Saturday, June 29, 2019

No Name Ships

Ships have names, but sometimes the names change. Some say it is unlucky to change a ship's name, but if that were the case there would be many fewer ships sailing the seven seas. Close to 50% of the ships covered in this blog over the years have changed names at least once, and it is not unheard of for a ship to have had four or more or up to ten different names over the years of its life.

Perhaps the ship is sold to a new owner who has a more appropriate name in mind, or is chartered to a company that wants to identify it with its own fleet. Or perhaps the name becomes a point of contention due to a falling out between partners. A recent opinion piece in the Halifax Chronicle Herald recalled an example of the latter situation, but was so riddled with errors that I felt compelled to write a letter to the editor to set the record straight.

My letter was necessarily brief, so here is the longer story behind a very strange choice of names for not one, but for two ships.

In the 1950s, a company named Brunswick Mining and Smelting was behind a large lead and zinc mine near Bathurst, New Brunswick. In 1964 they also announced they would build a lead-zinc smelter and a steel, chemical and fertilizer plant at nearby Belledune, New Brunswick. Partners in the project included K.C.Irving, the New Brunswick industrialist, whose company Engineering Consultants Ltd were to be project managers and numerous other Irving companies as contractors and suppliers.

Irving's shipping company Kent Line was to operate two ships to carry the ore from Belledune to Belgium where another partner, Soc. Gen. des Minerales would carry out further refining. To avoid making non-paying ballast voyages, and to make use of the ships in winter when Belledune was inaccessible due to ice, they were built as combination carriers.

Ships built to carry either oil or bulk or ore cargoes (sometimes called OBOs - oil/ bulk /ore) were not unknown at the time, but were certainly unusual. Alternate holds were equipped to carry ore, with the remaining holds constructed as tanks to carry oil. The ore holds were served by electric cranes.

The two ships were built at Irving's Saint John Dry Dock and Shipbuilding Co and completed in 1964 and 1966. Ownership was in the name of Canadian General Electric, the company that fabricated the ships' propulsion systems and financed construction. They were then chartered to Engineering Consultants Ltd for operation.

The first ship was named M.J.Boylen for Matthew James Boylen, the mining promoter who found the lead zinc deposit and became president of Brunswick Mining and Smelting (BMS). Perhaps as an omen the ship ran aground near Antwerp November 27, 1965.  Fortunately the notorious River Schelde has a muddy bottom and ship was released after three days with only minor damage.

BMS ran into serious cost over runs on the project, owing large amounts to the province as main financial backer. Despite Irving's reported willingness to buy the company, Boylen sold BMS  to Noranda, leaving Irving as a minor shareholder and major creditor. 

In 1966 Irving withdrew from the project. For more on this I recommend John Demont's excellent book Citizens Irving, (McClelland + Stewart, 1991).

Meanwhile the intended honoree of the second ship, New Brunswick premier Louis J. Robichaud had been in numerous disputes with K.C.Irving including over the Province's plan to overhaul its property tax regime. But Robichaud's backing of Noranda's offer was likely the last straw in a fraught relationship. When the the ship was delivered in 1966 it retained its shipyard hull number  H.1070, and never carried the name "L.J.Robichaud" as originally planned.


At about the same time Engineering Consultants Ltd and other Irving entities took over ownership of the first ship and in 1968 renamed it with its shipyard hull number H.1060, and converted it to a pure tanker. It was transferred to Bermuda flag in 1971 and traded internationally, but later returned to Canadian flag with Irving Oil Ltd as owner and Kent Line  Ltd as manager. However due to its steam turbine propulsion system, intended for transatlantic work, it was not a very efficient short haul vessel and spent extended periods laid up in Halifax in 1977 and most of 1980. In January 1981 it shifted to Point Edward, NS (Sydport).

H.1070 was transferred to Bayswater Co, based in Bermuda, with Kent Line Ltd as managers. It kept its ore /oil carrying capability and found some work as a bulk carrier, such as carrying ore from Deception Bay to Germany, but was mostly used as a tanker for Irving Oil. However for a ship of its size, it was no longer an efficient carrier in either mode. It laid up in Halifax in 1980 and in December it also  shifted to Point Edward.
 The two ships remained tied up together at the Syport dock for three and a half  years.

In the summer of 1984 the tug Irving Maple towed out both ships, in a tandem tow, arriving in Santander, Spain July 9, where they were broken up.

The ships had the same hull dimensions of 691 ft x 75.25 ft x 35.94 ft draft and were powered by two Canadian General Electric geared steam turbines of 13,750 ship giving a speed of 15 knots. However H.1060 had one more deck in its superstructure, and thus measured 21,732 gt, 32,143 dwt, whereas H.1070 measured 20,978 gt, 30,847 dwt.

Also interestingly H.1060 featured a black hull for its entire career, whereas H.1070 had the distinctive "biscuit" colour of Irving Oil tankers. This leads me to assume that H.1060 may have carried only black oil (crude or bunker C, asphalt, etc.,) as a tanker, whereas H.1070 carried refined, or "clean" product. With large steam plants however, both were potentially well equipped to carry cargoes that required heating.

One explanation given for not renaming the ships with more typical Irving names was that they were experimental vessels. There may have been some tax advantage in doing that, but there is probably no way of confirming it. The Irving companies are privately held and thus are not required to publish financial details. That Boylen and Robichaud were no longer in favour with K.C.Irving cannot be disputed, and renaming was certainly an obvious sign and reminder of the break up.

The interlocking ownership and vertical integration of the Irving companies has changed over the years with Irving Oil quite separate from the other industrial activities under the J.D.Irving wing.

Irving Oil now operates the largest refinery on the east coast of North America. The recent closure of the slightly larger PES refinery in Philadelphia after a disastrous fire, makes Irving Oil the dominant player in its field, with a large share of the northeastern US market. Irving Oil apparently owns no ships, but has long term charters on several tankers.

The J.D.Irving branch are proprietors of Irving Shipbuilding Inc, owners of Halifax Shipyard, the premier naval constructor in Canada. Their myriad industrial interests include, forestry, construction, transportation agriculture and services. These include Atlantic Towing Ltd, active in offshore and towing, and Harbour Development Ltd, marine contractors.

The former Canadian Government lightship Mikula, the schooner Philip E. Lake and two "no name" ships populated the Sydport pier - all reminders of times long gone.


Thursday, June 27, 2019

Sycara V

The berth known as the Tall Ships Quay just north of pier 20 and once the Nova Scotia Light and Power's coal dock, has become a favourite spot for super yachts. This time it is the 1550 gt Sycara V.

 A long sleek yacht deserves a wide angle lens.

The 225 footer was built by Nobiskrug in 2010, but in 2017 it had an extensive refit. Also as usual for yachts of this type it is listed for sale for a mere 59 million Euros, but in case you don't want to make that commitment you can charter for $485,000 a week (plus costs of course.)
The vessel can do 17 knots, but for the economy minded, cruising at 10 knots gives a range of 7,000 nautical miles.

Seen from pier 20 in 1968 the dock had ceased to bring in coal and the power plant was converted to burn oil, but the coal bunkers were still there as was the car dumping shed to unload rail cars.
Emera, parent company of what is now the Nova Scotia Power Corp gave the old building a major overhaul and it is now their corporate headquarters.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

MSC Poh Lin - another diversion

The MSC Poh Lin anchored in Halifax shortly before noon for Asian gypsy moth inspection. The ship is en route from Liverpool, UK to Montreal, and was diverted to Halifax for examination by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency . This annual ritual of ships that have recently been in Asia is an endeavour to keep the invasive species from spreading to Canadian forests.

Built in 2004 by Hyundai, Samho the 54,774 gt, 66,786 dwt ship has a capacity of 4,862 TEU.

MSC has been in the news recently with the seizure in Philadelphia on June 18 of MSC Guyane when it was found to be carrying 35 thousand kilos of cocaine worth an estimated $1.1 billion. Several crew members are in custody suspected of arranging the transfer of the drug from small boats while off the South American coast. It is reported that several crew members were offered sums of money in the range of $50,000 to participate in the scheme.

MSC Poh Lin had its own similar experience in July 2016 when it was detained in Gioia Tauro Italy after cocaine was found on board. At least one crew member was implicated.

Shipping lines are plagued with issues these days, including stowaways, mislabeled cargo and smuggled goods. All this at a time when they are struggling with low freight rates and intense competition.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

CMA CGM Thalassa revisited

Back in February when it called here for the first time I wondered if CMA CGM Thalassa was the largest container ship to call here.

At the time I put my faith in figures recorded for CMA CGM Libra, putting it slightly ahead.

Despite the nominal 11,040 TEUs quoted, the 10,980 TEU capacity used by many sources and the 8,108 TEU if loaded to an average 14 tonnes, there is still a case to be made for the CMA CGM Thalassa because it has the larger deadweight tonnage of 131,938 tonnes, and can carry more loaded containers. Simply put CMA CGM Thalassa can carry more cargo even though it is not the bigger ship in dimensions.

The declared container capacity of a ship and the actual number of containers it can actually carry may be somewhat less. Some lines are coy and understate the capacity and others overstate it. Deadweight tonnage also varies because it depends on the allowed draft. If the calculation is made for the ship at the deepest draft condition, then that is the ultimate carrying capacity. It is not always clear without access to more detailed information whether the quoted deadweight tonnage is in fact the maximum.

No matter if it is the biggest or not, it was an impressive sight arriving this afternoon and towering over the attending tugs and the harbour tour boat Silva of Halifax.


Friday, June 14, 2019

Quitting time

It looked like quitting time at the factory late this afternoon in Halifax harbour as three ships all sailed within a few minutes of each other and all from different locations.

First off was Gerhard Schulte. The German owned ship is on temporary assignment with ACL filling in for the Atlantic Sail. That ship, one of the Chinese built G4 ConRos has been in Hamburg, Germany for repairs since April 10.

After unloading and loading at Cerescorp's Fairview Cove terminal yesterday, Gerhard Schulte made an unusual move early this morning to pier 27, probably to take fuel. Now that Halifax no longer has a bunker barge service, pier 27 has become the designated refueling stop where tank trucks deliver fuel directly to the ship.

Next to leave was Zim Luanda from Halterm.

A regular on Zim's weekly service, its next port is to be New York.

The last of the rush hour departures was the Canadian flag Nolhan Ava resuming its spot on the TMSI service to St-Pierre et Miquelon. The ship has come off a refit in Freeport, Bahamas and alongside in Halifax starting in mid-April.

While Nolhan Ava was out of service its place was taken by Lomur which was in Halifax yesterday to discharge cargo from St-Pierre. It then sailed for Portland, ME,  back again under the Eimskip banner. It came off that company's Green Line service in April to work for TMSI.

Lomur does not appear again on Eimskip's published schedule so this may be a one off trip. Eimskip operates a feeder service between Halifax and Portland, ME for CMA CGM on its Green Line ships.


Thursday, June 13, 2019

Seaspan, Davie follow up

Contrary to my previous report Seaspan did express disappointment on May 23 when the federal government gave them a sixteen ship contract and stated that a third shipyard would be added to the National Shipbuilding procurement program. I don't follow the shipyard's press campaign, so missed their release of that date.

Not only will the feds give the polar icebreaker to an as yet undesignated third shipyard (which must be Davie since there is no other substantial Canadian shipyard) but there is still some question about just what Seaspan got instead.

The initial announcement was for sixteen "Multi-Purpose Vessels" but from what I can learn this is still somewhat vaguely defined, however it is supposed to be part of a complete rebuilding of the entire Coast Guard fleet. These ships were originally to be awarded to non-NSBS shipyards, but it is apparent that there are no non NSBS shipyards of any capability to do the work, aside of course from Davie.

Giving Seaspan 16 or so smaller vessels versus one larger vessel seems sensible to me, but Seaspan is calling foul about expanding the shipbuilding strategy to three yards from two. I don't see what they lose.

This kind of sour grapes reaction can be expected, but is still inexcusable. Expanding the NSBS to a third yard to develop an arctic icebreaker capability makes sense. The result will be three 'centres of excellence' - Combat (Halifax), non-combat (Seaspan) and Arctic (Davie). This seems a logical outcome from where Canada was before the NSBS - essentially at ground zero in terms of any serious shipbuilding capability.
(Davie's bankruptcy and rebirth as a viable shipyard was happening consecutively and was very much in doubt when the NSBS was originally formulated.)

So what does the Coast Guard have now, and what will it look like after this project?

The current non-research, large vessel CCG fleet consists of 20 ships:

Heavy Icebreakers -2
Louis S. St-Laurent - to be replaced by the Polar Icebreaker -purpose built

Terry Fox - ex civilian tug/supply

Medium Icebreakers - 4
Amundsen (with research capability) - no replacement announced

Des Groseilliers to be replaced with ex Viking?
Henry Larsen to be replaced with ex Viking?
Pierre Radisson to be replaced with ex Viking?


High Endurance Multi-Task -7 (light icebreaking capability)
[two types, but with essentially the same spec]
Ann Harvey
Edward Cornwallis
George R. Pearkes
Griffon - Great Lakes

Martha L. Black
Sir Wilfrid Laurier - West Coast

Sir William Alexander

Medium Endurance Multi-Task -3 (light icebreaking capability)
Bartlett - west coast

Earl Grey - east coast

Samuel Risley -Great Lakes


Offshore Patrol -4
Cape Roger - built as fisheries protection

Cygnus -built as fisheries protection

Leonard J. Cowley - purpose built
Sir Wifred Grenfell - converted civilian tug/supply
Total 21 ships

The plan as I see it:
Heavy Icebreaker
- the Polar Icebreaker is to replace the Louis S. St-Laurent
- A second Polar Icebreaker is needed to replace Terry Fox - Davie will certainly lobby for this - Mostly because of the limitations of the the ships in the next category.
It is also possible that a secondhand civilian icebreaker can be found as a replacement. There are couple of idle candidates. Other nations are building for the arctic: Russia of course, the US has finally agreed to build new polar ships and even China is now in the game.
If Canada is to be serious about the arctic it needs more than one polar class icebreaker.

Medium Icebreaker
It is apparent that the feds think that the three ex Swedish icebreaking supply vessels will be the long term replacements for the three current medium icebreakers.
The Vikings are as yet unproven in Coast Guard service in the far north and the three boats are smaller with more limited capabilities outside of icebreaking, such as science, policing, etc., Although the horsepower of the Vikings is greater:18,300 bhp vs 17,700 bhp, their gross tonnage is much less, 3382 vs 5,775. Breaking ice is not just about power, but also about mass and momentum.
Purpose built medium/heavy icebreakers would be a better bet, and will probably be tacked on for Davie after they finish the Polar.

Capt. Molly Kool ex Vidar Viking - partially refitted, to be completed at Davie for 2021
Jean Goodwill ex Balder Viking - in refit at Davie for 2020
Vincent Massey ex Tor Viking - in refit at Davie for 2020
 Life expectancy 10 years minimum.

Halifax Shipyard will be building the two Arctic Offshore Patrol Ships (AOPS) at the end of the RCN contract, and modified for the CCG. It is unclear how these fit into the plan, since they don't replace any ships in the current roster. Delivery for 2025, 2026?

Arctic Science seems to have been left out of the equation, with no equivalent of Amundsen in the mix, which does double duty as a medium icebreaker.

High Endurance Multi-Task (HEMTV)(7)
These ships must do buoy laying, navaid maintenance, light icebreaking and SAR and pollution response.
Not currently listed specifically by Seaspan, but seems that Seaspan will get these.

Medium Endurance Multi-Task (MEMTV)(3)
All the same functions as above.
Seaspan will get these 3 ships. I am not sure what use medium endurance vessels are, when high endurance vessels can do the job, and offer a lot more flexibilty.
Last year Samuel Risley went to Greenland in the summer, but medium icebreakers were needed to open the Seaway and Great Lakes this spring because the MEMTVs could not do the job.

Offshore Patrol (OPV)(4)
Seaspan will get these replacements. Seakeeping is the primary characteristic of these ships for rescue work, and fisheries patrol/policing is the other role. Not the same specs as the above.
Maybe 4 ships?

Seaspan thinks they will be getting 16 or 17 ships to build, but I only count 14 from the above list. However their own website only shows ten ships and these appear to be patrol vessels. They list only Medium Endurance Multi-Task Vessels (MEMTV) and Offshore Patrol (OPV).

Lets hope the High Endurance class (HEMTVs) will not be watered down to MEMTV status.

The CCG needs to replace 20 vessels including Amundsen.
So far:
Davie gets 4  -the one Polar (heavy) and the three ex Vikings (medium)
Seaspan gets MEMTVs and OPVs, maybe HEMTVs, total 16?

Total 20 ships

Then Halifax gets 2 AOPs, modified RCN design for CCG use, extra and above the current fleet.

However no specific mention is made of how the capabilities of Terry Fox and Amundsen will be replaced.

Maybe the debate for a second Polar Icebreaker will start after the election.

Lots of room for timely political announcements.


Tall, taller, tall-least

Sails in Halifax harbor are usually limited to pleasure craft except for the occasional Tall Ships event and the yearly visits of Bluenose II. This year those visits will be rarer than usual as "Nova Scotia's Sailing Ambassador" will be traveling far afield.

However it is spending a few days this week in Halifax with public openings and short harbour trips under sail. It will return to Lunenburg for the weekend.This afternoon while getting away from its dock it encountered Silva of Halifax one of the many harbour tour boats, but the only one left that carries sails.

It would perhaps be uncharitable to say that the Silva is a short tall ship, but since it carries no topmasts, it appears rather stubby when seen next to the Bluenose II. Built in Sweden in 1939 as an Icelandic trading schooner, it was converted to a tour boat in 2001 and renamed (officially) Silva of Halifax. It does hoist sails during most of its harbour tours, as it did a few minutes after this photo.

Although not using topsails today, Bluenose II is always an inspiring sight when it takes to the wind.

Nova Scotians wishing to see Tall Ships have only a few days to do so. With the  June 1 arrival back in its home port of Lunenburg, the 3 master Picton Castle will be sailing again this weekend.

Built in 1928, Picton Castle has just completed the latest, and reportedly the last, of its round the world cruises. In future it will confine itself to the Atlantic Basin, but still carry on its training and other programs.

Also visiting Lunenburg is the well known Pride of Baltimore II . A miniature sail past is scheduled for Sunday when it, Picton Castle and Bluenose II depart together headed for the Tall Ships Great Lakes Challenge 2019.

For more on Bluenose II's summer schedule see:


Monday, June 10, 2019

Fine Print and Shoes

The fine print

Perhaps not wishing to look a gift horse in the mouth Seaspan did not mention the fine print involved in the recent announcement that the federal government was awarding them the work to replace the Canadian Coast Guard's fleet of icebreakers and buoy tenders.

That eighteen or nineteen ship contract has a major string attached, and that is the government has withdrawn construction of the polar icebreaker from Seaspan and will be awarding it to a third shipyard yet to be designated.

The major icebreaker has been a key part of the non-combat work at Seaspan, but had been postponed in favour of the two supply ships for the RCN.

There are some good reasons for moving this contract and some very peculiar justifications presented by observers.

First the explanations:
It is logical that a series of smaller ships will be better suited to Seaspan's abilities and will certainly make sense for one yard to build all the ships in a series. (That logic apparently doesn't work for refits of naval ships, but we will let that one pass.)

It is almost laughable to say that the third shipyard is yet to be designated. Since there are really only three shipyards of any size in Canada, and Halifax will not be getting the polar icebreaker, that leaves Davie. Why not say so?

Aside from the logic of giving the contract to a capable shipyard it is also a politically sensitive time for the current Liberal government. They need Quebec votes, and this will certainly help.

Then there is the repeated opinion that Davie is an icebreaker specialist and that this is their kind of work. This is a ludicrous statement since the last icebreaker of any size they built was CCGS Griffon in 1970 and of a heavier size the CCGS J.E.Bernier in 1967. Certainly they have built numerous ice class ships, including some very capable ferries and some tankers, but they were not icebreakers. In fact the last heavy icebreaker they built was the CCGS John A. Macdonald in 1960. To think that any of that expertise still resides in the shipyard management or its workers strains credulity.

They have certainly  been maintaining the CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent in recent years and are refitting the three ex Swedish icebreakers, but that is not new construction.

I am all in favour of Davie building the polar icebreaker. It will mean that the ship may be completed in a reasonable amount of time. Certainly they have the work force to do it and an open enough order book that it should not be delayed, thus ending the series of multi-million refits to keep CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent running.

Are the Lovely Louie's days finally numbered?

The other shoe

I am waiting for the other shoe to drop - in fact both other shoes.

Shoe #1
Canada actually needs two polar icebreakers, not just one. When will the government decide to award the second one (publicly)? Maybe not before the October election. CCGS Terry Fox is a capable vessel and was a great bargain. However its ability to carry scientists and conduct other arctic work is limited.

The second shoe is the name. The current polar icebreaker project has carried the name CCGS John G. Diefenbaker since it was announced by the Conservative prime minister in 2008. I cannot see a Liberal government delivering a ship with that name. Supposing the Liberals get in again in October, I expect to see the name change. And it will not be Lester B. Pearson (which incidentally has been my nomination, even though I would prefer his nickname of Mike to be used.)

If two icebreakers are built then there is a logical solution - but perhaps not as politically astute. However de-politicizing the naming of icebreakers is a faint hope.


Bridge Clearance

A recent photo I posted showing a ship sailing beneath the Angus L. Macdonald bridge raised the question of vertical clearance requirements (ship's air draft) and the course a ship is to take to sail under the bridge.

Granville Bridge clears the Macdonald Bridge June 8.

For those interested in learning about this in great detail, they should refer to the Port Information Guide, published annually by the Port of Halifax. The latest version can be found here:

If that provides too much detail for the average person, I will give a much abridged version

All large ships have to apply for permission to transit under the two Halifax harbour bridges. Ships with an air draft greater than 46m are of particular concern since there is a requirement that ships have a clearance between the topmost portion of their mast and the under side of the bridge of at least 1.35m. Depending on the state of the tide clearance under the bridges will vary, so permission is granted on a case by case basis in real time.

Ships know the distance between the keel and top of mast for their particular ship, but air draught will vary depending on how much cargo the ship is carrying, and thus its water draught.

The master is usually aware of the air draught, but it is calculated specifically as the ship enters port. This calculation must then be verified by attending tug and pilot by reading the ship's draught marks. The air draught is then relayed to the Port Authority and if satisfactory the ship is cleared to pass the bridge. (A similar procedure occurs when the ship sails.)

Advance notification of the intention to sail under the bridges is also required from ships so that construction activity beneath the bridge can be adjusted. There are mobile work platforms under the bridge from time to time (called travelers) and they can be relocated in time for the ship to pass.

Assuming there is adequate clearance and the ship is cleared to pass under the bridge, there are also aids to navigation to assist the pilot.

Quoted from the Port Information Guide:

BRIDGE MARKINGS The centre span is marked by fixed navigational lights installed on both sides of both bridges. Additional orange panel markers are affixed to the bridge structure to indicate to the pilot the limits of the preferred channel. Bright green square markers (with both day time and night time visibility characteristics) are positioned 55 meters on either side of the centre span denoting the 110-meter navigation channel.

The orange panels are just visible in the photo above, but seen from a different angle here:

Note there is also a white paint on the bridge structure in roughly the same line.

The centre of the bridge is also marked, but with a yellow paint.

The orange panels themselves appear to be fairly recent, and are simply sheets of plywood, painted on one side only and affixed with plastic tie wraps to the bridge fencing. Something more permanent must be planned.


Sunday, June 9, 2019

New Laker on the Block

By this time of the year there usually have been several Great Lakes ships in Halifax, sometimes with grain from the Lakehead and sometimes to load gypsum. This year is different. Not only has there been no grain from the Lakes yet, and only one cargo from the Lakes.*

One of the stalwarts for many years has been the Atlantic Huron but it has been busy elsewhere and has put in only one appearance on April 17. It arrived in ballast and loaded gypsum. Today however was the first visit to Halifax of a different CSL ship entirely, the Baie St.Paul. It docked at National Gypsum late last night and sailed early this afternoon giving a destination of Cote Ste-Catherine QC, on the St.Lawrence Seaway.

Baie St.Paul is one of a new generation of lakers, that CSL ordered from China to replace older ships. Called the Trillium class, there are several variations, or sub-classes of ships within the group.
One group of six ships was built to the maximum allowable size for the St.Lawrence Seaway locks, measuring 739'-10" x 77'-11" with a maximum draft of 30 ft.  Four of these ships were built as self-unloaders and two were built as gearless bulk carriers.
Another group are Panamax ocean going ships. There are five ships in this group, all of which work within the CSL Americas pool, with one owned by Algoma.

Baie St.Paul is one of the Seaway self-unloaders, and was built to trade within the Great Lakes / St. Lawrence estuary, but not intended to go to sea. Special reinforcing was installed in the ship to allow it to sail from China to Canada on delivery late in 2011. However that material was removed on arrival and the ship had not ventured outside of the Gulf of St.Lawrence since.

During last winter's layup/refit the ship was reinforced again, but in a different way, to permit it to make brief coastal trips. The ship reached Halifax in a quite a circuitous way. The ship loaded petcoke in Thunder Bay, sailing May 19 and passing down through Seaway exiting the system opposite Montreal on May 25. It then proceeded to Point Tupper, NS via the Canso Canal where it unloaded part of its cargo for Nova Scotia power. It then proceeded to Sydney, NS, (via the Atlantic coast route) and delivered the remainder of the cargo, also for Nova Scotia Power. Returning along the same path in ballast it loaded crushed stone at Auld's Cove, NS, hard by the Canso lock. Once that cargo was delivered to Charlottetown, PE the ship proceeded along the west coast of Cape Breton, crossing the Cabot Strait and docking at Lower Cove on Newfoundland's Port au Port Peninsula. There it loaded more crushed stone which it delivered to Summerside, PE.
That done, it proceeded to Halifax , via the Canso Canal, and the Atlantic coast.

The ship berthed stern in at National Gypsum's pier, to allow the travelling ship loader there to reach all the holds without interference from the ship's self-unloading boom.

It loaded to about 8 meters draft, representing the maximum allowable Seaway draft of 26'-6", which equates to a cargo of about 29,650 tonnes. Note that Great Lakes ships do not have a "boot topping" or defined waterline with different paint colour above and below. They do not require the same anti-fouling hull treatment as sea-going ships, and therefore there is no distinction between hull paint colour above and below the waterline. Given the extra freeboard, from the ship's maximum draft of 30 feet, that is an added safety factor to allow the ship to go to sea.

Ships built for the Great Lakes have a number of distinctive features:

- Fairleads for mooring lines are set into the forepeak of the ship, under cover, where winches and bitts are located. 
- Derricks to swing crew members ashore are required for all ships transiting the St.Lawrence Seaway. They are rarely used anymore in the locks since suction plates are now in use instead of ship's lines.
However crew are frequently landed at the approach walls when ships have to wait their turn in the lock and need someone ashore to take lines.

- Lakers have steel plate hatch covers, which are clamped in place when underway. (The clamps are visible in this photo - they are galvanized zinc colour.)The gantry travels on rails the length of the deck and is used to pick up or place and stack hatch covers.

- Long ladders, rigged forward of the wheelhouse are used to embark or disembark crew in the locks or approaches where piers are built very close to the water. The ladders are lowered by means of small electric winches until they rest on the dock - well out from the side of the ship.

The crew have readied the pilot ladder and will swing it down when it is time to disembark the pilot.
- Note the three broad steel plate straps on the hull just below the deck level in this and other photos above. These are reinforcements added to allow the ship to make short sea voyages by limiting the flexure of the hull.
- The self-unloading boom has an enclosed conveyor belt to reduce the amount of airborne dust when unloading a cargo.

*On April 9 the articulated tug / barge Leo A. McArthur / John J. Carrick delivered a cargo of asphalt from the Great Lakes to the McAsphalt dock in Eastern Passage.


Saturday, June 8, 2019


Both container [pier worked two container ships today and CN Rail began to set up a display near the waterfront.

Halterm welcomed CMA CGM Elbe a 95,263 gt, 112,500 dwt ship with a stated capacity of 9365 TEU including 1458 reefers. The ship was built in 2014 by Dalian Shipbuilding Industry in China.

With a capacity similar to some of the more conventional looking CMA CGM ships, it appears much larger due to the split superstructure favoured by many of the very large 10,000 TEU plus ships.

Halterm also had the regular weekly Maersk/CMA CGM ship. Despite no call last week form sister ship Maersk Patras, today's caller Maersk Penanag appeared lightly loaded on departure.

It did however appear to have lots of empties on its after deck.

At Cerescorp MOL Partner was back (lots of pictures of it in previous posts), and a ship I had not photographed before.

Granville Bridge was built in 2006 by Hyundai, Ulsan and measures 68,570 gt and 71,326 dwt, with and can carry 5624 TEU, including 600 reefers.

The ship is still wearing the "legacy" colours of K-line. After that line, MOL and NYK merged container ship operations into Ocean Network Express (ONE) more and more of the magenta coloured containers are showing up. For now at least, only new ships are being painted in that colour.

On shore CN Rail brought in a variety of shapes, sizes and colours of its intermodal containers to the parking lot opposite pier 23. They will be assembled as part of a 100th anniversary celebration.


Thursday, June 6, 2019

and more

Some clearing later in the afternoon allowed for a brief outing to catch a traffic jam of one departing and two arriving ships. It was deftly handled and safe passages were had by all, although I did think that perhaps one ship was a little overly eager.

The departing ship was another queen (see earlier post) but this was a more prosaic one. Viking Queen is a Singapore flag autocarrier from the Gram Car Carriers fleet. Built in 2007 by the Uljanik shipyard in Pula, Croatia as Hoegh Delhi it was renamed in 2017.

The 55,775 gt, 16,840 dwt ship has a capacity of 7000 cars (CEUs) and as the largest and least maneuverable of the three ships, it claimed the main channel as its seaward course en route for Davisville, Rhode Island.

The first of the incoming vessels, HMCS Fredericton took the western, or deepwater channel to give Viking Queen some room.

Fredericton emerged from the latest repair session at Halifax Shipyard in November 2018 and for the past few weeks has been seen in Bedford Basin, at the static sound range and loitering offshore. Today's outing may or may not have included a commemoration of the the D-Day landings in Normandy 75 years ago. I could find no reference, to what it was doing, in particular.

As the departure point for thousands of Canadian troops sent to Europe during World War II, the port of Halifax was closer to the war than any other Canadian city. That was recognized today in a special ceremony attended by among others, the Governor General. Although it had to be moved indoors due to the weather - that was nothing new for those who know Halifax! - it was well reported by all news organizations. Attendees included some of the sadly diminishing ranks of those who served in World War II.

Third vessel in the mix was the supplier Trinity Sea returning from the Sable Island area on its regular supply run.

As the smallest of the ships it was able to hug the eastern side of the main channel and gave the outbound 'Queen a port to port passing.

Here is what it looked like as Fredericton emerged from the western channel, Viking Queen carried on and Trinity Sea kept to the eastern side.


Ownership complications - updated

Ownership is often a murky subject when it comes to ships. For a variety of reasons ships are sometimes owned by what are known as "single ship" companies. The company, often incorporated in a tax haven, owns only the one ship, and the company's shareholders are shielded from liability through a complex tangle of investors, banks, lenders and mortgage holders. Not that it is any of my business who actually owns a ship. A good thing too since it is frequently impossible to determine who actually does own a ship. In fact some well known "ship owners" have become ship managers only and don't actually own any ships, preferring to operate them for others.

Unclear ownership is not restricted to unscrupulous operators flying the flags of dodgy nations. Even large, well established and respected shipowners are given to spreading the ownership of their fleets among a variety of entities for perfectly legitimate reasons such as ownership syndication.

Despite all the obfuscation some shipowners want to identify ships as part of their fleet by selecting names with common themes, adopting common stylistic preferences and painting them in company colours. The most obvious means of identification is the time honoured funnel marking.

All this forms a back drop to two ship arrivals in Halifax yesterday and last night. Two tankers, both coming from Amsterdam, one tying up at Irving Oil and one at Imperial Oil, both with names from Greek mythology. There are lots of Greek tankers in the world, but would the owners of these ships be connected is the obvious question (at least to me).

Having researched the daylights out of the question, I am still not sure.

First in was the Strymon. Named for the mythological Greek river god, son of Oceanus and Tethys, it is wearing the gray hull and traditional "lambda" (Greek L) funnel marking of Stavros G. Livanos. A typical mid-range tanker of 30,020 gt, 47,120 dwt, it was built in 2005 by STX Shipbuilding Co in Jinhae, South Korea. It tied up at Irving Oil's Woodside terminal.

Strymon unloading at Irving Oil.

From what I can learn, the ship, flagged in the Bahamas, is owned by Empire Navigation Ltd-LB and managed by Sun Enterprises Ltd-LB. Visiting the Sun Enterprises website, the company traces its history to 1920 and mentions acquiring 12 Liberty ships in 1947. That history is common with the legendary Stavros G. Livanos, but the name Livanos appears nowhere in the history. A side bar gives S.Livanos Hellas SA as manning agents. That company, based in Athens appears, at least in name, to be the successor to the famed shipping "empire" of Stavros G. Livanos and his son George S. Livanos.

The second arrival, which tied up at Imperial Oil's number 3 dock, has, at least so far, been invisible due to rain, is MR Orestes (MR standing for Mid Range and Orestes for another Greek mythological character).

                                --- picture to be added if it becomes available ---

Flying the Marshall Islands flag, it is a 30,006 gt, 50,106 dwt ship. Built in 2009 by SPP Plant and Shipbuilding Co, Sacheon, South Korea as Hongbo it was renamed in 2015 by current owners MR Orestes Shipping. Managers are listed as Empire Navigation Inc. A search reveals Empire Navigation Inc as a totally different company from Empire Navigation Ltd. Although based in Greece, it has a different address and a location in the Athens suburb of Elliniko.

So is there a connection? Other than the coincidence of arrival from the same port at about the same time, it appears not.

All this delving into ownership of course recalls that Stavros G. Livanos was one of the famed Greek shipping tycoons. Notably frugal, he was quoted as saying "I have no money. I have ships." Nevertheless he traveled in very wealthy circles. One daughter married Aristotle Onassis and after divorcing him, married among others Stavros Niarchos. The other daughter had previously married Stavros Niarchos too. The Livanos family therefore had a front row seat to the legendary rivalry between Onassis and Niarchos which was fought out by building larger and larger tankers.
George S. Livanos, son of Stavros G. seems to have inherited the family business, but has been able to completely shield himself from any notice or notoriety.

As for the Onassis and Niarchos "empires", there is much to be told. However simply put the Onassis family foundations have many shipping investments and Olympic Shipping and Management still owns and operates ships. The Niarchos family investments are widespread in real estate but in 2013 they pulled out of shipping. After a series of oil spills from other Greek tankers and huge liability claims, they decided the business was too risky. They now count hotels and ski hills in St.Moritz, Switzerland as part of their portfolio.


Queen Mary 2 - unplanned call

The transatlantic passenger liner* RMS Queen Mary 2 made an unplanned and brief call in Halifax in the early hours of this morning. The ship is on the westbound leg of a voyage from Southampton to New York and back, part of a 14 day two way Atlantic crossing.

Not all of Queen Mary 2's Halifax calls are in ideal conditions nor in broad daylight.

Such brief calls are usually the result of a medical emergency on board. There has been no official release of details, but it seems likely that weather conditions at sea precluded a helicopter evacuation or transfer to another vessel. Driving rain with torrential showers and high winds alongshore and offshore prevailed over night.

The ship seems to have tied up briefly at pier 22 before sailing at about 0630 hrs. Nor is it known yet if it was a passenger or crew member that needed assistance.

Medevacs are common from cruise ships, and are a fact of life. Fortunately the big ships like QM2 have excellent medical facilities and staff and illnesses or injuries can receive early intervention and stabilization. The risky process of helicopter evacuations can often become unnecessary with good on-board care.  That the ship can also travel at very high speed (up to 30 knots) means that it can reach a port relatively quickly compared to slower speed cruise ships.

The other factor is that family members may need to accompany medical cases, and the physical condition of the case and the companions may make helicopter and ship to ship transfers impractical.

*Cunard has designated Queen Mary 2 as a transatlantic passenger liner, that also conducts cruises. Its design and construction make it suitable for heavy ocean work, unlike purpose built cruise ships. In fact it is now the only ocean liner in the world and the largest ever built.
It also carries mail, and is thus eligible to be designated a Royal Mail Ship (RMS). It was a contract to deliver mail that funded the start of Cunard Line.


Wednesday, June 5, 2019

If you have to ask....

The expedition yacht Bella Vita arrived at Tall Ship Quay today. I avoid calling it a super yacht simply because there are reputed to be 139 larger (and maybe more impressive) yachts in the world. However at 248 ft x 44 ft x 12.47 ft (draft) it is certainly a big yacht. Its six decks can accommodate 12 passengers and up to 22 crew to run the ship and cater to the owner and guests.

Built to a very high level of finish by Lurrson in 2009 as Northern Star it was sold and renamed in 2017. It is an ice class vessel with a range of 6,000 miles at 12 knots. Normal cruising speed would be 15 to 17 knots. Its gross tonnage is 2205.

The ship comes with a variety of small water craft. One of which (seen in the left background) seemed to be doing a security patrol. Some of the craft are housed discretely behind hull doors.

In case you are one of those who feel compelled to ask anyway...
When it was sold in 2017 the list price then was reported to be US$ 93,000,000. As with most vessels of this class it is available for charter and goes for about US$ 730,000 per week plus expenses.


Tuesday, June 4, 2019

NEAS news

The yearly northern sealift conducted by NEAS (Nunavut Eastern Arctic Shipping) will indeed have two new ships sailing for it this year according to a press release issued May 30. The new names and schedules have also been published. By process of elimination I have determined which ships they are. It remains yet to determine which ship will get which name.

If this all seems a little arcane, please refer the previous post of April 10:

As reported two of the older members of the NEAS fleet were built in 1988, Avataq and Umiavut, and I was fairly certain that these would be retired this year. However the newly published shipping schedule shows Umiavit continuing to sail this year, along with the newer Mitiq and  Qamutik (built 1994) and Nunalik (built 2009). Typically NEAS may charter in one or two other ships for the summer. Erasmusgracht and Dolfijngracht  are shown on their fleet list page:

The new ships to the fleet are shown as Aujaq (meaning "summer") and Sinaa (meaning "ice floe edge"). The press release states that the ships are sisters of Mitiq and Qamutik, former Spliethoff E-type vessels, that are ice class 1, carrying 720 TEU, and equipped with three 60 tonne cranes.

The two Spliethoff ships are almost certainly:

  •  Egmondgracht which was anchored off Montreal a few days ago and is now upbound through the St.Lawrence Seaway to Port Colborne, still under Dutch flag.
  • Egelantiersgracht en route from Antwerp to Montreal and due to take a pilot at Escoumins June 9.
The NEAS schedule shows Aujaq sailing from Valleyfield, QC June 22 and Sinaa June 30. This leaves the ships a couple of weeks to be "Canadianised" and sign on a Canadian crew.

The two ships will, like the rest of the fleet, be Inuit owned, with certain aspects of operation and management coordinated by Logistec.


MSC Nuria

Although we see their containers from time to time on other ships it is rare to see an actual MSC (Mediterranean Shipping Co) container ship in Halifax. As the second largest container shipping line in the world, it calls in many nearby ports including Montreal and Saint John, NB.

MSC Nuria in number one anchorage with the launch Halmar alongside.

Today's arrival of MSC Nuria however was not a sign of things to come. Instead it was a routine matter of undergoing a Canadian Food Inspection Agency examination for Asian gypsy moth. The ship had recently been in the area of Asia where the moth proliferates and before being allowed to proceed farther into Canadian territory it had to be checked. The procedure did not take long and the ship was underway again in about 3 hours, to continue its trip from Liverpool, UK to Montreal.

Making its way outbound passing Thrumcap the ship has its accommodation ladder rigged to disembark the pilot when it reaches Chebucto Head.

The MSC Nuria is a 50,963 gt, 63,377 dwt ship built in 2008 by Daewoo's Mangalia shipyard in Romania, with a capacity of 4884 TEU including 560 reefers. MSC moves its ships frequently from one route to another, to put the most appropriate ship on a given run. With more than 525 ships and a fleet capacity is around 3.3 mn TEUs, they have a wide range to chose from.

MSC also operates cruise ships and has two autocarriers on charter to Grimaldi. MSC Immacolata and MSC Christiana are regular callers at Autoport.