Thanks to a media report, I learned that the Oceanex Sanderling will be going to the Netherlands for a five year survey and refit. The ship arrived in Halifax yesterday, December 15, and after its return to Newfoundland on the coming weekend it will sail for the Damen Shiprepair yard in
Rotterdam Amsterdam. The ship is on Voyage number 52 for the year, so my prediction in Shipfax November 30. that it would make more than 52 trips to Halifax this year will be proven wrong.
Instead the ship will be spending Christmas and most of January getting some major maintenanace. And of course recertification, as is required every five years by its classification society DNV. (Its class certification expires December 31).This is a fairly rigorous process, particularly for a ship built in 1977, and usually involves considerable upgrading and overhauling of systems.
I guess I have told the ship's story several times in this blog, but I will recap anyway, leaving readers to look for archived posts using the Search panel.
The ship's keel was laid March 17, 1977 at Sasebo Heavy Industries in Sasebo, Japan. It was launched in remarkably short order on May 25 and delivered on September 1, of the same year. The ship was named Rauenfels by its German owners DDG Hansa, a long established Bremen/ Bremerhaven based heavy lift and general cargo operator. With a gt of 21,849, its dwt has been variously reported but seems to be 15,195. Its container capacity seems to be about 522 and it has a slewing stern ramp with a 157 tonne capacity. A very versatile ship, it is powered by a reliable MAN main engine.
DDG Hansa had ordered four ships of this class, with one sister ship, Rabenfel delivered in June 1977 by Sasebo and two others, also built in 1977 but by Howaldswerke-DW in Kiel, Germany, the Reichenfels and Rheinfels. The construction costs of these ships and other local and world economic conditions resulted in DDG Hansa's bankruptcy in 1980 and the sell off of all its ships. Read more in the Wikipedia capsule history: DDG Hansa
Rauenfels passed through a variety of owners and was renamed Essen in 1980, then Kongsfjord in 1982 and Onno in 1983. It was with this background that Halifax first became acquainted with the ship when it was chartered to substitute for Atlantic Container Line ships in refit in 1987.
Demand for the Newfoundland service was such that a second ship was acquired in 1989. The sister ship Rabenfels had also gone through a series of owners, including the Lykes Line of the US before becoming ASL Cygnus.
During the ([Persian) Gulf War in 1990 the US government exercised an option on the ASL Cygnus and it was taken over for a time, then returned in 1991, but ASL sold the ship to Wilhlemsen's for its Afrrica service. In 1993 the US Government purchased the ship and placed it in the Marine Administration's reserve fleet. Renamed Cape Taylor it was joined by the two German built sisters. All three have been essentailly mothballed since 2001, and at least one, Cape Texas (ex Reichenfels) is out of documentation, and possibly broken up*. The third ship Cape Trinity (ex Rheinfels) is still listed.
In 1990 Atlantic Searoute Ltd (ASL) joined with Atlantic Container Express (ACE) to form Oceanex. The new company served Newfoundland via Halifax and Montreal (the former ACE route) and eventually built new ships for the St.Lawrence run.
It is those newer ships that will substitute for the Oceanex Sanderling taking turns through the rest of December and well into January.(Montreal service will thus be reduced to one sailing a week, and RoRo on alternate weeks only.) January is the slowest month for freight to Newfoundland according to the press reports, so inconvenience should be minimal.
The always impressive Oceanex Connaigra will take the December 23 departure from Halifax. It is a 26,786 gt container /roro ship, built in 2013.
Both susbstitute ships are speedy (the above photos show the ships at 19 to 20 knots on the St.Lawrence River - well past the right whale zone.)
The question must be asked if this will be last five year certificate for the Oceanex Sanderling. The cost to keep the ship in class at its age must be getting prohibitive. Shipowners usually scrap ships before they reach twenty-five or at most thirty years of age, due to the upkeep cost, so a ship that is forty-four years old and still slogging on a demanding weekly service is almost unheard of. A fifty year old ship seems unlikely. However for Oceanex to spend what is required for this refit must mean they are planning to keep the ship for a while longer.
I have also heard that the cost of a new, comparable ship is also very high, and the Sanderling's resell price is very low, so presumably the numbers are working in favour of the Oceanex Sanderling at least for now.
*Thanks to a reader who forwarded more recent informaiotn, the ship Cape Texas is still in the MARAD reserve fleet.