Friday, September 19, 2014

Augusta Kontor - back again

The name Augusta Kontor is a new one to Halifax, but the ship bearing it has been here before. In today at Fairview Cove for Hapag-Lloyd, the Marshal Island flagged ship is one of a number of spot charters that H-L has been using for the past several months. Coming off a previous charter in January this year the ship had been operating as Charlotte C. Rickmers since 2009, and was renamed Charlotte briefly before taking on its present name.


Built for Rickmers Reederei  GmbH + Cie KG of Hamburg, by Hanjin Heavy Industries of Busan, South Korea, it is one of a large series of similar panamax ships (six for Rickmers) of 54,214 grt and 5060 TEU (454 refrigerated). They were all for charter, and this particular ship served from new in 2004 to 2009 as Maersk Douala. It was under this name that it arrived in Halifax April 30, 2004. It was the first of thirteen calls by Maersk ships that year during the crab season. Maersk was not a regular caller in those days but the lucrative shellfish were enough inducement to add Halifax to its port rotation for a several months. 
I was out of town for that visit, but  Ship-Pics was on scene: http://ship-pics.co.uk/npAUG08.htm
The ship was in full Maersk livery, and was still quite new and looking quite splendid. Its current paint job is not nearly so attractive, and far from spotless.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Tanker time - again

After  a few days of little tanker activity, we again have three tankers in port.  Two arrived today, but the third has been here almost all month.

Energy Pride picks up some golden energy from the setting sun. It has been anchored in the Bedford Basin since September 3.See Shipfax from September 5 for more details..

Also in the Basin:

Challenge Paradise will be the next up to go the Imperial Oil in the morning. It appears to be in ballast, so it may here to load - not sure what. A member of the huge NYK fleet, it was built in 2007 and measures 28,603 grt, 45,980 dwt. It flies the flag of Panama, and has arrived from the St.Lawrence River.

Meanwhile in the lower harbour:

Apollon, predictably a Greek owned ship, part of the Tsakos Coumbia fleet of Athens, it is registered in the Bahamas. It was built in 2005, measures 30,053 grt, 53,148 dwt. Despite being anchored in the lower harbour, usually the place for short term visits, it has no orders to move yet.

Canadian tanker Algonova arrived September 13, bunkered, then moved to Imperial Oil to unload. It moved out to anchor September 15, then to Valero (Ultramar) in Eastern Passage where it loaded cargo, moving it to Imperial Oil early this morning.


It has been an eventful year for the Turkish-built tanker. Emerging from the now defunct Novadock floating drydock at Halifax Shipyard a year ago, the ship was soon reassigned when Imperial Oil stopped refining operations in Halifax. The ship continued to serve Imperial customers, but from the St.Lawrence, with only occasional calls in Halifax. Then on January 19, 2014 it suffered a serious engine room fire in the Gulf and came to Halifax eventually and under went repairs until April. Since then I believe the ship has been running uneventfully.
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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Seismic done - for this year

According to press reports, BP has completed it seismic exploration work for this year Starting in April, BP has been working almost without cease, south of Sable Island. To maximize sea days for the seismic ships, supply and picket boats worked out of Halifax to support the work.
The standby/supplier/support vessel Mainport Pine has been tied up in Halifax for several days now, since its extended coasting license expired September 15. Its work is now done and will wait for the next assignment.



Geco Diamond arrived this morning and tied up at pier 27, to demobilize. The rest of the fleet are dispersing to the four corners of the earth, and some will return next year for more.

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Balmoral over-nighter



Few cruise ships stay in Halifax over night. The exception this year is Balmoral the veteran Fred Olsen ship. Built in 1988 as Crown Odyssey, it has been Norwegian Crown (1996-2000) and Crown Odyssey again (2000-2003) and back to Norwegian Crown (2003-2008).

The overnight stop allows for crew time off and interesting passenger experiences. In 2012 the ship was doing a Titanic  commemoration cruise when in arrived April 16.

As a footnote to yesterday's post: If cabotage laws are removed in Canada, then cruise ships will be able to board and disembark its passengers in Canadian ports, without having to go into international waters or foreign ports between. A Montreal-Halifax cruise (a virtual impossibility until now, except on small specialist ships) might actually be offered by some lines.

Postscript: Halifax newspaper reports that Balmoral cancelled a visit to Shelburne, NS because a pilot was not available. Shelburne is a non-compulsory pilotage port, so the use of a pilot is at the discretion of the master. The master determined that he required a pilot, but since local organizers/agents had not arranged for a pilot in advance, none was available on short notice.
Licensed pilots generally work full time for the Atlantic Pilotage Authority and must arrange for non-compulsory pilotages on their own time off or take vacation days.

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Monday, September 15, 2014

Cabotage Rant

It is time for another rant on the subject of cabotage. If you've been ignoring me on this topic, here is the gist of it. Cabotage is essentially trade between ports within the same country- also called coasting. Most nations have regulations on cabotage, often restricting such trade to ships belonging to that country.

Perhaps the most extreme form of cabotage law exists in the United States and forms part of the Jones Act. To trade between US ports, a ship must not only fly the flag of the US, it must be owned and built in the US and must have a US crew. There is much more in the Jones Act than that, which was originally enacted to protect US shipbuilding and ensure a sufficient number of ships and crews to respond to national emergency, in case of war, etc.,  Exceptions have been made, but generally it takes an Act of Congress.

Canada's cabotage law is fairly simple- to trade between Canadian ports, the ship must fly the Canadian flag.
Exceptions are made by the Minister of Public Security when no "suitable" Canadian ship is available. The result is that specialized ships such as those used in offshore petroleum work are routinely given coasting licenses since there are no Canadian ships that can do the work.  It does beg the question of whether suitable Canadian ships would be found if Canadian waters were closed to foreign ships. Would Canadian owners have the courage to get into the business and be competitive world wide?

Sophisticated applicants can tailor the type of work to ensure that even if a Canadian ship were available to do some of the work, no Canadian ship could do all of the work. A recent case in point was the coasting license given to the Russian ship Akademik Sergey Vavilov for a combined pleasure cruise and research voyage in the high Arctic. The Canadian icebreaker Polar Prince (ex Sir Humphrey Gilbert) could have done some or most of the work but. not the luxury cruise part, so the Russian got the coasting license.

Akademik Ioffe, sister of Akademik Sergey Vavilov in Halifax in 2011.

Tanker companies have also skilfully played the coasting license game by keeping the number of Canadian flag tankers to the economic minimum possible level, and calling in a foreign ship when all the Canadian ones are busy. This scheme ensures that no Canadian tankers are ever idle for want of work, and that is good for the bottom line. Since Canadian flagged ships are not competitive in international trade, they are kept at work within Canadian waters, and that is also good for the bottom line. However there is another line, and that is the fine line where the market could support another Canadian tanker. Algoma Tankers recently decided that the line had been crossed and brought the tanker Algoma Hansa under Canadian flag permanently. Built in the US, it had been trading internationally under foreign flag and could have been issued a temporary coasting license for short term work-even up to a year, but there was apparently enough longer term work that it was worth bringing the ship into Canadian registry permanently.

Not so clear is the case of  Espada Desgagnés. Earlier this year Transport Desgagnés' tanker subsidiary Pétro-Nav formed a new company with Valero (Ultramar) to transport Alberta tar sands bitumen from Montreal to Lévis, QC, starting in the fall of 2014 when the existing pipeline to Montreal is converted from gas to crude oil. They acquired two very nice foreign tankers and renamed them Espada Desgagnés and Laurentia Desgagnés. Since the ships were not needed until autumn, they were immediately flagged out to Barbados on a charter through an associated offshore entity. (Many Desgagnés dry cargo ships are flagged out foreign for up to half of the year when they are not needed in Canadian coasting work.)  

The handsome Espada Desgagnés heads north...


However, Espada Desgagnés, was granted two coasting licenses this summer to work as a depot ship in the high north, since no Canadian ship was available. Its work was to take fuel from Valero in Lévis to Diana Bay. At anchor there it would dole out the fuel to smaller tankers for delivery to northern ports. This would save the smaller tankers from having to return all the way to Lévis for each load. Having such a large ice class tanker available, which no other company had, ensured that a coasting license was readily available. However Pétro-Nav is a Canadian company, with (presumably) a fully qualified Canadian ship, but is allowed to have it working in Canada under foreign flag, primarily because it has figured out how (and perfectly legally I guess.)

 ... proudly flying the flag of Barbados.

So Canada's cabotage laws may not be perfect and they may be dodged by skilful operators and they may perpetuate high operating costs. That's not to say that they couldn't be improved, or that Canadian ship owners couldn't become much more competitive worldwide if given sufficient regulatory encouragement at home. 

Now we are faced with a new development. Our federal government, which has any uncanny nack for enacting policies that no one has asked for (need I mention the elimination of the long form census among the hundreds of others?) has suddenly decided that Free Trade with the EU is essential to our future. This is largely a matter of spite for the US not granting us a route for another oil sands bitumen pipeline. Also famous for throwing out the baby with the bath water, the negotiators have apparently decided that cabotage is a bad word (if they understood it) and that it can be sacrificed to make the politically important deal.
Ships of any nation - no matter how disreputable are able to trade freely between and within EU countries - so that should be good enough for Canada.

If this comes to pass what could it mean?

1. Overnight, Canadian shipowners will flag out their ships to flags of convenience if they want to remain in business.
2. Owners will fire hundreds of Canadian seafarers, with the loss of well paying jobs (and a source of Canadian income tax) and hire third world crews at a fraction of the cost.
3. The Canadian shipowners will also re-incorporate offshore and will not have to pay a cent of Canadian corporate tax.
4. New foreign operators will appear on the scene with sketchy ships and sketchier lines of responsibility.
5. Canadian ports will begin to host substandard ships that have been detained for deficiencies to safety standards or even abandoned - including their third world crews. Expect more accidents and groundings too - see recent European history where undermanned and substandard ships figure in most shipping incidents.
6. Canadian shipbuilding, which was sacrificed at the altar of defense procurement, is largely dead anyway, but this will ensure that resurrection is never possible, short of a miracle.
7. The cost of transporting goods between Canadian ports may go down, but not much, since incoming foreign operators will only have to compete with each other. Can you imagine the reaction from the Longshoremen when the first foreign flag coaster arrives?

Is this what anyone wants?

Why not instead bring Canadian shipping into a more competitive position world wide?
It is impossible to level the playing field, but why must we try? Just because the EU allows it why must we? It is too much to give up sovereignty of our own waters.Our government is obviously just buying its way into the EU, not negotiating as equals and playing hardball.
To make Canada more competitive would require some clever thinking about a Canadian offshore registry (we are close to having it with Barbados now), and some creative work with seafarers and immigrant workers.
Some other Canadian sacred cows such as dairy marketing boards (pun intended) and inter-provincial barriers would be far better things to give up, than gutting Canadian cabotage laws.    

Watch this story because it is flying well under the radar of most Canadians and most politicians who are geographically challenged by distance from navigable waters.

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Small tugs for Big Ships

Two small tugs went to work this morning to serve two big ships. The cruise ships Maasdam and Norwegian Gem did not need tugs to berth at pier 21 and pier 22 respectively, but they did require servicing once they did tie up.
First alongside Maasdam was Dominion Diving's Big Steel, working as a dive tender:

Built in 1955 for the RCN as YMU 116 and later renamed YMU 116. It has a compressor and hose rack on deck to support diving. The boat has also worked as a pilot boat, line boat and tug.

Meanwhile working its way across the harbour, Gulf Spray with the barge D/B Gavin David and the assist boat Harbour Runner:


Gulf Spray was built in 1959 and extensively rebuilt in 2007. Last March its house and bulwarks were seriously damaged in a storm, but the boat has been repaired and is back in full service. (See Tugfax of March 28 and March 31 for details on the damage.)
Sister blog Tugfax normally covers tug activity in Halifax.
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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Trailblazer gone to the beach

The recent parade of gypsum carriers to the scrap yard isn't over yet. With CSL International and its pool of ships upgrading with new or newer ships, the old familiar faces are fast disappearing. In recent months Ambassador and  Pioneer and others have been sent to the scrappers.

 Gold Bond Trailblazer

The latest to go the beaches of Alang, India, is CSL Trailblazer, familiar to older Halifax shipwatchers as Gold Bond Trailblazer, however its story is intertwined in an interesting way with the better known Colon Brown.

Built in 1974 by Sasebo Heavy Industries in Japan, Colon Brown was the second generation of the revolutionary deep-sea self-unloaders pioneered by Ove Skaarup, starting with Melvin H.Baker in 1956. Built as gypsum carriers, they were chartered to National Gypsum, and were frequent callers to Halifax in the boom years for gypsum. Colon Brown was less than a year old when it sailed from Halifax in April 1975, fully loaded, and heading into extreme weather. Just off Halifax, the decision was made to come about and return to port. In doing so however, the ship was severely damaged and began to take water.

It was a near thing, but the ship made it inside Meagher's Beach and was purposely run ashore in Macnab's Cove to prevent it from sinking entirely. With decks nearly awash, and the hull severely twisted, the ship was saved along with all aboard her.

 Colon Brown in the floating drydock Lionel A. Forsyth at Halifax Shipyard for temporary repairs following the intentional grounding. The ship's bow and stern extend beyond the ends of the dock.

Remarkably the ship was patched up enough to return to Japan to be rebuilt. When it got there, a new mid-body was installed and the ship sailed again in 1976 as Gold Bond Conveyor. With the original bow and stern, the ship returned to service carrying gypsum out of Halifax.


 Gold Bond Conveyor ex Colon Brown

On March 13, 1993 it sailed fully loaded from Halifax and headed into the "storm of the century" and was soon in trouble again. Heavy seas collapsed hatches forward and it began to take water. Although aircraft and ships were dispatched to assist, the weather prevented them from aiding the beleaguered vessel and the erstwhile rescuers watched helplessly as it disappeared from radar March 15, 180 miles south of Cape Sable Island, with its entire crew of 33.

The mid-section of the former Colon Brown, although damaged in 1975, was rebuilt and  used in the construction of another ship, named Gold Bond Trailblazer which was completed in 1978. Some design changes were made in the new ship however, and its superstructure was built with one less deck. Later ships, such as Georgia S . (also now gone to scrap) were built with a higher bow to shelter the number one hatch. 

All the Skaarup ships had a totally enclosed self-unloading system, discharging through the stern by means of extendible conveyors from side doors.

The large projection on the stern housed the transverse unloading conveyors, which were concealed behind doors while at sea, but extended outboard for unloading in port. Could uplift from following seas, or damaged doors have been a factor in the the loss of Gold Bond Conveyor?

When CSL took over the National Gypsum contract from Skaarup Shipping, they bought Gold Bond Trailblazer which had become surplus, and renamed it CSL Trailblazer in 1998. Although I don't believe it appeared in Halifax under that name, it  worked for CSL on the west coast carrying aggregates and in the Caribbean/Gulf region with sand and phosphate rock.

Now the Trailblazer is history, and with it, part of the Colon Brown, which survived its ill-fated "parent" by 21 years.

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