Saturday, February 29, 2020

Return to near normal

Before the rail blockades began to disrupt freight traffic in and out of the Port of Halifax last week CN had one inbound and one outbound train from Halifax each day, each about 10,000 feet long. The trains carried mostly containers - both seagoing and intermodal - but also various types of general and bulk commodities.
Trains in and out of the Dartmouth side the harbour carried autoracks and petroleum tank cars (including propane) and also general freight.

With the rail disruptions all available container cars were loaded but held within the container piers awaiting removal of obstacles. (Some traffic was re-routed through northern Quebec and on CP tracks, but not enough to keep all goods moving.)

Inbound traffic (on the right) and some outbound traffic amassing (centre tracks).

Now that there is some easing of the blockades, Halifax received a full 15,000 foot train today. However it will take some time to relieve the 100,000 feet of cargo stored on rail cars within the terminals. On top of that, ships keep arriving!

CMA CGM Thames (9365 TEU) at PSA Halifax today.


Friday, February 28, 2020

Storm Over

After yesterday's wind storm (with freezing rain, ice pellets and other delightful forms of precipitation) calmness returned today and several ships that had been delayed finally arrived.

One of these was Wilhelmsen's Theben which went to pier 31 first to unload machinery, then moved to Autoport with cars.

Still carrying the faded orange seen recently on Wilhelmsen ships, it will soon be getting the new colour scheme.

After bouncing around at sea last night MOL Paradise arrived this afternoon. 

THE  Alliance must be confident of a firm resolution to the rail blockades. Some trains are moving but it will be some time before things return to normal. As of yesterday afternoon the Rockingham yard was empty.

By this afternoon some outbound cars with ACL and other containers were being prepared for an outbound train this evening.

Other arrivals include Horizon Star returning from cable work on the Cabot Strait.

Cranes were removing cable repair gear.

Also noted at BIO is the fisheries research vessel Teleost.

The ship is likely here as part of a decommissioning process, since its replacement Capt. Jacques Cartier is en route from North Vancouver, arriving in Miami, FL today. It likely be here in a week or so.

Also in Bedford Basin the tanker Inyala took up position in an anchorage after unloading at Irving Oil Woodside.
A digger continues to place fill off Africville for future pier extension.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

ACL in port

Despite its well publicized announcement that it would be bypassing Halifax, Atlantic Container Line's Atlantic Star docked at Cerescorp's Fairview Cove terminal today.

Some cargo that would normally be offloaded in Halifax will undoubtedly go on to New York, but cargo that can or must be moved by road was unloading here.

This included more aircraft fuselages from Belfast, Northern Ireland via Liverpool for Bombardier Aviation. (How much longer this trade will continue is unknown as Bombardier has reportedly sold the Belfast facility.)

These components are too wide for rail transport, but travel by truck under special permit as oversize loads. Local company Mills Bros / Total Transport + Rigging works with the Quebec specialist operator Watson to move the units out of the terminal in a matter of a few hours.


Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Where the Action Is

Despite layoffs of 450 CN employees at Autoport, there are still ships arriving with cars. Today it was Boheme with the usual consignment of European brands. The cars are unloaded to open storage by longshoremen (not CN employees).

With rail activity still curtailed, it may be some time before some of these cars leave the storage compounds. Some vehicles that are being shipped privately are still moving out of Autoport by truck. However most cars arriving from manufacturers must be prepped and loaded on rail cars by CN employees. There is also some other RoRo traffc - such as the large off road dump truck seen in the background - that will likely be leaving by truck. (The dump truck may not be for here at all, it may just have been moved out on the pier to allow cars on and off the ship.)

Unaffected by rail blockades (except for propane) Irving Oil is still receiving product by ship. Today's arrival is Inyala, a Singapore flag tanker from Unicorn Shipping. Built by SLS Shipbuilding Co in Tongyeong in 2008, the 25,400 gt, 40,037 dwt ship has an unusual two tone paint scheme.

The ship's last port is given as Saint John, NB, indicating that it unloaded a part cargo there before coming here.

Where the action wasn't, was at the container piers, with Oceanex Sanderling alongside at PSA Halifax and Nolhanava fueling at pier 9. I think an ACL ship will be coming in tomorrow with cargo from France for St-Pierre et Miquelon and local industries.


Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Cruise 2020 - Halifax puts a good face on it

Cruise Halifax has published its 2020 schedule. Starting April 11 with Norwegian Star, the prediction is for 203 ship visits (including eleven inaugural calls) and 350,000 passengers.

Norwegian Dawn last season.

With the cruise industry in chaos over the new COVID-9 coronavirus, it is anybody's guess how the season will turn out and what will happen if a ship arrives with infected passengers.

What seems certain is that there will be massive displacements as ships are reassigned to other parts of the world. If the east coast of North American somehow magically escapes the spread of the virus, there may be even more ships coming.


Monday, February 24, 2020

Southend - next phase

A small ad in today's paper notified potential bidders that tenders will close March 2 for Phase 5 of the South End Container Terminal Extension.

The work currently underway includes a lot of fill and the cope wall on top of the sunken crib work. The next phase will be Armour Stone, dumped along the water's edge to protect the fill from being washed out by storms.

The work underway now involves scores of dump trucks pounding up and down city streets daily bringing the fill from quarries, then dumping it into the harbour. All that activity is probably what has scared away the usual large winter duck population in the harbour. For the first time in many years there are no eiders wintering over in Halifax. There are small numbers of mergansers and a few mallards, but well short of the usual numbers by my unofficial count.

More worrisome however is the lack of eiders. Our largest duck, its habitat is threatened as are its nesting areas. Let's hope its absence from Halifax is temporary.

Hunted for its down, the eider population was severely impacted, but was slowly recovering. However its nesting sites are now overwhelmed by hungry gulls and the eiders are still at risk.

The armour stone, if it is anything like the current armour stone along the breakwater will do nothing to beautify the harbour edge. Instead it will be a catch-all for debris.  As it is impossible to maintain, it never gets better looking only worse.

As the major interface between the Port and the public in Halifax, one would hope that a little more care might be put into making it more attractive than just a rock dump. And how will the rock be delivered? Probably by truck (!) when there is a whole harbour available to transport material by ship or barge.


Tankers-something for everybody

There was very little activity in Halifax harbour today unless you count tankers. The central Canada rail blockade has choked off the container business, although Tropical Shipping's Tropic Hope was in today. Its export cargo arrived by truck, but even so a dozen or more trucks from Montreal couldn't make up for lack of rail traffic.

Algoscotia moved from anchor to Pier 9B where it sounded like some grinder or hot work was underway.

And at Imperial Oil dock #4 Eagle Bay, which arrived last night from Baton Rouge, was unloading its cargo.

Wall to wall autoracks idled by the rail blockade fill the sidings near Imperial Oil.

Eagle Bay, built in 2008 by Hyundai Mipo, Ulsan, is a 29,66 gt, 47,134 dwt product tanker. It carried the name Atlantic Hope until 2017 and Ayesha until January 2019.

Rounding out the tanker activity, East Coast tied up at Irving Oil's Woodside terminal.


Sunday, February 23, 2020

An unusual winter

It has been an unusual winter so far in Halifax Harbour. With generally above normal temperatures, and stretches of sunny days, one would be forgiven for claiming to detect spring in the air.

Today's sighting of a family out for a sail certainly could reinforce that sensation. Aside from a few bewildered gulls and an anchored tanker this small craft - which looks brand new- and bearing the sail number USA 2264- had the main harbour pretty much to itself.

Algoscotia is running a shuttle from Quebec for Imperial Oil and has been a regular caller this winter.

The Coriolis II is in winter layup at the Cove, while Algoscotia takes a break before heading back to Quebec.

There is lots of ice in the Gulf and ships heading a bit farther north are certainly encountering it, as well as colder air temperatures and freezing spray.

Atlantic Fir made some ice on the way down the coast returning from Newfoundland. However warm sun yesterday and today was making short work of it.

Just in from New York this morning, the tug Lois M and barge Tobias had no sign of frozen spray.


Friday, February 21, 2020

Comings and Goings - and old news.

Despite the halt in train traffic, there is still some activity in the Port of Halifax. Trucks have been able to take up some of the work, but they are stretched to the limit, particularly long haul.

Zim Monaco arrived and sailed, but there is no telling how much cargo the ship off loaded on took on.

The two coastal container services, Oceanex to Newfoundland and SPMI to St-Pierre et Miquelon and Newfoundland are still providing their services, but some reduction in cargo must be expected.

After unloading its cargo of rails Onego Rio moved from pier 27 to anchorage in Bedford Basin. This normally means the ship is awaiting orders for its next assignment.

Having completed refit work the jack-up drill rig Noble Regina Allen "sailed" late this morning under tow of Siem  Commander and Atlantic Osprey with Atlantic Tern in attendance. The rig was visible well out to sea in the cold clear air.

News from Wednesday
Thanks to helpful fellow harbour watchers I am able to explain the following photo taken off Africville on Wednesday.

It depicts the RNMB (Royal Navy Motor Boat) Hussar towing three Coil Auxiliary Boats (CABs). Able to operate autonomously Hussar was delivered to the Royal Navy as part of a new method of mine clearance. Rather than sweeping for mines with grapples and chain cutters in the old fashioned way, the CABs replicate the acoustical signature of ships causing the mines to detonate far from the minesweeping mother ship. Autonomous operation, controlled from land or, presumably a distant ship, reduces the risk to human life. 

There is talk that the RN will adapt some of its older minesweeping vessels to carry this system. Perhaps some RCN Kingstons could be adapted too.

The RN and manufacturer Atlas win the acronym of the year (so far) award for the ARCIMS = Atlas Remote Combined Influence Minesweeping System - but is still early days!


Thursday, February 20, 2020

Some Business as Usual

Following ACL's decision to divert ships from Halifax and today's statement by HAPAG-Lloyd that it will likely follow suit, things were not noticeably quieter in the Port of Halifax.

At Autoport the Grande America made a scheduled stop. The CN owned facility served layoff notices yesterday to its own staff. However it may well be able to accept deliveries of cars since these are generally offloaded by members of the Longshoremen' s union. CN's own employees prepare the vehicles and load them for onward delivery. Because CN also has a great deal of storage space and usually keeps cars until they are needed, they may well continue to receive deliveries.

 The Grande New York, outbound from Eastern Passage, passes the drill rig Noble Regina Allen which is due to sail tomorrow.

At Cerescorp Fairview Cove MOL Motivator (not pictured), a first time caller for THE Alliance, arrived and sailed on schedule on its westbound leg. Whatever it unloaded here that was to go on by train will be sitting on the ground for a time unless it can be trucked. The ship would normally pick up eastbound cargo in a week or so when it comes back on the return leg. Unless rail service resumes soon, there may not be much of that.

At PSA Halifax the terminal was working today with arrivals and departures and ships alongside. The ZIM feeder Hansa Meersburg made its regular call from New York, but with a very light deck load, and very high in the water. Its arrival is timed with tomorrow's arrival of Zim Monaco but it is apparently not planning to take any of that ship's cargo, as it will have sailed from Halifax before Monaco arrives.

ZIM will certainly be one of the lines weighing its options if there is a prolonged loss of rail service in Halifax.

Not affected by the lack of rail service the small general cargo ship BBC Kwiatkowski got away from pier 9 destined for Cristobal, Panama. It appears the ship has been fitted out to carry undersea cable and is off to pick up a load.

The ship has been known to call here before, sometimes carrying rail for CN. Built in Gdansk as Eugeniusz Kwiatkowski in 2008, the 6155 gt, 7732 dwt ship carries a pair of 120 tonne capacity cranes.

Also unaffected by rail serve, the naval supply vessel Asterix moved over to the Irving Oil Woodside terminal this morning as soon as Acadian had sailed.

Acadian arrived yesterday and sailed this morning.

Because the ship has now been alongside all day, it is safe to assume it is taking on more than its own fuel. It is likely also taking on re-supply fuel for other ships for annual spring exercises.


Wednesday, February 19, 2020

ACL cuts the cord

In a series of strongly worded statements the two top leaders of Atlantic Container Line threatened to, then indeed did, cut Halifax out of its transatlantic shipping schedules today, diverting all traffic to US ports. The move was in response to a rail blockade between Montreal and Toronto that has resulted in CN largely halting all rail operations east of Toronto. The blockade is in sympathy with protests over the proposed routing of a gas pipeline through indigenous territory in British Columbia.

As the Port of Halifax's oldest container customer, ACL also offers RoRo service which includes oversize cargo such as aircraft components.

Fuselages and tail structures built in Ireland are shipped via Liverpool, UK to Halifax then trucked to Quebec. 

Starting even before Halifax's first container terminal was completed, ACL now runs its fourth generation of ConRo ships. The ownership of the line has evolved from a consortium of traditional shipping companies from the UK, France, Holland and Sweden to its present position as a wholly owned Grimaldi Group subsidiary.

One of the magnificent  "S" class of first generation ACL ships, Atlantic Saga unloads at a barely recognizable pier 36. It belonged to ACL partner Swedish America Line. Built in 1967, it was broken up in 1987.

ACL also serves New York and it is thought that most of the cargo that was worked through Halifax can be handled by US railways or trucks.

The G4s are the largest ConRos in the world and are also an impressive sight.

There was some train activity in Dartmouth today, with autoracks and open gons. However Autoport has issued layoff notices and all its tracks are full of racks waiting resumption of rail service. There should be no reason why gypsum trains can't keep moving but apparently CN feels it is being targeted and any activity could result in more protests.

Some sources say ships of other container lines and autocarriers will continue to call in Halifax, but is seems certain there will be a huge drop off in cargo handled.


Saturday, February 15, 2020

Port Paralysis Ahead

Protests against a pipeline crossing indigenous territory in British Columbia have spread in scope and in location, extending all the way to the Port of Halifax. Now highlighting many other grievances,  the protests appear to have become deeply entrenched and threaten the country's economy.

The most disruptive of the protests are two encampments adjacent to the CN main railway line near Belleville, ON, which have cut off all freight and passenger rail traffic between Montreal and Toronto. CN plans to stop all rail operations east of Toronto, and ports such as Halifax, Saint John, Quebec City and Montreal are now restricted in terms of what cargo they can import or export. All of the other ports, except Halifax, have alternate rail corridors, whether through CPR or CSX or short lines. Whether CN will co-operate to interchange traffic out of or into Halifax seems unlikely at this point. All import cargo that leaves Halifax by rail for the US midwest is routed through Montreal and then to Toronto.

A train carrying export and intermodal cargo did arrive in Halifax on Friday morning, and I believe an autorack train arrived today (Saturday) however it does not seem likely that there will be many more. Containers are beginning to pile up in terminals and shipping lines may have started to bypass Halifax already. Some commodities - particularly propane for home heating are already being rationed in Halifax.

The Port of Halifax will become a very quiet place if container traffic grinds to a halt. A small protest, highlighting some local grievances blocked the Cerescorp main gate at Fairview Cove earlier in the week, but was short lived.

NB: Please note I am not unsympathetic to the issues raised by the demonstrators. However I try to keep Shipfax as a source of information, rather than opinion, so will refrain from taking sides, and try to be as fair as possible.

Ironically harbour activity in Halifax today  appeared to continue as usual.

BBC Rio remains tied up at pier 27, with a cargo of rails for CN. Since longshoremen only work Monday to Friday on these cargoes, the ship was idle today.

The ship's own 80 tonne cranes are used to work the cargo, which is stockpiled on the pier until CN needs it. It is then railed to Winnipeg for preparation.
The ship's hull was built by Damen Okean in Mykolayiv, Ukraine in 2003 and completed by the Damen Hoogezand yard in the Netherlands. Launched as Ile de Reunion, it was renamed 03: Frida, 04: BBC England, 13: BBC Ecuador, 14: Thorco China, 16: BBC England, 17: England and later in 2017 took its present name. The 7576 gt, 10,300 dwt ship flies the Netherlands flag.

Arriving for THE Alliance, MOL Maxim headed straight for Cerescorp, Fairview Cove. Just how much cargo is waiting for it is a question. So is the fate of its inbound cargo. Will it be unloaded here or carried on the another port such as New York, where it has a better chance of reaching the US mid-west in any sort of predictable time frame ?

The "M" class MOL ships are new to Halifax. Built in 2010 by Mitsubishi Heavy, Kobe, MOL Maxim is a 78,316 gt, 79,393 dwt vessel with a capacity of 6724 TEU, including 500 reefers.


Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Back to Work

It was a good morning to get back to work in Halifax harbour.

With the arrival of the 9200 TEU container ship APL Miami at PSA Halifax, all four cranes were back at work. The number 2 crane (second from the right) had been out of commission for a time after contact with a ship's crane, but appeared to be working fine this morning.

APL Miami using four cranes at pier 41-42.

HMCS Moncton sailed this morning after a cold move yesterday. It carries a commemorative paint scheme in recognition of the 75th anniversary of the end of the Battle of the Atlantic. [If you enter "Moncton" in the search box on the left you will find several references to this "Disruptive" means of confusing ship spotters.]

It sailed past a now vacant Woodside Industries (IEL) pier. The oil rig Noble Regina Allen was in the process of moving to #2 anchorage.

Siem Commander has the rig in tow, and with the assistance of harbour tugs Atlantic Oak, Atlantic Larch and Spitfire III is headed for the anchorage. The rig has been in for repairs before starting its next project.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Room to Maneuver

MOL Maneuver put in its second appearance today. It is now on the eastbound leg of its first trip to this area for THE Alliance.  I did get a photo of its first (westbound) call on January 27, but decided on another look today to get a comparison of loads for east and westbound.

above: January 27 (westbound)
below: February 9 (eastbound)

The ship certainly appears to be more lightly loaded today, but with more boxes stowed aft. This indicates less export cargo, and more empties going back east.

The stern escort tug Spitfire III made quick work of braking then turning the ship to align with the Fairview Cove pier. 


Saturday, February 8, 2020

Back to Normal

After last night's tremendous wind storm, with gusts in the 100 kph range, and freezing rain, shipping ground to a halt. Ships remained in port or put out to sea, but began to arrive and depart again this morning.

Despite the high winds, Halifax harbour was the best place to be last night. Asian Moon had completed unloading its cargo of nickel concentrates from Cuba, and remained in port overnight before setting out for Europe this morning.

Undine had been in port yesterday unloading cars at Autoport. That jetty was not a safe place to be overnight, so it put out to sea before returning to port this morning. It then went alongside pier 31 after Asian Moon sailed to discharge some wheeled machinery. It must have been an uncomfortable night at sea.
[Note the upside down W instead of an M in the banner - not the standard marking.]

Speaking of non-standard markings, the two new RTGs unloaded yesterday at PSA Halifax still carry the old Halterm Ltd logo and name. All other Halterm references have been expunged from buildings and big cranes, but most of the RTGs still carry the old markings, so the new ones fit right in.

The new RTGs, numbered 79 and 80, appear ready to work. Since they were initially ordered before the terminal was sold by Macquarie to PSA it seems reasonable that the Halterm name was originally specified.
PSA has a new logo for PSA Halifax, so perhaps it will go on when weather improves.

Falling ice may be something new for a Singapore based company. Time for snow tires?