Sunday 18 January 2015

Trailing Suction Hopper Dredger VEGA

It's not my fault. I'm a boatnerd and I got spoiled during our first winter vacation in Cuba where a day didn't go by without at least one saltie poke herself over the horizon and then motor past our resort just east of Havana at Playa del Esta. There were tankers, bulk and container ships, an albacore fish factory trawler and this "hippo-looking" monstrosity of a ship, the 656' car carrier MORNINGSTAR CONDUCTOR YES!!c):-b

Though I didn't see anything motoring along the horizon last year when we vacationed at Varadero, this year I lucked out real good from another Varadero resort which was located near the end of the 20 kilometre sand-spit peninsula. Though I wasn't able to capture her hull in the snap below as she disappeared over the horizon, it's easy to make out her tall stack and rising aft superstructure. Also, if you look a little further to the right, you can see her white bow mast popping up. My guess is she was a tanker and fairly long based on the distance from the bridge and the forward mast. Exciting stuff eh!! c):-()

When we took the double-decker bus down to the Varadero marina at the end of the peninsula, I lucked out again. First because the new commercial mall there had free wifi whether you were a hotel guest or not, and most importantly parked beyond the catamaran sailboat docks was a boat, the 184' ferry and cargo ship PLUTON. c):-))  Built in Greece in 1966, the PLUTON loads vehicles, truck or whatever, by lowering her partially flattened bow much like a landing craft. COOL!! When we returned to the Marina later the week, the PLUTON had just left her dock and was motoring easterly out Bahia de Cardenas towards one of the nearby Cayos.
Meanwhile, as the landing craft/ferry sailed away, I couldn't help but notice a familiar looking vessel parked in about the same area where the PLUTON was parked earlier in the week. Though it appeared that a large hydraulic shovel was loading something into it, I was certain it was a trailing suction hopper dredger much like the OCEAN TRAVERSE NORD, which I saw near Prescott, Ontario in May 2013. Feel free to check out my post about her:
The name of my mystery red hulled boat was VEGA and after researching for info about her background, I found out that she in fact was a dredger and like the OCEAN TRAVERSE NORD, after sucking silt and sediment from the shallow bottom, the VEGA's contents can be blasted ashore from a huge nozzle you can see at her bow, or dropped freely in deeper water when the hull is opened at her keel. Built in Holland in 1969, the VEGA flies the flag of Cuba and like the PLUTON, is owned by Sermar of Havana.

Though tied off when I saw her last week in Varadero, the VEGA is actively being used to remove sediment due to harsh seas in the many "pocket bays" where current ports like Havana, Santiago de Cuba and Cienfuegos are located. Since most of Cuba's current imports and exports pass through these ports, deepening the bays are essential especially to allow American deep-draft container ship that may soon be transferring cargo as the US embargo with Cuba continues to be lifted. According to those who we talked to last week in Varadero, the Cuban people will be welcoming American commerce with open arms. So what's wrong with a little proactive planning to ensure all obstacles are removed when the business returns. After all, for the first time we were able to buy American made Coca-Cola and Pringles in Cuba. Junk or not, more is on its way. No doubt about it.

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