Friday 21 June 2019

Gearless Bulk Carrier ALGOMA STRONGFIELD

While the 656' bulk carrier and former "duck" boat HELENA G continues downbound towards Toussaint Island and soon after that Iroquois Lock, the 740' gearless bulk carrier ALGOMA STRONGFIELD skirts along the New York State shoreline and past the scattered homes on Sparrowhawk Point Drive, sitting low in the water and laden with iron ore for a smelter at Hamilton, Ontario.
Wednesday, June 5th was much like many of our spring days this year - dull, rainy and virtually windless, which made the wide section of the St. Lawrence River east of Cardinal, Ontario, flat as a board and offering some very interesting reflections in this series of photos. While slicing through a slow rolling wake from the former Canadian Forest Navigation (Canfornav) owned, GARGANEY, the white water at her bow, appeared to suggest the STRONGFIELD was speeding along while in reality it was anything but.
This year's spring run-off has been especially challenging for mariners and shoreline home-owners on the Great Lakes, and rivers that sends the water downwards to the Atlantic Ocean. Last winter's massive accumulations of snow and biting Siberia-like winds from over the top which caused most Great Lakes to almost completely freeze over and with it's late February gale force gusts, created high ridges that hampered the start of the shipping season. Then melting and excessive rainfalls throughout this spring has caused higher than normal water levels throughout the Great Lakes submerging docks, roads and flooding homes. With Lake Ontario over 20 inches higher than normal the outflow from the Moses-Saunders Power Dam which stretches across the St. Lawrence River from Cornwall, Ontario to Massena, New York, has been increasing from 9,100 cubic meters per second on June 3rd to 10,400 cbm/sec. by June 14th which by the way is enough water to fill four Olympic-sized swimming pools every second. That's a lot of water. However, though the current 10,400 cbm/sec outflow was a new maximum volume set in 2017, it doesn't appear to be enough this year as the International Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence Board is considering increasing the outflow even more as levels on Lake Ontario will continue to remain high for the next several weeks.
While increased flows are needed to reduce the flooding impacts upstream and downstream of the Moses-Saunders Power Dam, it can also create velocities higher than normal in the navigation channels and variations in normal current patterns which has caused the Canadian and American St. Lawrence Seaway authorities to instruct mariners to exercise extra caution especially when navigating in areas of high cross currents like Galop, Toussaint and Ogden Islands, Copeland Cut above Eisenhower Lock, and the Cornwall South Channel (Polly's Gut). Also no meeting or passing is allowed in various sections of the Brockville and American Narrows, and in the Wiley-Dondero Canal. Zero tolerance restriction has been imposed for ship drafts and recent a tanker with its draft in excess of the maximum permissuble level was towed out of St. Lambert Lock and sent to a Montreal refinery to have some of her cargo removed. That had to be an expensive infraction to the skipper and ship owner. Mariners have also been advised to operate at the lowest safe speed when transiting close to shore to minimize their wake to the greatest extent possible and max speed reduced from a normal 11 to 12 knot/hour to 8.5 knots or less between Eisenhower Lock and Tibbett's Point on Lake Ontario. It is what it is.
Even a reduced speed against a constant downstream flow offers a pretty dynamic bulge at the ALGOMA STRONGFIELD's bow, which   along with her uniquely designed hull, splits then pushes the water to her large 6 meter diameter slow speed propeller. This along several other technological advancements allows her and the other Equinox-class bulk carriers to greater optimize fuel efficiencies in an environmentally-friendly manner while carrying 20% more cargo.

Named after an award winning durum wheat that's grown on the Canadian Prairies and is the basis for the finest pasta and couscous in the world,  ALGOMA STRONGFIELD is the fourth Equinox-class gearless bulk carrier in the Algoma Central fleet. However while being built in 2015 at Nantong Mingde Heavy Industry's shipyard in Nantong, China, her name was to be CWB STRONGFIELD for owner, the Canadian Wheat Board. In the process of being built, the shipyard went bankrupt and in 2017 Algoma purchased the nearly completed hull and named her ALGOMA STRONGFIELD.

Since my rendezvous at Iroquois Lock and near Cardinal, the STRONGFIELD has been a busy girl delivering her cargo of iron ore to a smelter at Hamilton, and has since motored up to Thunder Bay to pick up another load of grain and then delivered it to a lower St. Lawrence River grain elevator. It's the circle of life for the huge gearless bulk carriers transporting cargos  cost effectively through whatever seas come their way.