Tuesday 15 March 2016

Oil and Chemical Tanker ALGOSCOTIA

So how are we going to get our dirty oil to market? Well, "dirty oil" is what President Barack Obama called that sandy tar that's being dug out of the ground in Northern Alberta and actually his description is pretty much right on the mark from what I've read. It's nothing at all like that bubbling crude that suddenly started oozing out of the ground thanks to Jed Clampett's missed bullet while hunting for some food. Yeah, oil it was, black gold, Texas tea. c):-o
Got to wonder though what would have happened to poor Jed and his mountaineer kin had he picked off that rabbit that was in his sights? For sure he'd be no millionaire and he could forget about loading up the truck and moving to Beverly, Hills that is. You got it Jed, no cement pond, or billy-ard table, for you, NADA!.  c):-() A bit like what a lot of Albertans are feeling since the price of a barrel of oil dropped to near the bottom of the well, or tar pit in their case. When you have the third largest oil reserves in the world next to Venezuela and Saudi Arabia, with a daily production of about 2.3 billion barrels per day, and virtual no refining capabilities in the home province, you can understand why those Northern Albertan oilers have been getting a little ansi since the Keystone XL pipeline construction deal was rejected by the U.S. President in November 2015.
Since shipping capacity of the 1.2 billion barrels of unprocessed bitumen daily to the U.S through the current pipelines to Illinois and Texas just isn't enough, Canadian Jr. Ewing's are looking for ways of getting their week-old-porridge-like glube flowing to refineries in Canada, one way or the other. There's proposals for the construction of new pipelines over the Rockies to British Columbia's seaport, or trans-country tubing to St. John, New Brunswick and even reversing the flow on one line from Sarnia to Montreal.
Hence the question for today's "Double Jeopardy" replay:
"The murky molasses sludge from Alberta is getting to refineries in Atlantic Canada and the Southern States by this means of transportation?? 
How about: "What are 40 to 50 railway car long trains, Alex?" 
Right you are except for those that derail somewhere in between and that happened 4 times last year in Northern Ontario alone. Of course we Canadians should never forget the July 2013 oil train derailment through the centre of Lac-Magantic, Quebec that killed 43 people and will continue to traumatize local residence for many years to come (http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/energy/2013/07/130708-oil-train-tragedy-in-canada/).
I've also recently read articles that suggests that there could be a significant cost saving by transporting the not so bubbling crude to east coast and European refineries by tankers from Churchill, Manitoba on Hudson Bay, or along the Seaway from a proposed loading terminal at Morrisburg or Cornwall. c):-() Not in my backyard you're saying? I hear you, but moving crude by tankers on the Great Lakes has been done. In fact in the early 1950's three 620' tankers were built for Imperial Oil to haul Alberta crude from Superior, Minnesota on Lake Superior to Sarnia on the St. Clair River. They were IMPERIAL REDWATER, IMPERIAL WOODBEND and IMPERIAL LEDUC. A fourth tanker, the B.A. PEERLESS was built for the British American Oil Company to haul the crude from Superior to B.A.'s refinery at Clarkson, Ontario on Lake Ontario. When the pipeline was completed to Sarnia in the mid 50's, the three Imperial tankers were converted to bulkers and the REDWATER became known as R. BRUCE ANGUS, the WOODBEND became GOLDEN HIND and the LEDUC became NIPIGON BAY. The B.A. PEERLESS remained a tanker and her name was changed to GULF CANADA when she was sold to Gulf Canada Ltd. in 1969.
Though no longer hauling crude, last year approximately 3 million tonnes of chemicals and petroleum products which includes gasoline, fuel oil and liquid asphalt passed through the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway by double-hulled tankers like the 488' ALGOSCOTIA and though I have read of many groundings along the St. Lawrence Seaway and River, and on the Great Lakes, I have not heard of any incident that involved an oil tanker, Canadian or otherwise.
I snapped the high in the water downbound ALGOSCOTIA (above), motoring beside the old Galop Canal just below Cardinal, Ontario while minutes earlier my bil Kirby Butler from London, Ontario captured her near Prescott on September 14, 2014. A few weeks later I snapped her again at the Suncor dock in Oakville, Ontario.
Built at the Jiangnan Shipyards in Shangahi, China in 2004 for Algoma Tankers Ltd of St. Catharines, Ontario, ALGOSCOTIA was the first of three new-builds in Algoma's tanker fleet renewal program. Holding an Ice 1A Notation, the hull strengthened ALGOSCOTIA was built with a 1.4 metre safety separation between the inner and outer hull which allows her to operate year round service on Canada's East Coast and Gulf of St. Lawrence while operating out of her homeport of Halifax, Nova Scotia. However, this winter ALGOSCOTIA has been operating in chartered ocean trade while flying the flag of Barbados and is currently anchored of Belgium in the North Sea. Like so many things in life, if you got the right qualifications you can do just about anything anywhere you want. c):-D  

Wednesday 2 March 2016


It's not everyday that you're able to capture a legend. Though my recent visit to Montreal was primarily to check out the winter layups, and perhaps snap the aging ALGOMA NAVIGATOR one more time before being hauled away for scrap overseas, I also hoped  that I'd be able to see for the first time the Seaway gate lifter, VM/S HERCULES. I knew she was there because like all the other times I looked on MarineTraffic for a boat transiting St. Lambert Lock, before leaving home I saw her blue diamond icon indicating that the HERCULES was tied off as usual along the old harbour's south wall. While honing in for the perfect shot of this engineering marvel partially hidden behind a cluster of randomly grown trees, I could not help but thinking that she looked a lot like the lonely "Maytag Repairman", sitting patiently day-in and day-out waiting for the next big job to come along. c):-() Being locked in the solid sheet of ice didn't help her cause a single bit when I snapped these shots of her on February 15th.
VM/S (or Voie Marine/Seaway) HERCULES was built in 1962 at Marine Industries of Sorel, Quebec, and the self propelled 200' floating heavy lift crane barge is the only St. Lawrence Seaway owned heavy lift crane specifically designed to lift their lock's large 500 tonne gates. How often she was called upon to complete such a task is unknown with the exception of June 2014, when I read the iron-lady replaced gate number 4 at Cote Set. Catherine Lock. Got Stuff!! c):-))

VM/S HERCULES has been used for other major operations too...

...like when the Welland Canal's Bridge 12 at Port Robinson collapsed into the channel below after being struck by the 620.5' Bethlehem Steel owned ore carrier STEELTON on August 25, 1974 (http://carlzboats.blogspot.ca/2012/06/ore-carrier-steelton.html), VM/S HERCULES was motored up from Montreal to clear up the wreckage and help get the Welland Canal operational again in just 15 days. I recall my dad, who worked on the canal back then telling me about the accident and then motoring from Leamington with my wife-to-be Janice to catch a glance of the debris. Seeing the former tall towers that were used to haul the counterweights up and down, strewn along bank and channel along with the span was unbelievable as shown in this snap above taken by Janice. It was like something out of a war movie. If you want to see more of wreckage and clean up activity, click on to:  http://www.wellandcanal.ca/shiparc/br12/br12.htm for more great photos courtesy of Dave Whitaker. Nice ones Dave & Thanks for being there! c):-D

Though I have to admit she makes a great prop for harbour front photos, it was also nice to read that VM/S HERCULES was used last June to unload a ship in Montreal harbour with two large transformers destined to a northern Quebec sub station. The two transformers weighed in excess of 170 tons each and they were loaded on to specialized 12 axle depressed rail cars on route to their final destination. WOW!! 54 years old and still going strong. I guess just like the theme song that cartoon show that I watched as a kid and was also created in 1962, she's truly, "The MIGHTY HERCULES"!!   https://youtu.be/laoBvt9CcQo c);-b