Tuesday, November 28, 2023

East Meets West and All Around the Circle

 The variety of traffic in Halifax Harbour today (November 28) was not unusual, and so is a reminder of how vital the port is to a number of aspects of the Canadian economy. The amount of traffic was due in part to yesterday's stormy weather which caused the suspension of pilotage operations until early this morning when traffic began to arrive in a ,bunch.

HMCS Fredericton was outbound this morning and met the inbound CSL Tacoma in the Middle Ground area off Point Pleasant. The Canadian frigate is named for the capital city of New Brunswick and was built in Saint John, New Brunswick by Saint John Shipbuilding Ltd. It was commissioned in 1994 and is based in Halifax.

CSL Tacoma operates for CSL Americas and was named for the sister city to Seattle, WA, which occupies the southernmost reaches of Puget Sound. CSL operates ships on the Pacific coast also, often carrying aggregates from Canadian quarries to US cities such as Tacoma. Oddly there is a Tacoma Drive in Dartmouth, NS. How it acquired that name is not known to me, but it is in the Westphal area, which in itself is named for a pair of brother Royal Navy admirals, originally from Nova Scotia. One of the brothers, Sir George Augustus Alexander Westphal, served with Nelson (and was also wounded) on HMS Victory, and was the last surviving RN officer from the batle of Trafalgar when he died at age 90 in 1875.)

CSL Tacoma is a Trillium class self-unloading ocean bulker of 43,691 gt, 71,552 dwt, built in 2013 by Chengxi Shipyard in Jiangyin, China. It will load a cargo of gypsum at the Gold Bond Gypsum facility in Bedford Basin.

Also arriving to load gypsum was Algoma Integrity, also a self-unloader, built in 2009 by EISA-Ilha in Rio de Janeiro. It was built for the United States Gypsum Company's Gypsum Transportation Ltd, and named Gypsum Integrity, Designed to serve their Hantsport and Little Narrows, Nova Scotia export facilities, it measured 33,047 gt, 47,761 dwt. When USG's Canadian subsidury Canadian Gypsum Corp (CGC) closed the Hantsport facility in 2011 the ship was chartered out and in 2015 was sold to Algoma and renamed Algoma Integrity. CGC closed the Little Narrows mine in 2016, but earlier this year announced the re-opening, although it will be some time before they ship any product.

Algoma Integrity will remain at anchor in Bedford Basin until the CSL Tacoma sails.

Lingering waves from yesterday's storm brought out some hardy surfers off Point Pleasant as ship traffic made its way inbound.

Another of those early arrivals was the container ship BF Fortaleza for the first time for Melfi Shipping of Cuba. The ship stood by off Halifax most of yesterday and boarded its pilot for 0700 hrs AST this morning.

It tied up at Pier 42 and so had a view of a lobster boat working just off the pier. The lobster season in this region opened a day early, on Sunday November 26, in view of the predicted weather for the usual opening day - the last Monday in November. I was surprised to see the boat however as there is a newly imposed ban this year on lobstering in many areas of Halifax harbour close to industrial and port facilities.

BF Fortaleza was built by the famed, but now defunct, J.J.Sietas shipyard in Nuenfeld, Germany in 1996. It was launched as Partnership but renamed Yvette on delivery. It became Partnership again from 2003 to 2004 then City of Lisbon until 2005, Carla until 2009 and WEC Rubens until 2011.  The 6362 gt, 7202 dwt ship has a capacity of 700 TEU, and unusual for Melfi, it is gearless.

Another ship that spent yesterday standing by off Halifax arrived this morning for Imperial Oil. The oddly named Silver Ginny is an otherwise typical Mid-Range tanker of 29,460 gt, 49,746 dwt, built in 2014 by Hyundai Mipo, Ulsan.

The ship is arriving from Good Hope -Norco, Louisiana, an area upstream of New Orelans on the Mississippi River, and home to two large refineries. Shell Oil's Norco refinery produces 250,000 bbl per day and Valero's St. Charles refinery produces 340,000 bbl per day. Both also produce a variety of chemicals. Since Shell and Valero are competitors of Imperial (Exxon Mobil) today's cargo is likely part of an elaborate trade off mechanism to meet a specific need.

The ship is owned by Sinokor Petrochemical Co Ltd which has several ships named "silver + woman's name".

Rounding off the arrivals was the westbound Atlantic Sky from Liverpool, UK.

Once again the weakness of Transatlantic trade is evident with the very light deck load. Most Atlantic ports are showing a decline in traffic after a few years of dependably steady traffic or slight growth. Halifax and Montreal are no excepetions to this trend. The Port of Halifax saw a 12.9% decline in container traffic in the third quarter of 2023 over last year. That gives a year to date total of 409,000 TEU versus the 2022 YTD of 448,000 TEU. The year 2022 saw a record 601,700 TEU throughput (import + export). This year's projection may be be in the range of an 8% to 10% decline.

There were some small craft at work in the harbour too. The Halifax Port Corporation's own workboat Maintainer I was spotted at Pier 23 working on the removal of inflatable fenders for the winter. The fenders, commonly called Yokohama fenders (which is a trade name of the Yokohma Rubber Co) are deployed at cruise ship berths to protect visiting ships from impact with the piers. The resilient surfaces sometimes attract marine growth which is removed before they are set out again in the spring.

Built by A.F.Theriualt + Sons Ltd in Meteghan River, NS in 1995 it is a 12 gt vessel with a 210 bhp engine driving a single screw. It is equipped with a substantial Palfinger knuckle boom crane with a lifting capacity of up to 3.3 tonnes.

Nearby was the Canadian Coast Guard boat Point Caveau a 31.9 gt aluminum hulled work boat built in 2003 by ABCO in Lunenburg, NS. The 14.6m (47.9 ft) vessel has reputed top speed of 30 knots.

I think the Pointe Caveau was displaced from its usual inside berth at the Bedford Institute by construction of the new section of dock. Also displaced from BIO was CCGS Jean Goodwill which has been tied up at Pier 9C for the last couple of days. (November 27 photo)

The ship took on stores today and sailed on SAR patrol as CCGS Sir William Alexander arrived.

With lobster season now underway from in Areas 33 and 34, from Halifax down the southwest shore and around the western end of the province to Digby, Coast Guard SAR patrols are stepped up due to the hundreds of small craft in coastal waters.


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