Sunday, March 31, 2024

BBC Topaz Lift off and Touch down + update

The process of loading the workboat C-Horizon aboard the heavy lift ship BBC Topaz went off without any obvious hitches Saturday, March 30 at Pier 9C. The ship's own 400 tonne SWL capacity cranes and large lifting spreaders, were rigged Friday, March 29 (see previous post) and all was ready for the start of the work day Saturday.

The very slow process of lifting the boat from the water and raising it to the ship's deck level, and swinging it in over the ship's side took most of the morning.

Despite some intermittent light showers or drizzle, there was no wind and the necessarily slow process was not effected by weather. Positioning the boat precisely on deck distributed the load over several hatch covers, which are reinforced for heavy loads.


The C-Horizon was lifted just enough to swing it aboard, but that still gave a glimpse of the entire hull, including some of the bottom. The lift was achieved using straps, positioned around the hull (no doubt with the assistance of divers from Dominion Diving Ltd) in position to ensure equilibrium. A crew of welders were standing by and went to work immediately installing fasteners to keep the boat in place.That work may take some time.

The new owners of the C-Horizon acquired the boat after the previous owners, Sustainable Marine Energy Canada Ltd, entered voluntary receivership last year. The boat, then called Tidal Pioneer was laid up and put up for sale. ACL Shipbrokers Ltd, based in London, UK, and operating world wide, managed the sale to Leask Marine, an international marine contracting company also based in the UK. 

The workboat is a Neptune Eurocarrier type 2611 (approximate dimensions 26m x 11m), built in 2021. The two screw, 179gt vessel is a proprietary design of the builders, Neptune Shipyard. They built the components in the Netherlands and assembled them in Aalst, Belgium. It is equipped with Dynamic Positioning 1 and develops a bollard pull of 34.7 tonnes. It has push knees on the bow, and bow thrusters and is equipped with a variety of winches and two articulated cranes.

Eurocarriers are a sort of "jack of all trades" and in wide use in Europe and elsewhere, usually for marine construction and dredging. I also noted a white object on the boat's deck, below the wheelhouse. That appears to be a cable slide, used instead of a roller, to prevent chafing of a cable on a hard edge. They are used in submarine fibrepotic cable laying where there is a maximum bending radius that cannot be exceeded, and to eliminate wear on the sheathing. They are often installed temporarily on offshore supply ships when needed for cable work. 


The BBC Topaz sailed on Sunday March 31, giving Rotterdam as destination with an ETA of April 9. The C-Horizon was well secured on deck with substantial brackets. 




Saturday, March 30, 2024

MSC Sao Paulo V - update

 The container ship Sao Paulo V en route to Halifax in a dead ship tow of the tug Océan Taïga with Océan Raynald T on a stern line has put back to seek shelter. After clearing the Cabot Strait the tug's AIS signal showed progess along the coast past Chedabucto Bay and Cape Canso, and perhaps as far south as Country Harbour. Then, due to an intense weather system, the whole tow came about and returned to the area off Sydney Bight where it is standing off in the lee of high land.

Océan Taïga and sister Océan Tundra are 8,000 bhp, 100 tonne bollard pull arctic class tugs. 

The Océan Taïga and its sister are the most powerful tugs on the St.Lawrence River, but are essentially large harbour and escort tugs. Every summer they work in the high arctic at the Baffinland Iron Mines Corp's Milne Inlet port and travel independantly to Baffin Island and back. However even with that power, trying to tow a fully laden and powerless container ship in severe weather was probably beyond its ability. The Océan Raynald T is a harbour tug, so it was wise to seek shelter under the circumstances

 There is now no ETA for Halifax, but when the weather eases and the effects of the system pass, the tow will need at least two days to reach Halifax.

The MSC Sao Paulo V was en route from Montreal to Sines, Portugal on March 3 when it suffered an engine room fire. (see previous posts). When the fire was finally extinguished the ship was towed to Quebec City for survey. Meanwhile the large ocean going tug ALP Sweeper was dispatched from Portugal. It arrived in Halifax on March 26 and it standing by to tow the ship to Europe.


According to reports there was no damage to the ship's cargo but the accommodation may have been burned out. It is expected that the ship will be towed to Portugal, but it may be partially or fully offloaded here first for safety and stability reasons.


Silver Arctic substitute

 The weekly TMSI (Transport Maritime Service International) feeder line between Halifax, St-Pierre et Miquelon and Argentia, NL is served by the Container  / RoRo ship Nolhan Ava. It has been plying the route reliably for many a year, usually sailing from Halifax on Fridays.


The Shamrock in its original configuration.

The ship was built in 2000 specifically for the St-Pierre et Miquelon route as the Shamrock. However it was reassigned in 2004 due to financial issues with the owner. It then worked in the Caribbean until its return to Halifax in 2015 as Nolhan Ava. The ship was taken off the route for a time in 2016 for installation of a ceramic membrane exhaust gas scrubber system in China. When Argentia was added to the route in 2018 it was brought into Canadian registry.

In May 2023 it shifted its Halifax berth from PSA Fairview Cove to the Southend Container Terminal - which is operated as PSA Halifax Atlantic Gateway.

The Nolhan Ava after installation of the scrubber.

It required time off for drydocking and maintenance in 2019 and again in 2021. It has now gone on a longer refit. As a unique ship, there is no Canadian flag vessel of its size and capability that could take its place, and TSMI applied for a coasting license to use a foreign flag replacement. That ship, the Silver Arctic, arrived in Halifax today, March 31 to prepare for the assignment.

The Silver Arctic is operated for the Silver Line of Bergen, Norway under the Norwegian International registry by Fjord Shipping AS of Mäloy. It was launched in 2010, but was not completed in 2012 when the builders Shipyard P+S Werften went bankrupt. Construction was transferred to Remontowa Shipbuilding in Gdansk, Poland in 2013 but there was further delay in 2018 when the original owners, Royal Arctic Line, refused acceptance. It was then sold to Fjord and completed in 2021. It is a 3162 gt, 2700 dwt ship with a capacity of 111 TEU (59 on deck) including 80 reefers (28 on deck) and carries one 25 tonne and one 45 tonne SWL crane. (It has no RoRo capability however.) The ship normally operates from Norway to Iceland, Faroes Islands, Scotland and Baltic ports, but also makes regular trips to Antarctica.  

It was in Cape Town January 5 and after servicing the Norwegian Antarctic base at Troll was back in Cape Town February 9, then was reported at Las Palmas February 27, Goteborg March 8, Aalborg March 9 and Trømsø March 13. It sailed for Halifax on March 14.

The Nolhan Ava sailed from Argentia on March 25 and is due in Setubal, Portugal April 4.The refit there is expected to take four weeks, and allowing another week for the return trip to Canada it is expected to be back in service by the end of May.

Meanwhile Silver Artic's actual charter is to start April 4 with the first sailing from Halifax April 5.


Friday, March 29, 2024

Another BBC

 A second BBC Chartering ship arrived in Halifax today and anchored in Bedford Basin. Its fleet mate BBC Topaz has been in Halifax since March 20, docked at Pier 9C where it took on a large quantity of gas pipe. See previous post from March 21.

Today's arrival, BBC Rhonetal, will likely load the remainder of the pipe.

BBC Topaz arrived from Port Cartier, QC where it had off loaded vanes for a wind energy project. BBC Rhonetal had more vanes for the same project and waited offshore until the berth became clear to discharge its cargo.

Despite periods of zero visibility in the port today, I was able to grab a few photos when the fog shifted. (The fog tends to move in and out of port with the tide.)

BBC Rhonetal was built in 2013 by Taizhou Sanfu Ship Engineering Co and is a general purpose type ship with full width hatches and box shaped holds. The 14,941 gt, 17,577 dwt ship carries three 80 tonne SWL cranes that can be combined in pairs for 150 tonne lifts. It is also rated for 1047 TEU (nominal) with 152 reefer plugs.


BBC Topaz has completed loading gas pipe in the holds and its hatches have been closed and sealed. Crews spent much of the day rigging two large spreaders and connecting them to their next load.

 It looks like that load will be lifted aboard tomorrow, and as previously reported, it is to be the work boat C-Horizon the former Tidal Pioneer, which will be transported to Europe.

Following the bankruptcy of its previous owners, the vessel was laid up at Dominion Diving in Dartmouth Cove. It was Dominion's tug Dominion Rumbler and workboat Dominion Bearcat that moved the vessel today to Pier 9C alongside the BBC Topaz. (on the ship's port side, and not visible from the Halifax shore.)

I hope that conditions will be clear enough tomorrow to see something of the lifting operation - not as it was for some of the time today:


Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Could it happen here

 After the horrific bridge collapse in Baltimore March 24, 2024 the question must be asked, could it happen here in Halifax? An investigation will eventually determine exactly what caused the container ship Dali to lose power and strike the Frances Scott Key bridge. What is known, and recorded so vividly on video, is that the impact caused a catastrophic collapse of several spans of the bridge, throwing vehicles and people into the water, with many dead and missing.

Aside from the tragic loss of life, the economic impact of such a disaster is almost inconcievable.

Power failures, fires and blackouts on ships are more common that one may think, and when they occur the ship loses the ability to slow (by reversing propellor or pitch) and to steer. Losing electrical power also shuts down lighting, navigation aids such as radar and radio communication on the ship itself and with shore.

When disasters like the Key bridge occur agencies the world over review their safety policies and there will no doubt be changes in many places. However as it stands in Halifax there are several safety measures already in place and protocols for ships passing under our two harbour bridges.

1. Bridge Structure

Bridges are built to support themselves but not to withstand impacts like ship strikes. In March 1982 the jack-up oil rig the Zapata Scotian, designed to drill in 200 feet of water, was mounted on a large barge in Halifax. High winds caused the barge's mooring lines to part and the barge, with rig on deck, began to drift up the harbour. Navy tugs scrambled, and secured the rig only 30 meters from the Dartmouth ferry terminal, where it would have run aground. An official spokeperson stated that the rig was "never a danger" to the Angus L. Macdonald bridge, which was clearly untrue. Anyone with two eyes could see that its jack-up legs would never fit under the Macdonald bridge.

 Compare the size of the tug to the rig, on its barge at Pier 23. (Trivia: Zapata Petroleum Corporation was founded by future U.S. President George H.W. Bush)

Following this incident rock islands were built around the abutments of both bridges. These structures were to stop ships before they reach the bridge structure.

A rock island surrounds the Dartmouth abutment (above at right) of the A. Murray MacKay bridge. The Halifax abutment (left in photo) is on shore and has gravel around the base extending out into the harbour (photo below) but is far out of the shipping channel and in shallow water in any event.


2. Air Draft*

There is concern that ships may be too "tall" to fit beneath the bridges. Ships must therefore submit their "air draft" before receiving permission to pass the bridges. Communication is through the Coast Guard's Vessel Traffic Management System (MCTS) and the Halifax Port Authority. Sensors on the bridge monitor the clearance height, which varies with the state of the tide. (The ship's air draft varies with the amount of "keel draft", and some ships must strike (meaning lower) their signal mast(s) to reduce air draft.)

The clearance calculation is made for each ship passage and the amount of clearance is then transmitted back to the ship by VHF radio and permission (if granted) is given to pass under the bridges. There are visual markers on the bridge so that the harbour pilot can see the exact centre (and highest point) of the span, and the two sides of the channel, as there is a slight arch to the bridge deck of both bridges. There is to be a minumum clearance of 1.36 meters between ship and bridge.

 A yellow placard marks high point at the centre of the Angus L. Macdonald bridge.

 *The above is a very much simplified version of the harbour regulations. A detailed description of the required procedures can be found in the Port of Halifax "Port Information Guide"posted on the Port's web site at:

3. Use of Tugs

Large ships are most effective out at sea. Once in port they tend to be ungainly. They do not steer well at slow speed and are subject to wind pressure (particularly high sided ships like container ships and auto carriers) and they can perform unpredictably in shallow and narrow waters. They also take a long time to stop. They do not have "brakes", but must reverse their propellors (or the pitch of the propellor), which work most effectively in the forward direction and poorly in the reverse direction.

Tugs are employed to assist ships in port, both in coming alongside at terminals, but also in maintaining course in the outer "approach" channels and in transiting the Narrows. They can redirect ships, or slow and stop them by pulling on a stern line.

Port regulations are quite strict on the use of tugs in the port, particularly in the Narrows where the two harbour bridges are located, so I will not decribe the requirements in detail except to say that ships require one or more tugs, depending on the size of the ship, with specific requirements for container ships. The harbour pilots have ultimate discretion in the number of tugs and may exceed the minimum number required based on conditions.

Again there is more detail in the "Port Information Guide";

 The container ship NYK Remus with tugs, passes the A. Murray MacKay bridge heading for Bedford Basin, in dead calm conditions and at nearly high tide.

4. Conditions and Situations

The Port of Halifax has had its own experience with catastrophe. The collision of two ships in the Narrows on December 6, 1917 and subsequent fire and explosion levelled the northern portion of the city and caused the deaths of at least 1,800 people, with 9,000 injured, many more homeless and unmeasurable property damage. Haligonians are very aware of this event event more than a century later, and many will be feeling deep sympathy for our neighbours to the south.

The Port of Halifax regulations now set out how ships are to meet (large ships are not permitted to meet in the Narrows) and with better communications the harbour is a much safer place than it was.

Traffic in the Narrows for high sided ships may be restricted in high wind conditions, and deep draft ships may also be restricted depending on the state of the tide.

And yet.....

Ships continue to experience blackouts, power loss and steering failure, with disturbing regularity. Some container lines (even well known ones) continue to operate ships past their "best before date" [usually 25 years] or fail to provide adequate  maintenance.  Older ships, like older cars, can be unpredictable and equipment failures due simply to wear, tear and fatigue will occur perhaps without warning.

A ship that caught fire on the St.Lawrence River recently threatened to run aground as it lost control of its engine and steering. That ship, the MSC Sao Paulo V is due in Halifax later this week (in tow - its engine is not operational) and will have to be towed to Europe - with all its cargo. [see also companion blog Tugfax] The cost to the ship owner and the cargo owners and insurers will be high, but would it have been predictable that a 26 year old ship might be a liability?

A systems blackout occured in Halifax last year when a ship lost power as it approached the Angus L. Macdonald bridge as it arrived from sea. The pilot on board followed the protocol and transmitted a "Pan Pan" (emergency) radio message which instructed the bridge to stop traffic. From what I hear someone on the bridge decided that it was not an emergancy and elected not to follow the protocol. That is unfortunate, but after today's Baltimore disaster, one hopes, is unlikely to recur.

5. Halifax and Baltimore

Some ships that call in Halifax also call in Baltimore. This includes auto carriers and container ships (notably ACL). Baltimore is also the destination for gypsum mined in Nova Scotia and exported through Halifax by Gold Bond Gypsum. All these will find work arounds but there is not expected to be any specific effect on the business of the Port of Halifax.

It seems unlikely that Halifax can be of assistance to the Port of Baltimore because there are several nearer ports that can handle diverted traffic. However it seems likely that it will be a very long time before the Port of Baltimore will be able to return to anything like normal operation and there will be changes in trade routes, maybe permanent ones, in Baltimore and elsewhere.

6. The Answer

The Port of Halifax will certainly be reviewing its procedures in consultation with users and other regulators and authorities, here and world wide, and changes may be on the way. I expect that there will be more restrictions on traffic through the Narrows, and non-container ships, like gypsum carriers, may require tug escorts while inbound and outbound. (The Algoma Vision sailed this morning for Tampa and did not use an escort tug.)

So the simple answer to the question "Could it happen here?" is a conditional yes. There are many safeguards in place, likely to be strengthened now, so the likelihood of it happening here is slight and probably even less so as time goes on due to a heightened awareness of the dangers.

As the world expresses sympathy to those experiencing what was once an inconceivable loss, perhaps more safeguards will be instituted here in Halifax and elswhere to try to reduce the risk of a recurrence even more. 


Monday, March 25, 2024


 The Pure Car and Ttuck Carrier (PCTC) Toledo called at Autoport today, March 25.


The ship has been here many times since new in 2005 and the last visit was in 2022. Although its most recent ports have been the usual ones for the Wallenius Wilhelmsen Ocean transatlantic service, it seems that the ship may have been reassigned from the Pacific to Europe (via Suez) route.

It departed Yokohama January 20 and made directly for the Panama Canal, transiting February 11-12, then proceeding to Savannah February 17-18, Brunswick February 18-20, Philadelphia February 23, and Baltimore February 24-26. It then crossed the Atlantic to Zeebrugge Mar 7-10, Goteborg March 11-12, Bremerhaven March 13-15 and Southampton March 16-17.

With the current conditions in the Red Sea area few ships are risking the Suez route from Asia to Europe with many passing south about the Cape of Good Hope. It now seems that the danger zone is extending farther south into the Indian Ocean and some ships, such as this one, with voyages originating in the far east, appear to be taking the Panama Canal route instead. Recent limitations on Panama Canal transits due to low water levels appear to be easing, but there are still backlogs and long waits for some ships.

Toledo's first visit to Halifax was December 15, 2005 when it was quite new, having been delivered in February 2005 by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Nagasaki. A 61,321 (now revised to 61,482) gt, 21,965 dwt vessel it has capacity for 6,354 cars and works over a 237 tonne capacity stern ramp. As delivered it was painted in the orange and white livery of Willhelm Wilhelmsen and carried a traditional "T" name*. Since then it has been repainted in the blue over grey scheme adopted by the joint fleet of Wallenius Lines and Wilhelm Wilhelmsen.

On its November 17, 2015 call the ship was still wearing the Wilhelmsen orange hull paint.

 The ship sailed this afternoon for New York and will soon complete a round the world transit in somewhat less than the proverbial 80 days. (It was 65 days out of Yokohama when it sailed today.)

Demand for auto carriers is such that very few are being retired. This ship, nearing twenty years of age, can be expected to run for several more years.  (Its next major survey is due January 31, 2025).


* It is interesting to speculate on which Toledo the ship is named for. The one in Spain seems more likely than the one in Ohio (which itself is named for the one in Spain). Toledo, Ohio is a major port on Lake Erie, and is now accessible from the Atlantic once again with the opening of the St.Lawrence Seaway for the season. But not for ships the size of this Toledo (it is too wide). 

Toledo, Ohio did export automobiles overseas at one time however. Jeeps (then owned by the American Motors Corp) were built in Toledo, and Fednav had two RoRo ships, built in Canada in 1972 and 1973, to carry paper products and automobiles. The ships were were sized to trade to the Great Lakes and did carry Jeeps. They also called in Halifax in the early days of Autoport. In later life with the United States Military Sealift Command, at least one of the ships carried Abrams tanks from Toledo to Germany.


Sunday, March 24, 2024

MSC SaoPaulo V - update

 A quick recap and update on the MSC Sao Paulo V.

As previously reported  on  March 5 through  March 9  (with updates) the fire damaged MSC Sao Paulo V was towed to Quebec City for damage survey. Since Quebec City has no facilities for unloading or storing containers it became a quesiton as to what would become of the ship's cargo. I have no confirmation on this, but it is likely that General Average was declared and all cargo owners will have to contribute to a general fund before their cargo can be released. In the meantime the ship will have to be unloaded and its entire cargo impounded.

It has now been confirmed that the ship was been towed out of Quebec City March 22 and is bound for Halifax. The Quebec City based Océan Taïga is towing and the Océan Raynald T has a line astern. This morning, March 24, AIS showed the tugs and tow in the lee of the land off Cap Trinité between Baie-Comeau and Sept-Iles, in high winds. Later in the day they were well underway again at 6.6 knots with an ETA in Halifax of March 28.

Meanwhile the big Dutch tug ALP Sweeper departed Ponta Delgada, Portugal March 19 for Halifax and is due March 26. It is expected to tow the ship away - destination as yet unknown. It is fairly certain that the ship will be completely unloaded in Halifax before going. It then depends on the condition of the ship whether it will be repaired or sent to the scrappers. Prospects for a ship built in 1998 do not appear favourable after an engine room fire that spread to accommodations.


Weather Watch 3

 The forecast for a relatively fast moving storm proved to be correct, and by late this morning (March 24) the rain had let up and the winds died down. Sea conditions at the pilot station improved as a result and the several delayed arrivals lined up outside for pilots. Then tanker Acadian was first and proceeded to Irving Oil's Woodside terminal.

As they were standing off further out to sea it took some time for the container ships to reach the pilot boarding area off Chebucto Head. In turn were Atlantic Star from Norfolk for PSA Fairview Cove.

 (File photo from a previous visit July 12, 2023)

It was followed in an hour by MSC Cornelia from Sines, Portugal for Pier 41 at PSA Halifax Atlantic Gateway. Shanghai Jiangnan Changxing delivered the ship in 2010. The 54,182 gt, 63,069 dwt vessel has a capacity of 5089 TEU. Originally named RHL Fiducia, it was renamed Cornelia I in 2016 and became MSC Cornelia in 2021. It has a capacity of 5089 TEU including 385 reefer points. The ship is working the Canada Express 2 route and is due in Montreal March 29.

The next arrival was also for PSA Halifax Atlantic Gateway, and so stood by in the Middle Ground area until the MSC Cornelia had time to get alongside, then, with tugs, moved in to Pier 42.

The familiar EM Kea has been calling in Halifax on the Maersk / CMA CGM St.Lawrence River service since 2015. The ship calls on the eastbound leg from Montreal to Bremerhaven. (Ships on the route sometimes bypass Halifax to make up schedule time.)

Built in 2007 by Stocznia Sczecinska Nowa, in Poland, EM Kea is a 35,874 gt, 41,850 dwt ship with a capacity of 3108 TEU. Built as Cap Norte it was renamed Cape Egmont in 2012 and became EM Kea in 2015, the same year it began to call in Halifax. 

In yesterday's post I mentioned the installation of "wind shields". The EM Kea has had such a turtle back structure over its foredeck for as long  as it has been calling in Halifax. It certainly appears capable of deflecting seas and preventing damage to deck cargo.

The EM Kea is now a veteran of transatlantic trade, but how much longer it will be calling in Halifax may be a question. With Maersk and Hapag-Lloyd participating in competing St.Lawrence River alliances, their proposed Gemini Cooperation, to take effect in February 2025, may mean some changes, in the current arrangements.


Weather Watch 2

 As predicted a storm with heavy rain and high winds moved across the region today, Sunday March 24. Pilot operations in Halifax were suspended in the morning as wind gusted up to 90 kph. The Atlantic Pilotage Authority will review conditions at 1200 ADT to determine if it is safe to resume operations.

In the meantime there was an early morning call out for a pilot to re-anchor the tanker CB Pacific in Bedford Basin. The ship was dragging its anchor which was perhaps not unexpected as the Basin sea bottom is not great holding ground. As far as I can tell no tug was needed to resecure the wandering ship. The pilot boat Scotia Pilot took the pilot out to the ship.

The CB Pacific at anchor in calm conditions yesterday, March 23. A trot buoy to the left in the photo is used to anchor Royal Canadian Navy ships on trials. The red buoy on the right may belong to a pleasure boater.

The container ship ZIM Pacific did arrive before pilot boardings were halted, and it appears that one of the berthing tugs was kept alongside for a time after the ship was tied up at PSA Fairview Cove. MOL Experience (see yesterday's post) was able to sail in the early morning.

The arriving Atlantic Star, EM Kea and MSC Cornelia all stood by at sea awaiting improved conditions. 




Saturday, March 23, 2024

Weather Watch

 With another bout of bad weather on the way some ships are taking precautions. 

Yesterday's move (see March 22 post) of the tanker CB Pacific from Irving Oil's Woodside terminal to an anchorage in Bedford Basin was perhaps a bit early as the high winds are not due until tonight (March 23-24). 

Once at anchor it was easier to see the ship's "windshield" installed over the foredeck to protect deck fittings and to streamline the ship.

Some ships have been built with this feature (and I think this is one) but some owners are retrofitting ships with shields , particularly container ships, to protect deck cargo from boarding seas, but also tankers that have exposed piping on deck.

The coastal tanker Algoscotia arrived this afternoon from Sydney and tied up at Imperial Oil, but it has scheduled a move to anchor over night. Imperial's dock number 3 consists of a jetty and dolphins and mooring buoys. Although it has been upgraded recently, ships do not remain alongside in bad weather. 

Also planning to move is the bulker Algoma Vision. It will be leaving the Gold Bond Gypsum dock for an anchorage in Bedford Basin. (See yesterday's post).

Loading operations are still underway at Pier 9C for BBC Topaz (see previous posts) which is taking on a cargo of pipe. Lifting of the cargo would certainly be curtailed in high winds. Crew members were renewing hatch seals today with Algoma Vision in the background.

 So far unfazed by weather the MOL Experience made its way in to PSA Fairview Cove late this afternoon.

Built by Hyundai, Ulsan in 2007, it is a 54,098 gt, 62,953 dwt ship with a capacity of 4803 TEU including 330 reefers. It carried the name APL Experience from 2008 to 2010. The ship is expected to sail during the night, perhaps before the weather worsens.

The ship operates on THE Alliance's AL5 service for partner Ocean Network Express (ONE) the Japanese container line consortium. The number of Hapag-Lloyd and UASC containers on deck is evidence of how important a partner Hapag-Lloyd is in THE Alliance. When Hapag-Lloyd and Maersk's new Gemini Cooperation comes into effect in February 2025, Hapag-Lloyd will leave THE Alliance. The remining partners HMM (former Hyundai Merchant Marine) Yang Ming and ONE will certainly have a major adjustment to make.



Friday, March 22, 2024

Ship Shape

 Ships rust. That is a fact of life for steel ships in a salt environment. Good coatings on well prepared surfaces can go a long time without major interventions, but eventually re-coating is necessary. Sailors overside touching up paint is a rare sight these days (with the possible exception of some cruise ships) and so painting is generally left until the ship is in drydock. Then the old paint is "blasted" off with an abrasive or high pressure water (silica sand is no longer allowed in most juridictions). The substrate can then be prepared properly and primed before re-coating.

Rust streaked paint is not necessarily a sign of poor maintenenace, but is more likely a sign of hard work and normal deterioration.

A newly painted ship is an impressive sight simply because wear and tear sets in almost immediately and the inevitable scuff marks from tugs and shore fenders are soon acquired.

That is perhaps why I noted some particular contrasts in the harbour today, March 22.

The self-unloading bulk carrier Algoma Vision was something of a vision as it appeared in almost pristine condition as it made its way inbound to Gold Bond Gyspum.

The ship was delivered in 2013 by Chengxi Jiangyin, China as the Balchen. With sister ship Balto it was built to CSL International's Trillium class design of ocean self-unloaders. It measured 43,691 gt, 71,348 dwt. Owned by the Torvald Klaveness company of Norway, it worked in the CSL self-unloader pool with three Trillium sister ships owned by CSL. In 2016 Klaveness left the CSL Pool and its several ships were acquired by the CSL Pool partners. CSL acquired the Balto, renaming it CSL Tarantau and Algoma, already a partner in the pool, acquired the Balchen and renaming it Algoma Vision.

The Balchen was originally painted in Klaveness orange, and continued to carry that hull colour for a time after it was acquired by Algoma, but the paint was in very poor condition and Algoma had it repainted in their deep blue colour.

From September 16 to December 21, 2023 the ship was in Tuzla, Turkey where it had its ten year survey and a thorough reconditioning that included new hull paint. It seems to have been a top quality job with only a few stains showing from deck washdown.

By coincidence the Algoma Vision arrived in time to take the place of its sister ship CSL Tacoma which sailed with another load for Portsmouth, NH. 

CSL Tacoma looks quite tidy too having also been repainted recently. Some stains from washdown are all that show on its hull. Due to its size, the ship cannot take a full load at Gold Bond's Dartmouth dock. Instead it usually loads to maximum allowable draft. Even so it looked a tad light as it sailed late this afternoon.

A ship that showed a bit more weathering was on the move this afternoon.

The CB Pacific is relatively new, dating from 2020 when it was built by Jiangsu New Hantong, Yangzhong, China. it is a 27,250 gt, 37,787 dwt tanker from the smaller end of the MR Range.

The ship arrived from New York yesterday, March 21 and after discharging at Irving Oil's Woodside terminal it moved to long term anchorage in Bedford Basin. (Imperial Oil Esso's terminal is right next door to Irving Oil and tanks from both companies appear in most photos from the Halifax side.)

As a four year old ship, it is not due for a drydocking until 2025 and its paint will likely receive considerable attention at that time. Some Chinese shipyards are not noted for the quality of their paint applications, but they can usually count on five years without serious deterioration to the hull steel. 

A ship that showed more rust streaking sailed this afrernoon, FD Contre-Maître L'Her is painted in miltary grey, so will show rust streaks from hawse pipes and scuppers more than some other colours. It has also been at sea on patrol for some time and has little time for attention. Naval ships might be among the few that do send the crew over over side to paint - given time and suitable conditions. (Some present day paint formulations allow for winter application. Cold paint on cold steel used to be forbidden.) See also rather long footnote.

 It did seem to take a rather long time to get away. They may have been trying to "spring" off the dock, but then the standby tug Atlantic Oak came in to keep the ship alongside in the stiff north wind that was trying to blow the ship off the dock. One tug amidships was not the answer, as it provided an unwanted fulcrum, drawing the ships lines dangerously bar taught forward or aft (from what I could see.)

As all the other civilian tugs in the harbour were working elsewhere, one of the navy's own tugs, Glenside, was called in, although in the end it was not used. 

Visting ships from foreign navies use civilian harbour pilots in Halifax. They also use civilian tugs too as both pilots and tugs "speak the same language", using commonly understood commands with pilots knowing the characteristics of the civilian tugs and their capabilities. Canadian navy ships do not use civilian pilots, and their masters and naval berthing pilots have their own common language and their tugs (which are Voith-Schneider, unlike the civilian ASD tugs) have very different handling characters. Although navy tugs are available in emergencies it is rare to see them in use with non RCN ships - even in standby - like today.

The RCN is in process of replacing these Glen class tugs. Two new tugs for Esquimalt are in Quebec City awaiting "dry delivery" and the two for Halifax are under construction at Industrie Océan in Ile-aux-Coudres, QC. The new tugs are ASD (Azimuthing Stern Drive) types.

FOOTNOTE As mentioned in my previous post March 16 the vessel is called an aviso, a term that was new to me. Thanks to Royal United Services Institue (Nova Scotia) I can provide some clarification on that word, quote (italics mine):

"A number of European navies keep 'guardships', usually frigates, deployed throughout the globe for the security of related areas (can be read as territories, protectorates and former colonies).  Often the French ships are avisos.  At about the time of Gulf War I, a US/NATO fleet decided to invite guardships in the Caribbean into a major carrier battle group exercise.  The French Navy guardship was an aviso.  Seeking a translation and appreciation of an aviso's capabilities and roles, fleet staff learned that aviso seemed to hark back to dispatch vessels of sailing times (aviso = advice = dispatch?).  It wouldn't be the first modern type of ship with the name of an earlier type; there are, for example, sloop and corvette.  These are useful types of vessels, to deploy on missions when a more capable frigate or destroyer would be too much capability and expense.  Part of a 'balanced navy.'  Canada's Kingston-class serve as that, and they should be replaced by a similar, second tier or second rate to use terms of other nations, ships."

 It is certainly admirable (no pun) that terminology from another era is used for present day purposes. A clean up is required however to purge our vocabulary of such undesirable terms as "tall ships" [which you will rarely see used in this blog as it is not a nautical term]. Nevertheless I do use "ship" to mean many kinds of vessel, not just re square rig type, and "sail" to mean depart even when no sails are involved. What are the chances that the RCN would chose "aviso" as a more or less bilingual term, for the Kingston replacements?


Thursday, March 21, 2024

BBTopaz loading and what happens next

 The laborious process of loading several hundred gas pipes aboard the BBC Topaz is underway in largely favourable weather conditions. A few extreme wind gusts and snow showers may have caused momentary delays, and some glitches may also have taken place but as far as I can tell the work is proceeding.

There is a fairly good view at Pier 9C, as the ship's cranes lift parcels of pipes and place them in the ship's hold. A reach stacker machine moves pipes from the lay down area to the brow of the pier constantly replenishing the small pile. 

I expect that passing ships are asked to keep a low wake to minimize any chance of the ship rolling.

The Oceanex Sanderling moving from Autoport to PSA Fairview Cove was certainly complying with that request with barely a ripple as it passed early this afternoon.

I was interested to see that the ship was only loading one hold, and using one crane. That will certainly mean that the loading process will continue into the weekend.

Once the pipe is loaded aboard I understand that the ship will take aboard the multi-purpose vessel C-Horizon ex Tidal Pioneer  See my February 27 post. Despite the coasting license application to use the vessel to move a tide turbine, I believe it was not used, and it is now being delivered to England to satisfy a previous commitment.


Wednesday, March 20, 2024

All Points Bulletin

 There was activity at almost every point in the harbour today, March 20.

Autoport had the Supreme Ace in from Emden (which means Volkswagen). The 59,022 gt, 18,334 dwt ship dates from 2011 when built by Minami Nippon in Shitanoe. It has a capacity of 6163 CEU and uses a 100 tonne capacity stern ramp and a smaller starboard side ramp.

MOL (Mitsui OSK Lines) operates under the ACE - Auto Carrier Express - name for its fleet of more than 100 autocarriers. It also has something like 375 dry bulkers, 195 tankers and a number of container, ferry and cruise ships. It is part of the Ocean Network Express pool of Japanese container ships.

Volkswagen and its owned brands such as Audi and Porsche, prefers to charter vessels instead of using common carriers such as Wallenius Wilhelmsen. This may allow for more control, but does not mitigate losses when one of their charters catches fire and sinks as the Felicity Ace did in February 2022. Several limited edition Porsches and Bentleys could never be replaced. The possible lithium-ion battery related fire could not be extinguished at sea and the vessel eventually sank with a reported 3,965 cars worth $400 million dollars on board. MOL valued the ship at $32.6 million and apparently has sued Porsche for the loss.

Across the harbour at PSA Halifax Atlantic Hub there were two ships working.

At Pier 42 it was MSC Shristi on the Canada Express 1 service en route from Sines, Portugal to Montreal. The ship started life as the Venice Bridge for K-Line, and used to call in Halifax in pre THE Alliance days (before 2016).

Venice Bridge arriving in Halifax February 15, 2010, followed by the ZIM New York.

Hyundai Ulsan built the 54,519 gt, 64,989 dwt ship in 2005, with a capacity of 4738 TEU including 374 reefers. In 2019 when ONE was formed, it was sold and renamed Baltic East and was swept up by MSC in 2020 becoming MSC Shristi.

Immediately astern under the big cranes at Pier 41 it was the first time caller CMA CGM Symi on the Ocean Alliance service.

The ship is one of the pioneering LNG powered container ships and has made the news several times as a result. Unfortunately it also made the news on November 24, 2023 when it was struck by a "suicide" drone in the Indian Ocean. Damage was not severe and there were no injuries.

Hyundai Samho delivered the ship in March 2022. It is a 150,844 gt, 159,614 dwt vessel with a capacity of 15,400 TEU. It is big, but not as big as the current Halifax record holder CMA CGM Marco Polo with a 16,020 TEU capacity.

The ship sailed from Los Angeles January 2 and made its way to Oakland, Kaohsiung, Nansha, Yantian, Singapore, Port Klang and Colombo on its usual route but then diverted to the southern route round the Cape of Good Hope to Tanger Med, Morocco arriving March 9. It then sailed directly for Halifax on March 11.

At Pier 9C (see yesterday's post) BBC Topaz was preparing to load by removing and stacking its hatch covers. More news on that ship in future posts.


Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Expected BBC Topaz

 The heavy lift ship BBC Topaz is expected in Halifax tomorrow - March 20 - on a long trip that originated in Viet Nam and Singapore then via the Cape of Good Hope to Port Cartier, QC. The ship was last here January 31, 2023 when it loaded some heat recovery steam generators at Pier 9C.

BBC Topaz at Pier 9C on January 31, 2023. The large yellow and green objects, were manufactured by Innovative Steam Technologies in Cambridge, ON.

This time around the ship will be loading quite a different cargo, which I will detail once the ship arrives.

BBC Chartering operates the BBC Topaz which was built in 2010 by Sainty Jiangdu shipyard in China. The 12,810 gt, 14,288 dwt ship is equipped with two 400 tonne capacity and one 80 tonne capacity cranes. It also has large and unobstructed holds with two position tween decks and can be configured to carry a wide variety of heavy and oversize cargoes. With its accommodation block and wheelhouse forward, it can carry high deck loads that would otherwise obstruct visibility

The ship was launched as the Eris J but delivered as Industrial Fighter. In 2013 it became HHI Everest then Eris J again in 2014, Daniella in 2015, Eris J in 2015, Industrial Fighter again in 2018 and BBC Topaz in 2019. Although operating in the BBC Chartering fleet the ship is owned by Jüngerhans Heavy-Lift and is still shown as member of the fleet on the Reederei Jüngerhans website as Eris J.

BBC Chartering has also just announced a new class of ships to be built specifically for the St.Lawrence Seaway and Great Lakes. Termed "Lakermax" the ships will have two 250 tonne capacity cranes and two large unobstructed box shaped holds. Like BBC Topaz they will have all accommodation forward allowing for large deck cargoes such as wind turbine blades. There will be ten ships in the series which will be delivered over the course of the next two years.

The BBC Topaz is arriving from Port Cartier, QC where it delivered a cargo of wind turbine blades for the 200MW Apuit project which will be partly on traditional First Nation territory and partly in Port Cartier.

The ship made the headlines during a recent storm when the master opted not to heed local advice to move the ship off the dock. When the storm struck, the ship's lines parted and two tugs were needed to re-secure the ship before it drifted aground. The ship was detained in Port-Cartier for two days by Port State Control March 13 to 17. Unloading had already been delayed by a crane failure, and a sister ship, BBC Rhonedal,was waiting to offload.

BBC Chartering has also made the news in Australia when three of its ships have been banned due to deficiencies. One ship was banned for ninety days due to unsafe stowage of explosives.

BBC Topaz sailing from Halifax on February 1, 2023.


Monday, March 18, 2024

Morning Celesta - long way round


The Eukor auto carrier Morning Celesta arrived in Halifax today, March 18. Its most recent port calls have been on the typical Wallenius Wilhelmsen Ocean (WWO) transatlantic route, but how it got here is a longer story. (Wallenius Wilhelmsen is the parent company to Eukor, and Eukor ships are frequent callers here for WWO.)

Tugs Atlantic Oak (forward) and Atlantic Bear (aft) guide the ship into Eastern Passage toward Autport.

Going back to late 2023 the ship arrived in Australia from Europe via South Africa. Then in early January 7-8 the ship was in Shanghai. Not an unsual port for a car boat - particularly one with the name "Celesta" - because Hyundai Beijing builds the Celesta model sedan in China. Eukor was established to carry Korean built cars to the world, but its next port overshot Korea by a wide margin.

It was reported on January 26-27 in Mombassa then February 4-6 in Durban. Subsequent ports were Luanda February 11-12, Abidjan February 17-18, Dakar February 21, finally arriving in Zeebrugge February 29.  When it sailed on March 1 it headed for Goteborg arriving March 3 and sailing March 4. It then stopped in Bremerhaven March 6-8 before heading for Halifax.

Most shipping lines are avoiding the Red Sea and Suez Canal and auto carriers are no exception. Major diversions such as this one will not be unusual particularly at this time of year when car buying picks up and demand is high.

The line boat Roseway scurries past as tugs turn the Morning Celeste.

 The Morning Celeste dates from 2008 when it was delivered by Hyundai Samho. The 57,542 gt, 21,055 dwt ship has a capacity of 6,645 CEU. It has twelve decks a stern ramp and a side ramp. 

It's next scheduled port of call is New York, March 20. The usual WWO routing would take the ship to several other US ports before returning to Zeebrugge, but this ship may not be typical.