Friday, July 25, 2014

Miss Comeau graces the Digby waterfront

Known primarily for its scallop fishing fleet and the ferry service to Saint John, NB, Digby, Nova Scotia is also home to a handsome small tug, which finds work around the Annapolis Basin and comes in handy when there is an emergency.

Built in 2006 by its owners Comeau Marine Railway in Saulnierville, NS, the 7 gross ton twin screw tug is usually to be found at one of the floats at the Western Nova Scotia Yacht Club - and it does look jaunty enough to be a pleasure craft. However on close inspection it is all business.

Assisting boats on and off the nearby marine railway is one of is regular tasks. 

Well fendered and fitted with sturdy tow bits, I would estimate its horsepower at 350, but that figure is not posted in Transport Canada's on line list of shipping.

 On December 21, 2012 when the ferry Princess of Acadia lost the use of its thruster, the tug was called in to assist in berthing the 10,000 ton ship. The ferry must come alongside and back up to its loading ramp, and thrusters are essential - unless there is a tug nearby. [See today's Shipfax post for more on Princess of Acadia]

Miss Comeua sits ready amidst pleasure craft, fishing boats and a fast rescue RHIB.


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Return visit to Ile-aux-Coudes

I was back at Ile-aux-Coudres over the weekend and got a different slant on my previous post a couple of weeks ago.

At Industrie Océan, the two tugs Océan Echo II and Océan Basques remain on the slips. Since it was the weekend there was little activity in the yard, but I did get photos from the road above the yard.

From this angle the housing for the hydraulic ram is visible. These devices were added to the tug after it was acquired by Groupe Océan in 1996. It had been used face wires for its barges when built.

By comparison, the cut away icebreaking bow of Océan Basque is highly visible. The letters from the tug's original name Pointe aux Basques have been ground off to make way for its current name.

Meanwhile tug builders GFFM Leclerc were preparing to launch their latest boat. To be named Réjeanne Polaire, it is the latest in a line of small tugs, used mostly for barge handling in the north. Unfortunately it was still inside the builder's shed and not visible yet.

The design for the tugs has evolved from twin screw to triple screw, in order to maintain shallow draft, but increase power from 600 bhp to the current 1130 bhp.

 Ours Polaire, built in 1998, was the first in the series of powerful small shallow draft tugs.

 A twin screw boat, it features a small wheelhouse with all round visibility. It has not entered service this year.

The hull is heavily fendered for handling small lighters.Cercle Polaire, built in 2011 was the 7th and last of the first series of tugs.

The design has evolved to the present tripe screw version:
 The latest generation are still shallow draft, but have a larger all weather wheelhouse. Horizon Polaire , built in 2012 is the first of the triple screw series, which now numbers 4 tugs.

With three engines and three props, the operator has a range of choices for propulsion, using one, two or all three Cummins engines. Renard Polaire was built in 2013.

The tugs are lifted aboard supply ships and taken to remote sites in the north where there are no port facilities. They then ferry the lightering scows to shore. They are also available for bareboat charter and have worked various jobs in southern waters.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Atlantic Towing change

Atlantic Towing's roster changed in Halifax at the end of June. With Atlantic Larch sent to Newfoundland (her towing winch is in demand) the Atlantic Spruce is now the third tug.
Built in 1997, with 4,000 bhp and fire-fighting capability, she is essentially the same as Atlantic Willow built in 1998. Atlantic Oak rounds out the trio. Built in 2004, with 5,050 bhp and also fitted for firefighting, it is used for tethered escort work.

This Atlantic Spruce is the second tug of the name in the fleet. The first, and also the first in a series built in Georgetown PEI by East Isle Shipyard, was built in 1995. In 1997 it was sold to Johannes Ostensjo of Norway and renamed Felix. It is still operating for Ostensjo Rederi AS.  Also a 4,000 bhp ASD tug, it was not equipped with fire fighting gear.
 The first Atlantic Spruce pictured on the Dartmouth Marine Slip, preparing for handover to Ostensjo.

Although there have only been two Atlantic Spruces, the name was previously used by Atlantic Towing's parent company J.D.Irving Ltd. The tug Irving Spruce worked on the St. John River, at first with log booms, and later with chip barges, supplying Irving Pulp + Paper's mill at the Reversing Falls in Saint John, NB.

Built as TANAC 68 in 1944 by Central Bridge Co in Trenton, ON the standard tug is reputed to have worked for the U.S.Army, and was later renamed Quebec before joining J.D.Irving Ltd. They added the elevated wheelhouse, and made other upgrades to suit the tug to the work.
Its last job was towing a chip barge out of Grand Lake, NB (which it was doing in the above photo). It was laid up and finally taken to sea and scuttled October 25, 1991. 


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Quebec Report

A whirlwind tour over the Canada Day weekend brought me up to date on some Quebec tugs that I had been following recently, and some revisited old (tug) acquaintances.

As usual maintenance dredging was underway at Rivière-du-Loup (they can't start much before the end of June due to the freshet of spring run-off). Also as usual, the veteran 1961 tug Le Phil D was attending the dredge Océan Basque 2. Over the past several years, crews have been working away at painting the small tug in Groupe Océan colours. This year it was time for the corporate logo.

The small tugs Océan Nigiq and Océan Uannug with their mud scows were also in attendance. The tugs don't adjust their trim for loaded or empty scows, so are bow down or bow up depending on the scowload.

An early morning arrival in Quebec City was the tug-barge Mega + Motti finally in service for Groupe Océan. The pair have made at least one trip to Port Hawksbury, NS with wood for chips for the paper mill there, and and had another load upbound, before typing up at about 0800, likely to await a favourable tide.

Meanwhile, after sailing the French warship Mistral the classic 1973 tug Océan Charlie stood by for the arrival of the tanker Minerva Doxa.

It joined the big new 2013 tug Océan Tundra using its 8,000 bhp and 100 tonne bollard pull to slow and steer the tanker. (Rumours of a sister, to be named Océan Taiga are yet to be confirmed.)

The impressive tug was delivered during the winter, and has lost some of its blue hull paint in ice. However, the special undercoat paint remains intact and does not come off.

Speaking of paint, the Industrie Océan shipyard in Ile-aux-Coudres  has the tug Océan Baques (ext Pointe aux Basques )on the slipway. After wintering Halifax, the tug went to Quebec City for work by Océan's machine shop, but now it is ready for a sandblast and repaint into Groupe Océan colours. The 1972 era tug will likely go into service back in Sept-Iles when it is ready.

Also in the yard is the 1969 Océan Echo II. It had a grounding accident near Kingston, ON (ironically at Quebec Head) on May 8. No sign of that damage was visible.

Note the round bilges of the fully molded hull of Océan Echo II versus the hard chine hull of Océan Basque. Neither tug has bilge keels to allow for working in ice.

Océan Echo II has been replaced in wood chip barge service by Mega + Motti, so is likely in for a long stay at the ship yard. Just visible at the bow is one of the hydraulic rams for barge connection.


Thursday, June 26, 2014

J.F.Whalen - part 3

McNally's crew quickly assembled the remaining components and had the J.F.Whalen all back together by Wednesday.
With push knees in place, the tug doesn't look quite as attractive, but I am sure they will save a lot of wear and tear when handling mud scows.

Aside from the buckets over the exhaust pipes to keep the rain out, the tug is now fully equipped and ready to run.

At the ceremony next week, the tug will be named for John Whalen, a longtime employee of McNally and Beaver Marine before that, who retired last year.


Monday, June 23, 2014

J.F.Whalen - part 2

part 2......

Following close on delivery of the J.F.Whalen hull by truck from Gaspé, the 55,000 lbs unit was lifted off and floated alongside today. 
Late this afternoon the wheelhouse arrived by truck.

It was only a matter of minutes for the boom truck to lift the house off the flatbed,
swing it over the dock,

 and lower it onto the hull.
With a little persuasion from the crew, the house was soon in place. It was then bolted down, and the job of installing  components was ready to start. Among those are a pair of push knees which will be fitted into slots on either side of the stem.

Following a naming ceremony next week the tug will be assigned to its first job. That may be in Belleville, ON. If so the process of dismantling and trucking away will happen again, but in reverse.

For the record it is Atlantic Tiltload Ltd that did the transporting and lifting.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Hamburg Tug Ballet - Special Performance

While attending the International Tug + Salvage Conference in Hamburg, Germany June 16-20, I was fortunate enough to have a ringside seat for a special performance of the famous Hamburg Tug Ballet. Performed each year in May to celebrate the Port of Hamburg's Anniversary, the tug companies got together again, under the sponsorship of Schottel, to give an encore presentation.
 Against the backdrop of the old city of Hamburg, tugs swing and sway along to the sound of a of pop music.

First a bit about the Hamburg tug scene. A massive port, Hamburg was long the stronghold of a number of local companies that co-operated by pooling their tugs to provide services in proportion to their fleet size. They also struck a tariff, that compensated them for a relatively large crew size.
In 1999 the Dutch company Kotug "invaded" Hamburg. With smaller crews, they were able to give lower rates, and signed contracts with certain shipowners. The local combine reduced its tarifs, and still maintain their co-op dispatching system.

The tug ballet was first performed in the 1980s as a means of displaying the versatility of tractor tugs -those tugs with propulsion units mounted forward -either azimuthing Schottel units or Voith type- the pioneers of true tractor tugs. (Azimuthing stern drive tugs, ASDs, are sometimes called reverse tractors, because the drives are mounted aft).

The five tugs featured in the ballet, represent the partners in the co-operative and are beautifully painted and shined up, even though they work daily in the port. 

Leading the parade Hans wears the colours of Louis Meyer, the smallest company in the operating pool. The tug is actually owned by Petersen + Alpers, and still has that company's symbol on its bow and the inner surfaces of its funnels.  The two companies have overlapping ownership.
Built in 1982, the tug is rated at 3,000 bhp, 27 tonnes bollard pull and is a Schottel tractor.

Next up was Fairplay VI, which along with the other tugs, made high speed runbys, and tight cornering. Fairplay is not a member of the pool, but participates in the ballet.
Built in 1992, it has 3,060 bhp and 41 tonne bollard pull, with Schottel drives.

Wearing the traditional Hamburg tug livery of black hull, brown house and white bridge, Bugsier 18 makes an impressive roll.
 Bugsier 18 dates from 1992, with 3,060 bhp and a 30 tonne bollard pull, it is a Voith tractor.

 Petersen+Alpers representative is Wilhelmine, a sister of Hans, the parade leader.
Two years newer that Hans, Wilhelmine was buit in 1982, and with 3,000 bhp rates a 27 tonne bollard pull.

Lutgen+Reimers' Constant was the final tug in the line, and is similar to Bugsier 18. Although its skipper was a little less daring in close quarters work, he was no slouch in the rolling department.
Built in 1987, the 2,500 bhp tug gets 30 tonnes bollard pull through its Voith tractor drives.

From our vantage point aboard a harbour tour boat, which was also the centre of the ballet's focus, we got some very tight views of tugs in action:
All the tugs in the ballet were tractors, and thus work over the stern for ship handling. Despite being in absolutely pristine condition, they are working tugs. Typical of tugs everywhere, they eave the deck door open for ventilation, despite the safety board warnings about downflooding in emergency situations.
No doubt the tugs are maintained to an extra high order for their ballet performances, but all the tugs in Hamburg appear spotless.Look at the glistening metal trim around the upper windows!
They are also impressively handled by their skilled skippers.

Within an hour of the performance, Constant was back at work. Despite their age, ranging from 22 to 34 years old, and relatively low bollard pull of 27-41 tonnes, there is lots of work for these older tugs in Hamburg. Vast numbers of small feeder container ships and tankers mix in with the huge container ships and bulkers that also visit the port, and use large and newer tugs. More on those later.