Saturday 29 February 2020

Last River Run - Part 2: Bulk Carrier FEDERAL ALSTER

Having caught the 740' Algoma Central self unloader ALGOMA MARINER motoring by upbound at Brockville, the subject for my last post, I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the Fednav bulk carrier FEDERAL ALSTER on her final run for the season still making her way into Iroquois Lock on December 28th. Though somewhat distance, the ALSTER was an easy target when I saw her for the first time from the Battle of the Windmill National Historic site on September 30th while sitting high and hatch covers raised across the St. Lawrence at the Port of Ogdensburg. On that day it appeared that she was finishing her discharge of Chilean road salt, the overseas product I've seen seen being unloaded by many of her fleetmates this season at the Port of Johnstown, on the Canadian side of the river.
With the booms of her four 36 metric ton carrying cranes secured to each other, the  FEDERAL ALSTER appeared to be moments from getting under way when I caught her again from a new vantage point at a dead-end in the old hamlet of Wexford three days later.    

My zoomed-in shots across the St. Lawrence were pretty easy pics taken in my "as-per-usual" dull overcast skies unlike my last rendezvous with the FEDERAL ALSTER when the sun continually broke through the clouds (not complaining, I like the sun 🌞), causing sunspots or a ghost-like haze on so many of my photos. No excuse these days with digital cameras. I should have seen what was happening and adjusted things up, but I didn't notice a thing until I got home in Ottawa so what you see is the best of what I could salvage on what should have been a great photo op.
Built in 2016 at New Century Shipbuilding in Jingjiang City, China, the FEDERAL ALSTER is known as a laker-design dry goods bulk carrier because much of her trading activity is between overseas ports and those on the Great Lakes. At 655' 11' in length, she's a bit shorter than St. Lawrence Seaway maximum-size vessels like the 740' ALGOMA MARINER ( which I'd seen earlier in the day, but with all seaway lock being 80' wide, the FEDERAL ALSTER's 77' 9" beam makes her a tight squeeze at Iroquois and the other 14 locks in the system between St. Lambert, across from Montreal and Lock 8 in Port Colborne, on Lake Erie.
FEDERAL ALSTER which is named after the Alster River, a tributary to the Elbe River in northern Germany, flies the flag of the Marshall Island though owned by Intership Navigation Company of Limassol, Cyrus and while being chartered to Fednav of Montreal. In her 6 hold that were strengthen for heavy loads, the ALSTER has a cargo capacity of 22,947 gross tons.

What seemed odd though as the immaculate red hulled vessel pushed her way out of the lock and into Lake St. Lawrence, was that her free fall lifeboat was not in its davit at the ALSTER's stern. If you squint real hard at the photos I got of her in Ogdensburg, above, the fully encased bright orange lifeboat is where it should be.
Equipment with a motor, radio, navigational aids, fishing equipment and other supplies needed until rescue arrives, it's been required since 2006 that all ocean bulk carriers be equipped with a free falling lifeboat because they are at risk of sinking too rapidly for a conventional lifeboat to be lowered over the side of the sinking or listing ship. While I've not read of any such incident occurring on a Fednav vessel during it's 75 years of operations, I'm sure that matter would have been resolved before reaching the open water of the Atlantic Ocean.

As the big FEDERAL ALSTER pushed on towards Eisenhower Lock, in the distance was another red-hauled vessel with a tall white superstructure that especially stood out in a bright sunbeam off the bulk carrier's port bow. I knew CCGS GRIFFON was in the area but instead of making her way to her homeport at Prescott before heading to the upper Great Lakes for winter ice operations, the 234' high endurance multi-tasks vessel had her boom over to her starboard side and was working. 🆒, let's see what she was up to in Part 3 of my Last River Run of the season next month at Carlz Boats blogpost. I can hardly wait to show you c):-D


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