Saturday, July 15, 2017

Firebird for sale

The Royal Canadian Navy's Halifax based fireboat Firebird YTR 561 has now been put up for sale by GCSurplus:  here

At its customary berth in HMC Dockyard, Firebird shares space with YTL 593 Merrickville and YTB 642 Glenevis, part of the tug fleet operated by the Queen's Harbour Master. 

Built in 1975, and commissioned in 1978 the boat was one of two built for the RCN (Firebrand is based in Esquimalt) by Vancouver Shipyard, North Vancouver, BC. It arrived in Halifax in August 1978, nested in a barge of traprock, and towed by the tug Ocean Crown.

Originally classified as a Yard Fire Boat (YFB) it later became a Yard Tug Rescue (YTR), but was rarely if ever used as a tug. However it has tug-like propulsion of two azimuthing stern drives, powered by a pair of 385 bhp Cats and bow thruster, giving a 7.5 ton bollard pull. It also has a pair of 365 bhp Cats driving two fire pumps of 2500 igpm capacity @ 150 psi. These serve three 3" manual monitors and a variety of deck connections. It also carries 500 igals of AFF.

The 76ft x 20.5 ft x 8'-10" (draft) vessel carried a crew of 7 which included operators and firefighters. In addition to firefighting, the tug also carried out rescue work and security calls at various port installations. However, faced with cutbacks the night shift eliminated January 29, 2014. The tug was finally retired December 4, 2014. HMC Dockyard firefighting was then left to shore crews or the harbour tugs.

Closing date for the sale is August 13, 2017 and the minimum bid is $5,000. It is expected to fetch far more than that however.

Firebird doing security rounds in the Narrows is likely heading for the Defense Research barge in Bedford Basin. 


Thursday, July 13, 2017

Merger or Aquisition

In the Mergers and Acquisitions (M+A) world the distinction between a merger and an acquisition is often what the parties want to call it.  The second Hamburg based acquisition in recent months is being termed a merger, and unlike the earlier one in which the Spanish company Boluda took over URAG and L+R, this one involves two well known Hamburg companies.

It is one is certainly an acquisition but may look like a merger because both parties (for now at least) will continue to operate under their own names.  Fairplay (Fairplay, Schleppdampschiffs-Reederei Richard Borchard Gmbh) has purchased Bugsier ( Bugsier, Reederei-und Bergungs Gesellschaft mbH + Co KG).

 The Hamburg "Tug Ballet" uses representatives of  the local fleets.

Not as well known on the  world stage as they once were, the companies are a strong presence in North Europe, and with more than 100 tugs at their joint disposal, can be expected to grow and strengthen. 

Their company histories are well known, so I will not repeat them here, but it is a sign of the times as both companies retreated from the world market over the years, they became smaller and smaller players. Now perhaps rejuvenated, we may see more of them  outside of Europe.  

Once operators of the largest tugs in the world, Bugsier has pulled back to smaller vessels.

Fairplay did their share of ocean towing. This Fairplay X towed two lakers (Charles M.White and Thomas F. Patton) from Quebec City to Karachi, Pakistan in about 100 days.

Bugsier and Fairplay have worked together in Hamburg for many years as members of the harbour tug pool, and co-operate on ETV operation. They operate a variety of modern tugs, in addition to the older ballet tugs pictured above.


Friday, July 7, 2017

Now Showing

Although I am in my sixth decade of marine photography, my current show at the Public Archives of Nova Scotia is entitled Four Decades of Marine Photography. That is because I have selected images only from the 1960s to 1990s.

They are all in black and white and were taken in Quebec and Nova Scotia (with one from New Brunswick) and show a wide range of shipping related subjects from my large archive.

On Saturday, July 8, there will be an opening reception from 1300 to 1600 in the Chase Gallery at the Public Archives of Nova Scotia, 6016 University Avenue, corner of Robie Street.

The exhibit runs until July 26. Gallery hours are Monday to Saturday 0830 -1630, Wednesdays until 2100 hrs.

All photos are professionally printed on archival water colour paper, with acid free matte and framed behind glass and are for sale. Prices range from $125 to $150.


ZIM gets bigger

ZIM is now sending larger ships to Halifax (last week's Zim Antwerp crashed through the 10,000 TEU mark) but they are also sending former post-Panamax ships through the new Panama Canal from on their Pacific service.

At this time last year Hamburg Bay was too large to use the old Panam Canal, but now it can get through with ease. The 71,786 grt, 72,982 dwt ship has a capacity of 6350 TEU, including 500 reefers. It was built in 2009 by Koyo Dockyard in Mihara, Japan to a standarad design called Imabari 6350. It started out on a charter to APL as APL Tokyo  and in 2014 became ZIM Hamburg. When that name was needed for a new ZIM ship it was renamed Hamburg Bay in 2016 by owners based in Lodon and associated with Zodiac Marine.

The tug Spitfire III has assisted the ship in turning and will swing around to the port quarter to bring it alongside. Note the open frmae type containers with standard containers on top. Thes large transpacific ships usually carry empties on the after deck.


Sunday, July 2, 2017

Return of the Coho - AMENDED

A familiar sight in Saint John, NB, the articulated tug barge (ATB) combination Coho and Penn No.92 made one of its infrequent visits to Halifax today.

The US flag tug and its 7100 grt asphalt barge usually run from Saint John to US east coats ports, but due to a shortage of Canadian tanker space*, Irving Oil received a coasting license to use the pair to deliver asphalt to Halifax and the Newfoundland ports of  Stephenville, Holyrood and Botwood. They will be making a second trip later in the month or early in August, delivering asphalt to McAsphalt.

Coho was built in 2008 by Thomasea Shipbuilders LLC in Lockport, LA one of five tugs with 51.5 ft high pilot house, specifically for ATB work. The connection is made with a JAK coupler system, which has proven to be so successful at sea that the tug can remain in the notch at all time.

Original owner of the pair was Penn Maritime, originally of Philadelphia, but by then based in Stamford, CT, and the tug carried their distinctive grey colour scheme, with black hull and white trim.  It was in those colours that they visited Halifax in 2012. The same year Penn Maritime was acquired by Kirby Corp of Channelview, TX and although they retained the names of both tug and barge, the tug has been repainted in Kirby Colours.

Docked at McAsphalt's jetty in Eastern Passage in 2012, the tug had disconnected from the barge during the unloading process.

*   The new tanker Damia Desgagnés  was originally scheduled to make these trips, but it was late being delivered. It has since run aground and may require repairs, further delaying it.

Monday July 3, 2017 
Less than 24 hours after arriving, Coho and Penn No.92 sailed from the McAsphalt dock in Eastern Passage. 
The barge is carrying 80,000 bbls of ashpalt to distrubute to the four ports it will visit, so it likely unloaded one quarter of  its cargo here.

On sailing it took the starboard side of the channel allowing a bit closer view of the tug.


Monday, June 26, 2017

Atlantic Towing visitors

Two Atlantic Towing Ltd tugs arrived in Halifax today, each visit related to barge work.

Atlantic Beech ex Irving Beech, built 1969, 2250 bhp arrived from Saint John, NB to tow away the barge Atlantic Sealion. As it has been doing for several years, the tug will likely be supporting northern supply to Baker Lake. It ferries cargo from larger ships at the entrance to Chesterfield Inlet on the western shore of Hudson's Bay in to the community of Baker Lake, 150 miles or so inland.

Atlantic Beech with Atlantic Sealion astern at  Woodside. 
On the dock at left is the disused Atlantic Chestnut.

Some of the cargo comes to Hudson's Bay via the Atlantic, largely from Quebec. Some cargo came overland to Churchuill, MB, where it was loaded for Baker Lake.
Due to rail wash outs on the Omnitrax line from The Pas, MB this spring, there will be no northern supply service from Churchill, MB this year. All cargo will have to be delivered the long way round via the Atlantic. In fact there will be cargo delivered to Churchill by sea for the town's own use. The town is in desperate need of supplies normally delivered by rail, including propane, food, fule and general merchandise.

The barge Atlantic Sealion (the former Irving Whale) has been used to shuttle components from the Woodside pier to Halifax Shipyard for the Arctic Offshore Patrol vessel construction.

Atlantic Larch arrived towing the pontoon Irving Beaver from Saint John, NB. The Larch built in 2000 and 4,000 bhp used to be stationed in Halifax but has become an "outside" tug used for towing work and now based in Saint John, but traveling widely around eastern Canada.

Atlantic Larch wangles the Irving Beaver to a berth at the old Coast Guard Base. 
The Woodside docks in the background are full up with the three Halifax based Atlantic Towing tugs, Atlantic Oak, Atlantic Willow, Spitfire III and the visiting Atlantic Beech, the supplier Atlantic Condor (at the Exxon Mobil dock), and the tanker Atlantic Pegasus  at Irving Oil.
(see today's Shipfax)

The pontoon Irving Beaver was built by Saint John DD+SB in 1973 as a floating sawmill and crew camp for work on the Saint John River. When that work ended its deck house was removed and it  became an "unmanned pontoon".  It dimensions are 68.58m x 26.52m and it is gross registered tonnage is now 2190 grt (it was 2702 as built).

I assume it will take the place of Irving Sealion on the shuttle run for shipbuilding components.
The pontoon's name was unique in the J.D.Irving fleet. Tugs were named for trees (softwood for river tugs, hardwood for seagoing, and barges named for marine animals). However all the animals were salt water species, such as Tuna, Whale, Seal, Sealion. Beavers are largely fresh water animals, and Irving Beaver's job was to chew up wood on the Saint John River, that seems an entirely logical  - dare I say whimsical? - choice.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Quebec Shakeup [amended]

See addendum at the end of this article

A major shakeup in the Quebec tug scene can be summarized as "Svitzer out / Ocean in".
Svitzer Canada, part of the multi-national tug operator, a subsidiary of the giant AP Moller-Maersk shipping conglomerate has opted to discontinue its short lived four tug Montreal operation, selling most of its local assets to Groupe Océan.

Ocean had been the sole operator in the Port of Montreal since acquiring the former McAllister business. It appears now that loyalty to Océan was strong enough that Svitzer could not gain traction.

Svitzer Montréal refitting in Halifax shortly before taking up station in Montreal in the spring of 2016. The tug was transferred from Svitzer's operation in the Dominican Republic.

When Svitzer moved in last year, it was largely on the basis of having longstanding relationships with Algoma and CSL and of course to service Maersk Lines one weekly container ship. Whether parent company Maersk's financial belt tightening was a factor or not, there apparently was not enough business to sustain the operation.

Svitzer operated its service in Montreal initially with two tugs, which did double duty, by spending the summer in the high arctic at the Baffinland iron port at Milne Inlet, serving the Mary River mine. Océan originally had the Baffinland contract, and built two 8,000 bhp super tugs, Océan Tundra and Océan Taiga especially for the work, which was expected to extend to year round. When the Baffinland project stalled and ArcelorMittal gained control of the project in 2011 Svitzer wound up with the tug contract. The completed Océan Tundra found some work as an escort tug out of Quebec City, but construction of Océan Taiga was slowed down and only completed in 2016 due to a lack of demand for the vessels.

Svitzer Nerthus and Svitzer Njal after fitting out in Halifax, are almost ready to sail for their first season at Milne Inlet.

Svitzer Njal and Svitzer Nerthus were brought back to Canada by Svitzer in 2016, but at 5,000 bhp, they would only be able to work seasonally in the far north (July - October). As ice class tugs however, they are quite suitable for year round work in Montreal. They will be fulfilling the Baffinland contract this summer too, but at the end of the season they will become Océan tugs.

Baffinland had originally planned a year round rail line operating to a port on Steensby Inlet, which would be accessible to larger ships and presumably require larger tugs for year round service. It now seems they will build the rail line to Milne River instead, replacing the present 100km tote road for trucks. This will allow the mine to reach its 12 mn tonnes per year shipping target. They also plan to bring in ships of up to capesize, which will also require larger tugs.

Of the four Montreal based tugs, only Svitzer Cartier was not built by Eastisle Shipyard in Georgetown, PE. The Chinese built tug is the only Voith-Schneider tug in the lot.

Svitzer acquired two more tugs for Quebec work. Svitzer Cartier, a Chinese built V-S tug initially arrived to provide additional tug service for Port-Cartier, where ArcelorMittal has a major iron ore and grain port, and two aging V-S tugs of its own.  Svitzer Cartier apparently did not work out well at Port-Cartier and was transferred to Montreal. Its fate is unknown at this time, but may be acquired by Océan. (see Addendum)

Océan has now also acquired the tug contract for Port-Cartier and will be moving two of its tugs there later in the year, replacing the ArcelorMittal owned tugs Brochu and Vachon. V-S tugs, they were adept at working in the tight confines of Port-Cartier, but Océan has no V-S tugs of comparable power, so it will interesting to know what tugs they will be using. They will have several tugs coming back from Newfoundland now that the Hebron gravity base project is complete.

Earlier this year Océan was awarded the operating contract for the V-S tug Pointe-Comeau, based in Baie-Comeau, and owned by Cargill Grain. The tug was under Svitzer (and previously Eastern Canada Towing) management since it was built in 1977. In fact predecessor copmay Foundation Maritime managed the Cargill owned Foundation Vibert from when it was built in 1961. It became Point Vibert under ECTUG management until replaced by Pointe-Comeau

The fourth Montreal tug, Svitzer Montreal (ex Caucedo) at 4500 bhp ASD will be sold to Océan and could be used in any one of several ports served by Océan. Three of the four tugs should be a good fit in the Océan stable, since they were built by Eastisle in Georgetown, PE to the same basic design as eight of Océan's tugs. (see Addendum)

Océan now has a tight lock on all St.Lawrence River ports, as the exclusive tug operator with tugs based in Sept-Iles, Port Cartier, Baie-Comeau, Quebec City, Trois-Rivières, Sorel and Montreal.

(In 2012 Océan won the Iron Ore Company of Canada contract at Sept-Iles held by Svitzer and predecessors since the 1950s. It also bought ECTUG's two Sept-Iles icebreaking tugs.)

Océan also operates tugs on the Great Lakes to serve Hamilton, Toronto and Oshawa and a small tug in the port of Goderich.

Business prospects for the port of Montreal in particular appear to be on the upswing, as the port shows increased container and tanker traffic. The St.Lawrence River can now accommodate much larger ships. although draft restriction still apply.

Svitzer is now reduced back to three tugs at Point Tupper, NS: Point Chebucto, Point Valiant and Svitzer Bedford. The rather surprising move to Montreal was a bit unusual for Svitzer, a company noted for negotiating long term terminal contracts, rather than speculative ventures into unknown territory.

 Since posting this blog more information has come to light.
1. Océan is not acquiring Svitzer Montréal The tug is not ice rated (it was built for the Dominican Republic) and thus will be re-assigned by Svitzer.
2. Océan has indeed acquired the Svitzer Cartier and will  be sending it to Ile-aux-Coudres for refit by Industrie Océan. This leads me to assume that it will assigned to Port-Cartier. At 5400 bhp it would certainly provide more power than the two 3600 bhp tugs in place there.
3.Océan will be supporting the Port-Cartier contract with two V-S tugs. Unknown at present what those tugs will be, however:
Océan has one other V-S tug:  Océan A. Simard ex Alexis Simard, 3290 bhp. It has been working on the Hebron project in Newfoundland, and seems a likely candidate for Port-Cartier.
At present Océan Arctique is supplementing the two ArcelorMittal tugs in Port-Cartier and will presumably remain there.