arctic and antarctic regions, but so far has bot included Nova Scotia fog and rain as highlights of their cruises.