Friday, February 27, 2015

Big bulker for bunkers

An unusually large and fully loaded bulk carrier put in for bunkers early this morning. Frontier Discovery is operated by the giant Japanese company NYK Lines under the Japanese flag. Built in 2010 by Namura Shipbuilding Co Ltd in Imari, it measures 91,467 grt, 174,843 dwt, and is one of 129 capesize bulkers in the NYK fleet.

As the name implies, these ships are too large to use the Panama and Suez canals, and thus usually operate in one sphere of the world where cape transits are not needed. However in the last year Frontier Discovery has been in Sierra Leone, China, Rotterdam, Baltimore, Singapore, Indonesia, China again and Germany.

It was reported in Hamburg, Germany at the end of January where it unloaded a cargo of coal or iron ore at Hansaport. That facility is the primary import facility for such bulk cargoes and moves the material onward by train or barge to inland locations in Germany.

 Another Japanese capesize, K-Lines Cape Normandy, unloads at Hansaport in June. It measures 92,900 grt, 180.646 dwt.

The panamax Dione also at Hansaport, with mountains of coal in the stockpile.


Barkald - one frozen gypsum to go please

Barkald has rounded George's Island to the east, and the ferry Woodside I has just left the Woodside Terminal for Halifax, and will make a wide loop to pass astern of the gypsum carrier. Several of these coordinated meetings occur every day between the ferries and commercial shipping. Thanks to Vessel Traffic Services and good communication VHF between the ferry crews and the harbor pilots incidents are rare.
Just out of the picture to the right, the tug Atlantic Willow stands by to take up station alongside the ship as it transits the Narrows on the way to National Gypsum. At this time of year the gypsum is frozen, but can still be loaded, and will thaw out en route to its destination in the United States.


Ships Named Halifax - Halifax City

One of the oldest shipping lines was the Bristol City Line (BCL). Originally started in 1704 it finally disappeared in 1974. The line was owned by Charles Hill + Co, which also had interests in shipbuilding and freight forwarding.

BCL started a steamship service to from the UK to the USA in 1879 and added Canada in 1933 and  began to serve the Great Lakes in 1958. It named all its ships after cities, often re-using the same names over and over, but only had one Halifax City.

It was built along modern lines in 1964 by the Burntisland Shipbuilding Company with engines 3/4 aft. A  general cargo vessel of 6533 grt, 8580 dwt it had three cranes and an array of derricks and was a regular user of the St.Lawrence Seaway calling at ports as far inland as Chicago.

As with most shipping companies in those days its main Canadian port was Montreal and this ship was built to ice class III allowing it to call there all year.It did however visit is namesake port on occasion, but before my time.
Halifax City in Montreal in August 1965.

In 1969 BCL joined with Cie Maritime Belge and Clarke Traffic Services of Montreal to form the Dart Container Line operating from Antwerp to Halifax, New York and Norfolk. It was therefore one of the earliest transatlantic container lines. Using chartered tonnage for a time, the line had three ships built to start: Dart America (owned by Clarke), Dart Atlantic (owned by Bristol City) and Dart Europe (owned by CMB). Just as those ships were being delivered in 1971, Charles Hill sold the Bristol City Line to the Bibby Line another venerable British company. Interestingly both BCL and CMB painted their ship orange, and so did Dart.

Bibby had its own ships, and so sold off Bristol City's conventional general cargo ships when events in Burma and Ceylon cut into their traditional lines. Halifax City went to owners in Thailand in 1972, to become Thonburi. It was renamed Nakornthon in 1973 by the same owners, and they delivered it to breakers in Bangkok July 18, 1986.

Bibby sold its interest in Dart to C.Y.Tung's Orient Overseas Container Line (OOCL), which also bought out Clarke in 1973. In 1981 OOCL (which had acquired Manchester Liners), CMB, and CP Ships formed the St.Lawrence Coordinated Service, combining their separate container lines. HAPAG-Lloyd bought CPShips and continue to operate the service with OOCL.

OOCL also names their ships after cities, but so far has not seen fit to have an OOCL Halifax, despite serving the port as part of the G6 Alliance.


Thursday, February 26, 2015

Gypsum - Part 2 - no rebound for Hantsport

The expansion of the National Gypsum quarry in Milford, NS (see Part 1) solidifies the future of gypsum shipments from the company's facilities in Halifax. A recovery of the US economy, and a low Canadian dollar are largely responsible for this turn of events, but that does not seem to have had any effect on their competitor United States Gypsum, or USG Corp as it is now called.

That company shut down its mines near Windsor, NS and storage and shiploader in Hantsport, NS permanently in 2011 and although much of the infrastructure remains, there is little hope that it will reopen. The short line Windsor + Hantsport railroad that carried the gypsum from the mines to the pier has also been mothballed.

The fascinating little port of Hantsport, governed by extreme tides, was one of the most interesting operations in Nova Scotia. Ships were limited to only a three hour window for loading at high tide, and had to beat a hasty retreat from the Minas Basin to the Bay of Fundy while there was still water enough to float the ship.

Winter operations were also awkward due to caked ice on the bottom at the pier, and heavy broken flows in the approaches. Some winters the port was closed to shipping, and through some form of cooperation between the competitors, the ships came to Halifax to load at National Gypsum. Through subsidiary Canada Gypsum (CGC) the company also operates a gypsum and anhydrite quarry at Little Narrows in Cape Breton. It is a seasonal operation from roughly May to December, when the port facility is free of ice. Ships that called in Little Narrows in summer moved to Hantsport in winter - conditions permitting.

Also early adopters of the self-unloader systems, the ships of the Gypsum Packet Co (later Gypsum Transportation Co) were built uniquely to serve Hantsport and the plant facilities of US Gypsum in the United States. They were built with the wheelhouse well forward to keep a clear deck space over the cargo hold for the slewing loader arm at Hansport. They did have a general cargo hold forward, which was used to carry plant equipment or other supplies for the company.

There were four generations of ships owned by the company following World War II.
The first generation were built in Kearney, NJ by the Federal Shipbuilding + Dry Dock Co and measured 7969 grt.
Bulk Queen at Halifax Shipyard in 1980.

Gypsum Queen was built in 1947 and sold in 1975, renamed Bulk Queen in 1978 and was used on and off until it went into a long layup in Bath, ME and was eventually towed out for scrap in the Caribbean in April 1987.

The second generation, and by far the most stylish were the European built series. Their self-unloading gear was completely concealed, with twin conveyors running up each side of the hull through the engine room to a transverse conveyor near the stern. Doors on each side closed off that "shuttle" conveyor space when at sea.The ship's steam turbine machinery allowed for placement of boilers fairly high in the engine space, and the turbine low, allowing the conveyors room to work.

Gypsum Duchess makes a winter arrival in Halifax to load from its competitor's dock.

Gypsum Duchess and sister Gypsum Emporess were built in 1956 by Deutsche Werft, Hamburg, measuring 8240 grt, 10,677 dwt Gypsum Duchess was sold in 1986 and renamed Duchess I, but was broken up in Brazil in 1987.

Gypsum Empress departs loaded, having just passed the inbound Gypsum Duchess.

Gypsum Empress was sold directly to scrappers in Tuxpan, MX and arrived there in early 1984.

Gypsy Countess from the stern. The arrow points to the conveyor door.

Gypsum Countess, came from Atelier et Chantier de la Seine-Maritime, Le Trait in 1960, and also measured 8240 grt, 10,720 dwt. Equally elegant, it had the same raised forecastle and streamlined forward house. It was sold in 1989 becoming Gypsy Countess. It arrived in Halifax in tow of Point Halifax November 17, 1991 after losing power. It was repaired and in 1994 became Josiff I . It was broken up in 1998 - reportedly in Canada, but I have my doubts.

The third generation were Canadian  built by Collingwood Shipyard, and were among the last steamships built in this country. The layout of that machinery allowed for the self-unloading gear to pass through the engine room, which it would not be able to do with a bulky diesel engine.

 Gypsum King fresh from drydock in Halifax in 1998 sported the traditional Fundy Gypsum colour scheme of white over black with rusty red deck and boot topping. The conveyor door is just above the stern tug's bow.
Gypsum Baron shows the new blue hull colour in 2002. The conveyor door is visible just forward of the rudder, below the weather deck.

 Gypsum Baron (1976) and Gypsum King (1975) measured 12,272 grt and unloaded at a rate of 1800 tonnes per hour. This was quite slow by modern standards, but suited USG's needs. Gypsum King was sold in 2003, renamed G.King and arrived in Alang for scrap May 20, 2003. Gyspum Baron was renamed Baron in 2007 and arrived in Alang August 23, 2007 for scrap. Both ships called in Halifax for drydockings, bunkers and occasional winter loads of gypsum.

A.V. Kastner sails from Hantsport at high tide with hatches still open. The ship had to leave on tide time, whether fully loaded or not.

A single ship A.V. Kastner followed in 1987 from Hyundai. Ulsan. It measured 12,702 grt, 19,075 dwt and featured an unique stern mounted slewing unloader boom. Sold in 2010, it became Silica II for owners in Dubai. It arrived in Alang July 18, 2014 where it was broken up.

The final generation, built after the company increased its load out rate at Hantsport with twin arms and extended the dock to deeper water, had a short lived career at Hantsport.

They are still operating however, but now in Africa as previously reported:

As an update to that post, when the ship returned to Africa after its refit, it took much needed supplies for the fight against ebola.

There was also a post when USG closed the facilities permanently in November 2011:

USCG was not the only gypsum producer in Nova Scotia to close down. Georgia-Pacific in Cape Breton, with quarries at Sugar Camp (River Denys) and Melford, and ship loading facilities at Point Tupper announced its closing in December 2011. There has been no indication that they might resume operations any time soon either.



Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Shedding at pier 9A

Q: Snakes shed their skin and lobster shed their shells, so what do sheds do?

A: The transit shed at Pier 9A is shedding its skin in preparation for a major rebuilding, as the port continues to make improvements at Richmond Terminals. The shed at Pier 9B was extensively rebuilt and a new section added as part of the Pier 9C extension, and so it is now the turn of the south half of the pier 9A shed. The north half of the shed is used by Halifax Shipyard, but the south half has not seen much use lately.
It was the site of the short lived sideloader operation by Canada Steamship Lines in the 1960s when they built covered alleys from the shed to the pier face for forklifts to load Fort class package freighters to Newfoundland. That service was soon displaced by containerization. It was later used by Scotia Terminals for unloading nickel sulfides from Cuba, but a dispute with CN over rail services ended that operation prematurely.

It appears that the existing steel frame will be kept, and the building will be reskinned with new walls, roof and doors.

Just visible in the background is the yellow funnel of the ferry Canada 2014 refitting for the Digby-Saint John service. Work is underway on rebuilding the engines, but there is no sign of exterior work yet. That will happen once weather conditions permit.


Harbour Workboats (of yore) - Part 3

Of the many small craft working the waters of Halifax harbour, one unique vessel was the Nan + Greg. Built in 1961 in Lower l'Ardoise, NS, at the mouth of Chedabucto Bay, it operated from the area of the Halifax ferry terminal. In fact its owner, William J. Smith had his office in the old ferry terminal building.*

Nan + Greg sets out from the ferry slip, Western Union cable wharf area with a deck load of supplies. The Russian salvage tug Strogij is tied up at the pier with e trawler Oleny, towed in from sea.

Nan + Greg was termed a bum-boat, and spent most of its time ferrying supplies out to ships at anchor or at distant piers. Built along Cape Island type fishing boat lines, it had a flush deck, with two hatches, to carry its cargo, with only low bulwarks to keep in from sliding off. It had a somewhat larger cabin that a fishing boat, and as I recall was painted green.

Nan + Greg at Queen's wharf with a local fishing boat.

On August 1, 1982, the boat was beached, on fire, at Lawlor's Island and was a total loss.

* The (then) new Court House and the old ferry terminal building is shown in this 1971 photo from the court house bridge.

From ground level (there are trees in the way from the bridge level), the courthouse parking deck has been concealed with a lean-to structure containing - what else?- a Tim Horton's. (I also included a car for style comparison purposes).

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Harbour Miscellany

HMCS Charlottetown - cold day for boat work

A thin skim of frozen spray coats the hull of Charlottetown as it arrives this afternoon to disembark some of its people. There is frozen spray on the waterlines of Algonova (left) and Atlantic Condor (right background)

HMCS Charlottetown arrived from sea mid-day today and disembarked some people to an open boat. At -20C it was the coldest day so far this winter, but with a good breeze blowing the wind chill was truly frigid.

Onego Trader - buttoned down for sea

After a lengthy port stay to unload rails Onego Trader was finally finished working its cargo today and had its cranes stowed for sea. According to AIS its next port of call will be Bull Arm, NL.

 The ship arrived February 4, and even allowing for several days delay due to weather conditions, it still took a very long time to unload. Perhaps there was some problem with the cargo - either it had shifted during the voyage or was frozen in place, or there was limited room on the pier for more cargo to be landed.

Tasman Strait - finally sailed this afternoon
Colds air but calm seas for Tasman Sea as it heads outbound.

The Melfi Lines ship finished loading and sailed today after several days off. Late arrival of cargo by train is the suspected cause of the delay. The rail line between Halifax and Moncton was blocked for several days due to a stalled train. So much outbound cargo had backlogged in Halifax that there was no room in the Rockingham rail yard for inbound cargo. The ship arrived February 18 and shifted to pier 26 for the weekend to make room for other ships. It was back at pier 42 yesterday, and it appears to have taken on an almost full load of containers.