Monday, September 30, 2019

Dawn at Dusk

As the days grow shorter, photo ops become more limited, but as luck would have it this evening, Norwegian Dawn sailed just as light was about to fail. I don't normally like "going away" shots, but there was a satisfactory glow on the ship, which was also lit up, and the light in the Maugher's Beach lighthouse* was flashing at the right moment, so I risked a shot.

Built in 2002 by Joseph L. Meyer in Papenburg the ship was to have been named Super Star Scorpio and was launched as Norwegian Star, but renamed on delivery to Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL). The 92,580 gt ship carries 2,340 passengers and 1,032 crew. It received a major refurbishment in 2016.
It is notable as the first ship to carry what is loosely termed "hull art". Curmudgeonly traditionalists (can you name one?) decried this senseless defacement, but to no avail. It sells.

The ship is a popular one and a regular caller during Halifax's annual cruise season.

* Built in 1941 the current Maugher's Beach lighthouse is the second in this location and is 54 feet high, 57 feet above the water, depending on the tide. There has been a rudimentary light in this position since about 1815, placed on a military Martello tower gun battery.The first actual light house was lit in 1828 and a fog signal was added in 1889. The last keeper vacated the site in 1983 when the facility was automated. The light has exhibited different characteristics over the years, from flashing white to fixed red. Its current "flashing yellow" characteristic has been displayed since 1992. It is also now solar powered.
In 1851 Nova Scotian Abraham Gesner, the inventor of kerosene, used the light to test his newfound fuel, which eventually came to be used the world over.

The exposed position of Maugher's Beach has resulted in severe damage over the years, requiring major repairs. The spit of land it sits on (known as Hangman's Beach) has been reinforced with boulders, but is often awash in storms and was breached by Hurricane Juan in 2003. The light is now only accessible by boat or helicopter. I have heard no reports of similar damage from Hurricane Dorian earlier this month.


Silver Cloud

Every cloud has a silver lining, so perhaps that is where Silverseas Cruises Ltd got the name for Silver Cloud. There was scarcely a cloud to be seen in over Halifax as passengers disembarked this morning for an extended day in port.The ship is not due to sail until 2200 hrs. Passengers on the nearby Zaandam and Norwegian Dawn will have to be contented with 1800 and 1830 hrs departures for their ships.

The 254 passenger Silver Cloud dates from 1994 when its hull was built by Visintini, Porto Viro and superstructure completed by T.Mariotti in Genoa. Then measuring 16,927 gt, it was a conventional luxury cruise ship. However extensive rebuilds in 2012 and 2017 upped the tonnage to 17,014 and upgraded the ship to ice class, making it "the most spacious and comfortable ice class vessel in expediiton cruising" according to Silverseas. The ship is equipped with no less than eighteen Zodiacs and ten kayaks to allow its guests to savour the northern regions including "cavorting penguins" [Silverseas words]. A large crew of 212 cater to every need, while passenger capacity is reduced to 200 for polar cruises.

The ship and its sister Silver Whisper were originally painted all white, so perhaps the blue paint was added after the 2017 refit to improve visibility in ice and snow.

Next year fleetmate Silverseas Explorer will reprise this year's first Northeast Passage while Silver Cloud will do a Northwest Passage at the same time.


Saturday, September 28, 2019

Humanitarian Aid - who decides

Another from the 'Just Sayin' department

Perhaps the recent hurricane that devasted the Bahamas was not as severe as news reports and photos seem to indicate. That is the only explanation I can give as to why the Canadian government did not respond with an aid package delivered by the Royal Canadian Navy. After all, is not our recently rented supply ship capable of responding to this kind of need?

Could the Asterix have been spared to deliver aid to the Bahamas.

Perhaps not, since it is  essentially a civilian ship. Or perhaps the navy was too busy with exercises off Nova Scotia and Newfoundland with NATO allies.

I would think the government could have mobilized on short notice to deliver, water, fuel and emergency housing and even medical assistance to a fairly close friendly nation and member of the Commonwealth.

Taipan outbound

The pure car and truck carrier (PCTC) Taipan sailed this afternoon  for New York. Although bearing the colours of Wilhelm Wilhelmsen, the ship is not owned by Wilhelmsen nor Wallenius (the other partner in the line).

Built in 2006 by Stozcnia Gdynia in Poland the 57,692 grt, 21,021 dwt ship was launched as Morning Countess for Ray Car Carriers. It was renamed Taipan on delivery when it entered into a long term charter with Wilhelmsen.
The Bahamas flag ship has a reported capacity of 6700 CEUS (Car Equivalent Units).

Car carriers and RoRos have been much in the news of late after a series of fires and sinkings. The most recent involves Golden Ray which capsized September 9 while passing another car carrier on leaving Brunswick, Georgia. Rescuers miraculously retrieved four crew members after they were trapped in the ship for thirty hours. The workers had to cut a hole in the hull to release the four.
A massive response effort has been mobilized to remove fuel from the ship, but a salvage survey has been delayed until conditions are deemed safe.

There have been ballasting issues with car carriers, notably Cougar Ace in 2006, but is too early say exactly what happened with Golden Ray. Donjon Smit have been appointed salvors.


Friday, September 27, 2019


An international day of protest for action to fight environmental degradation and species extinction. Halifax should be very aware of species extinction.

But now that distinctive waterfront aromas are faint memories only, it is easy to forget that Halifax was once a busy fishing port. Its eminence in that field faded as Canadian and foreign trawlers ravaged the fishing grounds to near extinction. The Canadian government abetted this carnage by subsidizing trawler and plant construction and ignoring and stifling research.

Cape Sambro, built in 1952, by Cochrane + Sons, Selby, was one of several British built steam powered side trawlers fishing out of a National Sea Products plant at the foot of  Morris Street in 1968.

In the mid to late 1960s Halifax had at least four active fresh fish plants and a couple of salt fish operations on the waterfront. Their pungent contribution to the atmosphere gave Lower Water Street a "je ne sais quoi" quite unlike any other Canadian City. A score of trawlers fished out of Halifax and landed their catches here regularly.

Built in 1962 in Leiden, Netherlands, Cape Hood fished out of Nat Sea's 40 Fathom plant at pier 29, directly in front of the National Harbours Board's freezer warehouse. (The grain elevators in the right background may help to position the location).

Halifax was also a welcoming port of refuge and source of stores for domestic and foreign fishing fleets. In the days before the 200 mile economic zone, fishing vessels of many nations were active close offshore and visited Halifax regularly.

The West German Venus out of Bremerhaven, arrives at pier 27 for stores.

Almost every European nation, especially those from behind the Iron Curtain were regular callers.

Foton and another small Russian trawler tied up at the Cable Wharf. The workboat Slipway II from Dartmouth Marine Slips is nosing up alongside.
Nowadays the Cable Wharf is prime tourist country.

These "Comecon" nations (in order of importance): USSR, Poland, East Germany, Bulgaria and Romania (and by convenience Cuba) joined the traditional nations (in no particular order) Spain,  Britain, West Germany, Portugal, France, and even Denmark's Faroes Islands, and rarely, Italy.

Faroese Hoyvikingur, tied up at pier 2 - now part of HMC Dockyard.
The Danes were blamed for fishing Atlantic salmon at sea, preventing them from returning to the rivers of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick to spawn.

At age fifty, time finally ran out for Karlsen's Tem. Built in Bath, ME in 1931 as Illinois it served the USN as Albatross 1940-45. Karlsen's renamed it in 1949 and it was used for fishing, sealing, whaling, research and cargo work.

Norway was represented indirectly since Karl Karlsen and Reiber Brothers had both established Canadian beach heads and operated Canadian flag trawlers, sealers and whalers.

A typical USSR freezer trawler, Severnaya Palmira tied up at pier 23.

The Comecon boats caught, processed, froze and even packaged the fish directly on board their factory/freezer trawlers. They were also immensely efficient catchers of fish, often working in groups to drag a huge swath of ocean bottom catching everything in their path. The called in Halifax frequently to take on fresh water (for fish processing) and shore time for the crews.

Canadian boats used ice to preserve "fresh fish" and returned to port more frequently to land their catch. Once processed by Halifax fish plants, the product could be stored in a large freezer warehouse operated by the National Harbours Board. Product was held there until demand required it. It would then be shipped by road, rail or sea to various markets.

The first Canadian built stern trawler, Halifax Shipyard 1965, H.B.Nickerson's Atkinson alongside pier 29 with the NHB's gigantic freezer store in the background.

Not all of Halifax's aura was related to fresh fish. The A.M. Smith wharf, now home to the Maritime Museum of the Atlanic, was a huge salt and salt fish warehouse. The salt was brought in from the Caribbean and shipped out to other ports, including Newfoundland. Salt fish was brought in by delightful little coasters like the Ambrose Foote or the motor schooner Delroy. They also used the adjacent Irving Wharf where fresh fish was landed by local inshore boats.

Note the covered gutting table - far right on the Irving wharf.

The Europeans pioneered the use of stern trawlers, that towed their nets aft and retrieved them by a ramp  built into the vessel's stern.

Cape Argos (Halifax Shipyard, 1968) shows stern ramp flanked by otter board / trawl doors.

In the mid 1960s Canadian stern trawlers began to supplant traditional side trawlers, and many of the new boats were built at Halifax Shipyards. Stern trawlers provided much safer (and comfortable) working conditions for the crew. They also allowed for the incorporation of more modern fish handling methods, reducing damage to the fish.

Cape John (Halifax Shipyard 1968) fished year round in all weathers from pier 29.

Cape Brier first of a trio of stern trawlers built at Halifax Shipyard in 1981-82.

The last trawler built at Halifax Shipyard, Cape Fourchu, completed in 1982. Lost May 3, 1989 in collision with the Ziemia Opolska 18 miles off Cape Race.

Eventually however that efficiency in catching fish resulted in the demise of the Northern Cod, the prime Atlantic fish species, and the virtual collapse of other species, some caught as "by catch",  scooped up indiscriminately by the bottom dragging otter trawls, or just simply over fished beyond the species' ability to reproduce.

Built for service in rough sea conditions, trawlers had pleasing lines.

Cape Norman Halifax Shipyard 1964.
Stern trawlers lacked the charm of their predecessor side trawlers, though their basic hull lines were designed for  rugged work.

Cape York Halifax Shipyard, 1968.

Halifax Shipyard's Dartmouth Marine Slips was also a beneficiary of the fishing industry, refitting numerous Canadian and foreign flag vessels.

Dartmouth Marine Slips catered to the fishing fleets of all nations:(left to right)

  • Kvitfjell, British war built naval trawler  ex Morris Dance, Totten, Canadian flag. Owners, Carino Shipping, (Reiber Brothers, Norwegian parent), seiner/ sealer/ cargo.
  • Jupiter, French flag, Dutch built, ex Saturnia, trawler.
  • Olavur Halgi, Danish (Faroes) flag, Portuguese built, trawler.
  • Chester ex Thorfinn,  Canadian flag,  Norwegian built. Owners, Karlsen Shipping (Norwegian parent), whaler.

The fish plants have been demolished long since, as has the NHB cold store warehouse and Dartmouth Marine Slips has given way to new commercial development.

With the fish plant demolished at pier 29, work shifted to the cold store. The area is now used for container storage. The Port's master plan calls for the space between pier 30-31 (left) and 27-28 (right) to be filled.

The trawlers are all gone too,  lost at sea, scrapped, sunk as naval targets, sold foreign or abandoned. A few have been preserved for conversion to pleasure craft or expedition vessels, as they were sturdily built and some have many years left in them. Others remain derelict or semi-derelict in back waters such as Bridgewater, NS.

An old side trawler, the former Cape Mira (G.T.Davie, 1963) long anchored in Wright's Cove Bedford Basin may have slipped quietly out of harbour unnoticed this summer. Renamed Hydra Mariner many years ago, it may be headed for a new life or the scrappers.

Hydra Mariner anchored in the shadow of the National Gypsum loader in Wright's Cove.

Few traces of Halifax's deep sea fishing history can be found nowadays inside this harbour.  Sambro, at the outer reaches of the harbour still maintains an active fishery for a variety of species and still has small fish plants, but there is nothing in the harbour itself to recall the "glory days".

Three Halifax built stern trawlers, Cape Howe (1968), Cape Nelson and Cape Alert (both 1966) alongside NatSea's Forty Fathom plant and NHB cold store pier 29. Not a trace remains.

Perhaps a monument should be erected to remind us that our resources are not all as renewable as we think. Fortunes were made and lives lost in the pursuit of fish. Many jobs were maintained at sea, in fish plants and shipyards, but at what cost?


Wednesday, September 25, 2019

View from on high

To show a visitor from Vancouver the ideal ship photo spots in Halifax, we took walk out along the Angus L. Macdonald Bridge this afternoon. After all, they have the Lion's Gate bridge, a tremendous ship watching vantage point too, but we are not to be outdone in Halifax

In addition to a bird's eye view of HMC Dockyard, the Macdonald Bridge gives a great view of ships bound for Bedford Basin, particularly in the afternoon sun.

Only one ship fit that qualification today, and that was Gerhard Schulte (Hong Kong flag) arriving from Norfolk for Atlantic Container Line. That company's normal five ship roster of giant ConRos has been disrupted since April when Atlantic Sail was removed from service for repairs in Hamburg. Using some substitute vessels with RoRo capability from ACL's parent  Grimaldi Group, the line had to look elsewhere for container capacity to meet is weekly schedule.

Built in 2006 by Shanghai Changxi shipyard, the 35,091 gt, 42,083 dwt Gerhard Schulte was chartered in from the Bernhard Schulte fleet. The 3534 TEU (including 500 reefer plugs) ship carried the name APL Bangkok from shortly after launch until 2014. After an eight hour turn around at Ceres, Fairview Cove the ship will head for Liverpool late this evening.

Not to miss other traffic from the bridge (see Tugfax) I was able to get a view of RMI Marine's Speculator. Now a dive tender and general workboat, it was built by Bateaux de Mer Ltee in Cocagne, NB for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans as Arcadie. When it was declared surplus

it was renamed 2005-02. It was acquired some time ago by RMI Marine and now appears to have taken over at least some of the duties of Captain Jim.  That boat sank with tragic consequences earlier this year. See:


Saturday, September 21, 2019

Halterm -

On Friday the tugs Oshawa (pulling) and J.F.Whelan (pushing) moved the crane barge Derrick No.4 from pier 42 Halterm to pier 9C.

This move left the new pier extension clear of any construction equipment and left an unobstructed view.

McNally Construction has completed building the concrete cribs for the project. Work remaining includes building up the cope walls to the level of the existing pier before the new working surface, crane rails, etc., can be installed. It appears that one or two cribs remain to be positioned.

As the 220m long  EM Kea sailed this afternoon, it gave the new work a sense of scale. EM Kea is a regular caller on the Maersk /CMA CGM transatlantic service calling Montreal westbound and Halifax eastbound.

At the same time CMA CGM Butterfly was inbound on its first visit to Halifax.

Although owned by the Claus-Peter Offen group and registered in Hamburg it has adopted CMA CGM's operatic naming scheme for the duration of its charter. Built by Hyundai Heavy Industries in Ulsan in 2008, it measures 111,249 gt, 120,934 dwt and has a capacity of 9658 TEU including plugs for 700 reefers.

In another part of the harbour there was an unusual operation underway. The bulk carrier Fearless had arrived at anchor for underwater hull cleaning.

The Naikai shipyard in Setoda, Japan built the ship in 2001 as Bright Laker, a name it carried until 2013. The 18,049 gt, 30,778 dwt bulk  carrier carries four cranes and has been a regular caller to the Great Lakes. Most recently it loaded (likely grain) in Thunder Bay, ON September 5 to 8. The requirement for hull cleaning may be to rid the ship of some invasive species such as zebra mussels acquired during its  visit to the Lakes.  Not only can these pernicious pests be transported to other ports, they can also clog cooling water intakes.

A stiff breeze from the north encouraged the cruise ship Zuiderdam to back away from its berth at pier 20 on departure, rather than sailing north about George's Island.

The 82,820 gt, 1916 passenger ship was  built by Fincantieri, Marghera and is the first of Holland America's Vista class. The ship is equipped with three bow thrusters and electric drive azipod props aft. It has an unusual integrated electric propulsion system, originally designed for warships. Its three 16 cylinder and two 12 cylinder Sulzer main engines and a GE gas turbine generate electricity to power the thrusters, ABB azipods, and all other electrical service needs of the ship. One of the benefits of electric drive is the elimination of propeller shafts, a common source of vibration in passenger ships. It also allows for positioning of the engine room in the most convenient location. The omni-directional (azimuthing) pod drives provide thrust in any direction for ease of manoeuvring.

This system allowed the ship to move off the berth laterally without the aid of tugs, entertaining the many waterfront walkers enjoying the last week end of summer.


Friday, September 20, 2019

Celebrity Summit makes headlines (not the newspaper kind)

The cruise season is at its peak in Halifax and looks to be on track for another record year. Yesterday there were five ships in port and today there were four.
Of today's callers, the two big ships, Norwegian Escape (165,157 GT, 325.9m long) and Celebrity Summit (90,940 gt, 294m long) tied up tail to tail at the seawall, piers 20 to 22.  That seawall, designed a hundred years ago to take the largest ships of the day is 611m long ( 2170 feet) but even that was not long enough for today's monster ships and their mooring lines.
Celebrity Summit's bow overhung the end of pier 20 and its headlines were stretched out to the Tall Ships Quay. That wharf is only timber pile construction but a special bollard was set in a concrete structure a few years ago to accommodate this situation. It would be interesting to see the "letting go" process when the ship sails this evening.

The two smaller ships in port today are the first time caller RCGS Resolute and Scenic Eclipse. The latter called September 5 for the first time after making its debut on the St.Lawrence River last month.

Completed this year (a year late) by Uljanik in Pula, Croatia, the 17,545 gt ship is marketed as six-star and the first "discovery yacht". With a passenger capacity of only 228 (plus 172 crew) it features numerous Zodiacs, two helicopters, a seven person submarine and other amenities to give the feel of a "billionaires yacht."
Scenic Tours Australia has a sister ship on order to be delivered next year.

I hope to cover RCGS Resolute in a future post.


Sunday, September 15, 2019

An explanation

Since returning from Quebec after Labour Day I have not been attending to events in the port of Halifax but instead I have had to focus on personal health matters. Regrettably this has reduced my mobility and access to the harbour. All this is to say that Shipfax has had to take a back seat, and may have to do so for some time to come.

I missed the onslaught of Hurricane Dorian which resulted in a mass exodus of NATO warships from Halifax to various anchorages such as Mahone Bay, St.Margarets Bay and even the Bay of Fundy where the Canadian Asterix stood by until the storm passed.

Today was the first opportunity I have had to watch the harbour, but where there was no commercial activity. However there was one arrival, and that was the Royal Canadian Navy's sail training vessel HMCS Oriole.

The smallest vessel in the Canadian navy was returning from a summer on the Great Lakes.

Meanwhile in Number One anchorage the largest ship in the Royal Navy was spending its last full day in Halifax after a four day port call.

At 65,000 tonnes displacement it is a very big ship, except when compared to the massive US 100,000 tonners. With the distinctive "ski jump" flight deck that accommodates larger and heavier aircraft, the ship at least so far, can carry helicopters, STOVL (short take off and vertical landing) aircraft and F-35B Lightning jets. The ship was commissioned in December 2017, after the RN was without aircraft carriers for several years. A sister ship Prince of Wales, may start sea trials before the end of this year.

The ship is due to sail tomorrow morning.

I do expect Shipfax  to return to normal eventually, but postings may be intermittent for a time.