Thursday, December 21, 2023

Delays and Diversions

 A series of slow moving storms, consisting of high winds and heavy rain have plagued shipping schedules in the region over the past few weeks. The most recent one which arrived in the Halifax area yesterday, Wednesday, December 20, persists at time of writing (mid-day Thursday, December 21). Pilot operations have been suspended for the port of Halifax due to winds and high seas at the pilot station, and some activities in the harbour have also been curtailed. Unusually mild temperatures are now expected to drop over night to seasonable figures well below freezing. Numerous power outages persist on shore sue to falling tree limbs.

At the moment half a dozen ships are hove to off Halifax, awaiting resumption of pilotage services. The most recent estimate of when those operations may be resumed is 2100 hrs. The last arrival was at 1400 hrs yesterday and the last departures  followed soon after. (A suspension of more than 24 hours is certainly rare.) The ship Atlantic Sail, the last arrival, had tugs standing by today holding it in alongside at PSA Fairview Cove due to gusts in the high 80s kph. 

The tanker Algocanada, which was waiting its turn at Pier 9C (after the last storm held up unloadings last week) instead moved to anchor in the main harbour as the berth #3 at Imperial Oil was untenable due to swells. At least one more coastal tanker, the Kivallik W., is among the ships waiting offshore to get into port.

Delayed departures included CSL Tacoma which had been due to sail Monday, December 18, but instead anchored in Bedford Basin until yesterday afternoon when it was able to sail with its cargo of gypsum. Similarly the container ship Tropic Lissette held in port for a day until sailing yesterday afternoon.

Both ships are headed south, which is where the weather is coming from, so they may expect a bit of a rough ride. Halifax has not been alone with the weather woes. Ferry schedules in the Bay of Fundy, Northumberland Strait and Cabot Strait have been in disarray as numerous crossings have been cancelled, with traffic jams and backlogs for the resumed sailings.

There was at least one unusual diversion of ship, which did not involve Halifax, but is worth noting as it may or may not have been a good idea. The cruise ship MSC Meraviglia was to sail out of New York for Florida and the Bahamas, but instead headed for Boston, Portland and Saint John, NB. It is in Saint John today and will spend a day "at sea" tomorrow, returning to New York. The diversion was supposed to avoid the worst of the wind and rain, but I think there will still be disgruntled passengers as the weather was not tropical in those ports. Those who opted to cancel their trips were allowed to do so without penalty and were given an FCC (Future Cruise Credit) with MSC Cruises.

The 171,589 gt mega-ship, built in St.Nazaire in 2017 has capacity of 4500 with 1536 crew, and despite many late cancellations may have as many as 3,000 pasengers rattling about on its 15 decks.

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