Sunday, February 4, 2018

Atlantic Tern

Things have been quiet in the tug business recently.


There are tugs in Halifax, but just the usual ones, and nothing out of the way to report except for some freezing spray.

This morning the smallest member of the Atlantic Towing Ltd offshore fleet returned to port after a stint off Sable Island as standby vessel.

Named for the Common Tern (sterna hirundo), the Atlantic Tern is unlike its namesake, in that it does not flee southward in winter. The bird arrives in the Halifax area during the first week of May each year and usually begins its southward trek in the early fall. The supply vessel however works all winter.

Built as Canmar Supplier II in 1975 for work in the Beaufort Sea, it is well equipped for winter and has a cutaway bow below the waterline for working in ice. Extensively rebuilt in 1998, with a raised forecastle and extended wheelhouse, it also worked in the North Sea for a number of years before moving to Atlantic Towing Ltd in 2012.
Since then it has usually worked from Halifax providing support services to offshore gas installations.

Please forgive the unforgivable pun: one good tern deserves another.


Sunday, January 21, 2018

Winter tow for Mister Joe

Winter towing is fraught with issues, not the least of which is freezing spray. Even if temperatures moderate, weather is still the major issue, particularly with small tugs on coastal voyages.

McNally Construction's Mister Joe arrived in Halifax on Friday on the first leg of a tow from Port Hawksbury, NS to Saint John, NB. There are very few ports to put into along Nova Scotia's eastern and southern shores, and Halifax was the first port aslong the route to provide shelter from predicted high winds and seas.

Mister Joe resumed the tow today, but once outside the shelter of the harbour, they found there was too much strain on the towing gear and so they put back in this afternoon.

Mister Joe has shortened up the tow as it approaches pier 9.

The tug slacks the line and in an adept bit of ship handling.....

...makes up on the bow of the scow, allowing two deck hands to scramble aboard the icy deck, and another to work the towing winch to bring in the bridle and ...

... with the scow "on the hip" moves in to its berth.

There will be another try tomorrow, and if all goes right the next stop will be Shelburne, NS.

Mister Joe was built by the once prolific tug builders, Russel-Hipwell of Owen Sound, ON, in 1964 as Churchill River for the Hudson's Bay Company and worked in Hudson Bay for thirty years. It was sold to Newfoundland owners in the 1990s, then to Beaver Marine in 1997. When Beaver was taken over by McNally Construction the tug was renamed after company founder, Mister Joe (McNally) in 1999. It was re-engined in 2002, with a pair of GMs giving 750 bhp to twin screws. In 2013-2014 it was given a major rebuild, which included a new wheelhouse built to the same pattern as the original, but with better windows.

The tug can be seen all over eastern Canada, ranging from the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Coast and Newfoundland, supporting McNally's various dredging and marine construction projects.At sea it works with a crew of five.

Mister Joe prepared for winter work with its accommodaiton ventilators wrapped and duct taped.

The dump scow is ballasted down for the trip with a couple of dredge buckets and some large concrete blocks in the pockets.


Sunday, January 14, 2018

Horizon Star makes it Halifax debut

Horizon Maritime Services Ltd (of Halifax and St. John's) has been involved in crewing and other services related to the offshore sector since it was founded in 2015. It has recently expanded into ship owning as part of a growth strategy. Owned and managed by Nova Scotians with considerable depth of experience with other operators, the company has chosen as its first vessel a highly sophisticated offshore support vessel with a range of capabilities.

Horizon Star arrived in Halifax for the first time January 10 after working off Newfoundland since the summer. Built by Kleven Ulstenivik to a Marin Teknikk MT 6015 design, the ship was originally ordered by IES Energy Marine of Malaysia and launched in 2015. When IES defaulted during the collapse of offshore activity, Kleven attempted to sell the ship, but with little success. Horizon, well financed by Nova Scotia investors, was able to wring a very good deal out of Kleven, and had the ship completed to their own specifications.

The naming ceremony in Norway August 3, 2017, coincided with is registration date in St.John's and Horizon Star sailed soon after, arriving in Newfoundland in mid-August.

At roughly 100m long and 5204 grt, it is reputed to be the largest Canadian vessel of its type. It is equipped with, among other things, a helicopter landing deck, a moon pool, ROV handling gear, and a crane that can work to depths of 3 km. Bristling with the usual array of directional thrusters, it is also fitted with the now standard fire fighting and oil skimming equipment, and can accommodate 60 persons, including its crew of 16.

After taking on some fuel today the ship returned to the IT Telecom berth at Pier 9A where a crane is standing by to load some equipment, that appears to be a large cable reel. The stern slide, fitted this week, indicates that it has been contracted to do some cable laying or cable repair work.


Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Atlantic Bear - fourth tug for Halifax, (and other news) - see Update

As ships grow larger and business picks up in Halifax demand for tug services also increases. Halifax Marine Towing Ltd is the only large tug provider in the port. It is a joint venture between Atlantic Towing Limited and Svitzer Canada, with Atlantic Towing providing the tugs since 2010.

It has made do with three tugs up until recently, but in mid 2017 it brought in a fourth tug temporarily, then in December made it a full time arrangement. [see Update at bottom of page]

 Atlantic Bear

The current fourth tug is Atlantic Bear a 5,432 bhp tug built in 2008 by East Isle Shipyard in Georgetown, PE for Atlantic Reyser Ltd. One of three terminal tugs to serve a new LNG import facility near Saint John, NB it was specially built for harsh conditions and work in exposed areas. It has additional fendering and delivers 70 tonnes bollard pull.

With the downturn in LNG imports, the sister tugs Atlantic Beaver and Spitfire III are now assigned to general duties in Saint John and the third tug is not needed there.

The three other tugs in Halifax are Atlantic Oak and Atlantic Fir, of 2004 and 2005, both 5050 bhp, 68 tonnes bollard pull and Atlantic Willow 1998, 4,000 bhp, 50 tonne bollard pull. All have firefighting equipment.

 Atlantic Willow

Other Tug News
*   Atlantic Towing Ltd and Svitzer Canada are also partners in Point Tupper Towing, with Svitzer providing tugs primarily for the NuStar Energy terminal in Point Tupper, but also serving the other port facilities in the Strait of Canso. This year PTT also added a fourth tug. Svitzer Montreal joined the other Svitzer tugs, Point Chebucto, Point Valiant and Svitzer Bedford. The move allowed Point Chebucto to go to Lunenburg for an extended refit (now completed).

*   Interestingly Groupe Océan has stationed Océan Stevns in nearby Port Hawksbury. It arrived in mid-December, shortly before the Canso Canal closed for the season. What plans they may have for a single tug there remain to be seen, but it has apparently found some docking work. The tug was built in 2002 by Industrie Océan in Ile-aux-Coudres as Stevns Ocean and exported to Denmark. It is a 5,000 bhp ocean going tug, and was brought back to Canada in 2013. Update: Océan Stevns has a barge tow for the Caribbean and is waiting out weather to continue south.

No sooner had I filed this post than Atlantic Towing Ltd sent Atlantic Bear back to Saint John on January 2 and replaced it in Halifax with Atlantic Spruce. This is certainly a step backward in terms of power. It rates at only 4,000 bhp and 50 tonnes bollard pull. Built in 1997, it is the second oldest of the ASD tugs in the Atlantic Towing fleet.

 Atlantic Spruce working in Halifax on a previous occasion. 4,000 bhp tugs no longer perfrom tethered escort service in Halifax, that is now done by the 5,000 bhp tugs.


Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Tug changes in Goderich

Groupe Océan has assigned the tug Escorte to the port of Goderich, ON. Situated on Lake Huron the port sees about 250 ships a year. Most of those ships load salt at the Sifto Salt mine, located in mid-harbour. There is also a grain loading facility and a grain elevator in the port.
We are told that Groupe Océan has a contract with Algoma Marine for ship docking at the salt pier, and has provided tugs for several years. Most recently they used the former pilot boat Ocean Côte-Nord.
It was built by Industrie Océan at Ile-aux-Coudres in 2001 as Côte-Nord and was based at the Escoumins pilot station with near sister Charlevoix built in 1995.
When the Laurentian Pilotage Authority replaced the two boats, Charlevoix went to Les Services I.C.E. Inc and has been stationed in Sydney, NS transferring ice advisers to and from ships transiting the Gulf and  St.Lawrence River.

 Côte-Nord and sister Charlevoix at the Anse-aux-Basques dock at Les Escoumins, QC..

Côte-Nord was transformed into a tug and sent to Goderich, ON in 2014. With a modest bollard pull of 10.8 tons, it must have been a bit of a challenge to work lakers in the tight confines of the port. Goderich remains open well into the winter as demand for road salt continues, but the port and its approaches often become choked with ice and other boats are often needed to break and scatter the ice.

Early in December Océan Côte-Nord was reported downbound through the St. Lawrence Seaway system and arrived in Montreal December 5.

Escorte, based in Hamilton, ON for a time until 2010 and again since 2016, arrived in Goderich December 17 and began work December 18. I have recounted the history of the tug here before, September 11, 2011
Built in 1967 as USN 760 Menasha it was one of the earliest Voith-Schneider tugs in North America.

 Still in navy colours, the tug worked for the US side of the Seaway.

After several transactions and refit it has served Océan in a variety of work, most recently in Hamilton, also assisting shipping in the Welland Canal.With more powerful V-S tugs now assigned to Hamilton, it has moved on once more.

No account of tug activities in Goderich would be complete without mention of the colourful fleet of MacDonald Marine [MacTug]. Their stylish little tugs have been a fixture in the port for decades, and the family owned business traces its origins to the days of sail.

MacTug handles ships using the grain berths, and sometimes the whole fleet is called out to work a ship.

 Debbie Lyn built 1950, 240 bhp.

 Donald Bert built 1953, 318 bhp.

 Ian Mac built 1955, 318 bhp.

Since the above photos were taken Ian Mac received a new wheelhouse:

Dover built 1930, (on a salvaged iron frame dating from 1905) 280 bhp, is reported to be out of service. its engine has been a fickle one by all accounts and that may be the problem. Its riveted hull, having been in fresh water its whole career is likely to still be sound.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017


Tugfax will be taking a break over Christmas.

The delightfully named Point Vim and Point Vigour were built in 1962 as Foundation Vim and Foundation Vigour, part of a series of six identical tugs. They served various ports in eastern Canada, but principally Halifax, until the mid-1980s when larger and more agile tugs were needed to berth larger ships.
Although kept as spares, their 1,000 bhp and single screw (in retrofitted Kort nozzle) was inadequate for most ship berthing.They were sold for further, less demanding use.
Both tugs are still operating - Point Vigour as Molly M 1 for Nadro Marine, mostly on the Great Lakes. Point Vim was sold again in 2017 by Davis Shipping of Wesleyville, NL to Les barges de Matane Inc of Matane, QC.
The photo above, taken on a very cold day in Halifax, exactly thirty-four years ago. It was sub-zero (Fahrenheit) as the rising sea smoke and freezing spray will confirm. The two tugs and fleet mates Point Carroll and Point Valiant (both also in existence but apparently retired) were returning from berthing the container ship Sea-Land Voyager. It was the first of Sea-Land's new D-9s to call in Halifax (June 26, 1983). With a  capacity of 1782 TEU on 24,337 grt, 23,308 dwt, it was a big ship in its day..


Saturday, December 9, 2017

Océan Delta sold and other deployments

Another of Groupe Océan's veteran tugs has been sold. Océan Delta has apparently gone to the same buyers that acquired Océan Hercule. Océan Delta is still in Quebec City, but its Canadian registry was closed November 30 and it now flies the Jamaican flag.

With more powerful and more modern tugs (such as Océan Tundra, at right),big single screw tugs like Océan Delta (second from left) are becoming obsolete.
Also pictured: Océan Charlie at left, and Océan Yvan Desgagnés, second from right.

Dating from 1973 when it was built by Ulstein Mek. Verksted AS in Ulsteinvik, Norway as Sistella. One of a three of similar tugs for International Transport Contractors (ITC), Tschudi and Eitzen, managers. They were ocean salvage tugs intended also for long tows associated with the oil industry. Fitted with two 16 cylinder Polar engines geared to a single controllable pitch screw, they were rated at 7,000 bhp and 65 tonne bollard pull.

Renamed Sandy Cape in 1978 and transferred to Liberian flag, by the same Norwegian/Dutch owners, it worked word wide until 1980 when it was acquired by the Power Corporation of Canada and assigned through the CSL Group to their Quebec Tugs Ltd (QUETUG) subsidiary.
It was renamed Capt. Ioannis S. for Captain Ioannis "John" Stylidiadis operator of the Quebec City tug fleet once under the direction of the Davie Shipyards. They fleet had always been involved in salvage work but this was the first big tug they had owned for many years.

Capt. Ioaanis S in QUETUG colours.
 In 1987 Océan Construction Inc acquired QUETUG and the company has since gone on to become Groupe Océan, 45 years after it was originally founded.

In 1999 Océan renamed the tug Océan Delta as part of a naming scheme that has reached "Lima" in the international signals alphabet, but has since been displaced by a new scheme recognizing individuals.
Over the years Océan has invested a lot of money in this tug with at least one major rebuild and in 2000 re-engining the vessel with a pair of 8 cylinder MaKs giving 6464 bhp.

Océan Delta in a previous GO colour scheme.
In the intervening years the tug has provided ship docking and escort services in Quebec, made many long tows to the arctic and worked around the lower St.Lawrence River and Gulf. In December 2012 it was lead tug in the aborted tow of HMCS Athabaskan from the Port Weller DryDock  for Halifax with André H.(ex Point Valiant, Foundation Valiant). The tow went wrong off Sydney and there was damage to the tugs and several perforations in the warship's hull. The tow to Halifax was later completed by Atlantic Towing Ltd.

Undergoing a "shave and a haircut" at Ile-aux-Coudres, in 2005, its rudder and prop were removed for repair.
Back for more ten years later - this time with rudder and prop intact.
Océan Delta has been listed for sale for several years and has not been active in the last two or three years.
With both Océan Hercule and Océan Delta sold to the same Jamaican owners it is possible that one will be towing the other. Let us hope this is not a repeat of another unwise late season tow out from the St.Lawrence. Too many of these have gone wrong recently to allow another foolhardy or unprepared attempt. 

Océan Hercule has also been sold to the same Jamaican buyers and has been renamed Hercule.

Meanwhile there have been some interesting deployments in the Océan fleet. The former pilot boat, converted to tug, Océan Côte-Nord, which was stationed in Goderich, ON has left that port, returning down through the St.Lawrence Seaway to Quebec. Whether this is to accommodate a winter refit or an end to the Lake Huron service has not been revealed.

Océan's recent acquisition of the two Port-Cartier tugs from ArcelorMittal Steel has resulted in two renamings. Brochu has been renamed Océan Brochu and Vachon is now Océan A. Gauthier.

 Vachon in the colours of original owners, Quebec Cartier Mining. (unknown photographer)

It was upbound in the Seaway on December 6 for its new home port of Hamilton, ON. There it joins another Voith-Schneider tug Océan A. Simard transferred this fall after working in Bull Arm, NL for a few years. The latter has also been doing ship assist at the entrance to the nearby Welland Canal.