Monday, December 12, 2022

Weather is the story

Unseasonably warm air and ocean temperatures have kept winter at bay in Halifax until today's (December 12) arrival of the first snow flakes of the season. There have been high winds however, on and off for weeks, but a lull on Sunday (December 11) allowed for two tugs and their barges to move. Unfazed by the weather a big bulker arrived from Montreal via a more northern route and showed what winter will bring.

The articuated tug barge (ATB) combination Genesis Eagle and GM11103 arrived December 7 [see previous post] from Albany, NY and unloaded at Irving Oil Woodside. On December 8 they moved to anchor in Bedford Basin awaiting better conditions before returning to the US in ballast. Despite my previous comment that with the Articouple connection system tug and barge remain connected in severe weather, the operators presumably thought better of placing too much strain on the system. When the pair were converted from conventional tug and barge to ATB in 2017 the towing winch was removed from the tug, and it no long has a towing capability except in an emergency when it would be forced to use a tow line on a towing bit. (I do not see an insurance wire rigged for emergency towing. There is usually a pump operator and deckhand on the barge at all times, and they may be able to deploy a line if needed.)

Yesterday evening, winds had died down sufficiently and the ATB sailed from Halifax giving an undisclosed US port as destination. This afternoon I see on AIS they have passed Yarmouth and are cutting across the Gulf of Maine on the shortest course.

A tug towing a barge on a conventional towing line has been making its way for Halifax for the last week or more. The veteran W.N.Twolan is towing the barge NT 1802 with a truck crane and other equipment on deck. The pair set out from Matane, QC and sheltered in Gaspé for a few days. They then sailed the southern course via the Northumberland Strait for the Strait of Canso. After passing through the Canso Canal they headed out in Chedabucto Bay but met with adverse conditions. They turned and put back - possibly to Mulgrave. I don't know if tug or barge received any damage, but they waited out the worst of the winds until yesterday when they set out for Halifax again.

They arrived this morning doing a stately 4.5 knots and tied up at the C.O.V.E. pier in Dartmouth (the former Coast Guard Base) just as a light drizzle turned to light snow.

The W.N.Twolan has been an on again - off again visitor to Halifax since it was built in 1962 by Geo. T. Davie + Son Ltd in Lauzon, QC. The 2038 bhp, twin screw tug was built for the Port of Churchill, MB and would sometimes winter in Halifax. It was replaced in Churchill in 1986 and began work on the Great Lakes out of Thunder Bay. After several idle years it was acquired by the current owners and reconditioned. Listed as Halls Bay Marine Services, Springdale, NL, they also appear to own the tug R.J.Ballott (ex Foundation Victor, Point Victor, Kay Cole, Jerry Newberry) and the former RCN fireboat Firebird.

I have covered the W.N.Twolan's early story in Tugfax a couple of times, including May 16, 2011.

The barge also has an interesting story. Built in 1974 by Burrard Dry Dock Co Ltd in North Vancouver, the 1094 gt craft worked for Northern Transportation on the Mackenzie River, the Beaufort Sea and into the eastern arctic. It was built with a shallow stern notch for pushing. Now owned by Les Barges de Matane Inc it has been fitted with four spuds.

(It is unusual see a barge of more than 1,000 gross tons entering Halifax without a pilot.)

Reports indicate that the barge will be used to transport some equipment to the McInnis cement plant in Port Daniel, QC. It is getting very late in the year for towing in the Gulf (towing in ice is not advisable) so it is hoped that decent weather prevails for the new few weeks.

Also arriving today, December 12 was the bulk carrier Sunda to top up its cargo.

The ship was coated with a very thick load of frozen spray likely acquired in the northern Gulf and Cabot Strait. It is normally required that ship's anchors are free and clear of ice on entering Halifax in case they are needed on short notice. The Sunda's anchors were well iced in (and so were the anchor windlasses I expect), so were probably not functioning.

Built in 2010 by Shanghaiguan Shipyard in Qinhuangdo, it is a 19,906 gt, 30,692 dwt ship equipped with three 30 tonne SWL cranes. Originally named Emilie it was renamed in 2015. Current operators are Canfornav, whose green painted Seawaymax bulkers are frequent users of the St.Lawrence Seaway and Great Lakes and sometime callers in Halifax to top up to ocean going draft. 

The ship loaded soybeans at Johnstown, ON December 1 to 8 after previously offloading at Sillery, QC and Côte-Ste-Catherine, QC.

Canfornav ships are named for species of ducks and indeed there is a Sunda teal, native to the Sunda Strait area (between Java and Sumatra) in Indonesia. The area is known for its severe volcanic activity including Krakatoa in 1883 and the more recent Anak Krakatau tsunami in December 2018 that killed more than 400.


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