Friday, September 23, 2022

Battening down the hatches

 Now mostly just a figure of speech, "battening down the hatches" no longer describes the process of making hatch openings ready for sea. At one time it was necessary to seal a ship's hatches with boards, and canvas tarps held in place by laths (battens) and wedges. Modern day ships have all sorts of steel hatch covers and seals that generally keep the cargo safe and prevent the hull from filling with water. Some ships are even designed to be "hatchless", such as the Oceanex Avalon (see many previous Shipfax references.)

Battens removed, tarps rolled back and hatch boards lifted to gain access to the hold.

(The goélette Rivière-Verte at St-Laurent, Ile d'Orleans, in 1959.)

 Nowadays "battening down the hatches" means preparing for a tempest (either a real weather event or some other kind of crisis). So today September 23, in Halifax, there was evidence of such preparations in advance of the arrival tonight of Fiona. Currently a hurricane, it may be down graded to a post tropical storm (but still a dangerous northern hemisphere cyclone) when it makes landfall in our area, then tracks across the province and Gulf of St.Lawrence to the west coast of Newfoundland.

Workers from Develop Nova Scotia, the government agency responsible for waterfront amenities, were busy moving floating docks to safe storage at the Centre for Ocean Ventures and Entrepreneurship (C.O.V.E.) dock in Dartmouth (the former Coast Guard base). High winds and a predicted storm surge would certainly damage these structures and potentially cast them adrift. Develop Nova Scotia closed off most of  the waterfront boardwalk to pedestrian access too.

The visiting Irish Navy patrol vessel LÉ James Joyce P62  was tied up at the Tall Ships Quay, a timber pile wharf adjacent to Pier 20. It was decided to move the ship to HMC Dockyard where it will be safer during the storm, and would not risk damage to the dock.


The Samuel Beckett class vessel was built by Babcock Marine in Appledore, England and commissioned September 1, 2015. It carries a compliment of 55, which includes 10 trainees. 

The James Joyce arrived on September 21 and was open to public tours for a time. The tugs Atlantic Willow and Listerville stood by while the ship let go from the pier, which it did by "springing off" - a bit of seamanship rarely seen in these days of bow thrusters and twin screws.

As Listerville makes its way to the Tall Ships Quay, Develop Nova Scotia's work boat moves some floats and the supplier Atlantic Condor is visible in the background at the C.O.V..E dock.

 The number of commercial ships in port was at a minimum (see yesterday's post). The last container ship to sail, Conti Crystal got under way around noon time. That left the Oceanex Sanderling and Nolhan Ava anchored in Bedford Basin as the only sizeable commercial vessels remaining in port. The Canadian Coast Guard deployed CCGS Sir William Alexander to the Shelburne area of the south coast and CCGS Jean Goodwill to Sydney in Cape Breton, where they are on standby for Search and Rescue.

CCGS Sir William Alexander, September 13, 2022.

That left two ships tied up at piers, namely Atlantic Condor at C.O.V.E and the CCGS Kopit Hopson 1752 at the IEL dock. The latter is the former CCGS Edward Cornwallis currently rebuilding by Irving Shipbuilding Inc.  I assume that extra lines have been run to secure these craft during the storm. The barge Scotia Tide is alongside Pier 9  (despite the Harbour Master's requirement that all barges were to be removed moved from Halifax Port Authority berths by noon September 23.)

The yacht clubs and others with waterfront facilities such as the Atlantic Pilotage Authority and Dominion Diving have also "battened down the hatches" in various ways.

Halifax Harbour has experienced several hurricanes during my time, the most severe being Hurricane Juan September 29, 2003 which was a Category 2 when it tracked through the harbour with 150 kph winds (and a gust of 176 kph). Lessons learned by that event, and subsequent ones such as Dorian in 2019, have no doubt guided the preparations for this event.

There were two container ships that remained in port during Juan, and  one of the them, the Albert Oldendorff (ex Hoegh Dyke) parted its lines and ran down on the Saudi Tabuk causing damage to both ships and their cargoes. Numerous other vessels sank or were blown aground, at least partly due to inadequate preparations or the impossibility of emergency response during the storm.

 Albert Oldendorff ripped into containers on the adjacent Saudi Tabuk and dropped at least one of its own containers on the other ship's deck. Adding to the confusion - both ships were carrying National Shipping Company of Saudi Arabia (NSCSA) containers.

Let's hope that this time around Fiona will not be as brutal as its predecessors. However, Shipfax may not be able to publish due to power outages for the next few days. A summary of events will be provided when posssible.







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