Ocean Inc.’s lifting barge – an innovation to help solve an age-old problem

The Government of Québec has agreed to provide $ 914,250 in financial assistance to Ocean Marine Works Inc. for the development of its lifting barge under the Marine Transportation Infrastructure Investment Support Program, as part of a total project cost of $1.8 million.

The lifting barge, designed and to be manufactured by Ocean’s team, will facilitate the loading and unloading of cargo by raising or lowering a platform on the barge to dock level, enabling vehicles to be driven on or off, without requiring the services of a crane. This solution complements existing means of loading and unloading, and will promote shipping on the St. Lawrence River.

Jacques Tanguay, Ocean’s CEO, commented that, “The ingenuity of our team has made it possible to create a new solution to an age-old problem that will complement and facilitate short sea shipping on the Saint Lawrence. This project fits perfectly with the objectives of the government of Quebec’s Maritime Strategy.”

Cruise industry feeling pinch from speed reduction in Gulf of St. Lawrence

By Mark Cardwell

René Trépanier is all for conservation efforts to help protect the critically-endangered North Atlantic right whale. But he thinks those measures should also be designed with the economic wellbeing of the communities and companies that rely on the same waterways in mind.

“We very much want to protect whales because the abundance of marine wildlife in our waters is a big part of the beauty and attraction of Canada,” said Trépanier, Executive Director of Cruise the St. Lawrence Association, a non-profit group devoted to the development of the cruise industry market across Eastern Canada and New England, on behalf of its nine Quebec port members and various tourism partners. “But we need to find a path between conservation and exploitation.” Trépanier said the economic impacts from the 10-knot speed limit that was imposed over a vast zone in the southern half of the Gulf of St. Lawrence in August underscores that need.

And marine industry stakeholders of all stripes are worried the fallout will continue in the coming years if the federal government doesn’t work with them to find answers and solutions. “It’s too late for this year,” said Trépanier.  “But we absolutely need information about what will happen in 2018 and 2019, because the cruise lines draw up their itineraries two years in advance.” 

His group and some two dozen others, including Canadian Port Authorities, the Shipping Federation of Canada, the Canadian Shipowners Association, Cruise Line International Association, the Green Alliance and even several ship captains with whale-avoidance experience, participate in weekly conference calls on Wednesday mornings with officials and scientists from several federal government ministries. The latter provide updates, information and data on the location and movement of right whales in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

The mandatory speed limit was introduced by Transport Canada on Aug. 11 following the deaths of 11 of the whales in a five-week period. The whales were part a large herd that moved north this year from their traditional summer feeding grounds in the Bay of Fundy. Those deaths – and two more since then – raised international concern and put pressure on Canada to protect the once-plentiful mammals, which now number less than 500 individuals worldwide. Ship strikes are not the only suspected cause of the whale deaths.  Fishing line entanglements and natural causes are also being investigated by TC and Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

However, the “temporary” speed reduction is being credited for helping to stem the unprecedented number of mortalities. The federal government says the limit will remain in force until the whales leave the gulf and migrate south in late October or early November.

Though a voluntary speed reduction was put in place in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in late June, when the whales were first spotted there, the mandatory limit caught the cruise ship industry by surprise. The change resulted in delays of up to seven hours for cruise ships transiting the zone. As a result, several cruise lines have cancelled 19 calls to Quebec ports as of Sept. 30. Hardest hit has been Gaspé with 14 cancellations, followed by Baie-Comeau with four and Saguenay with one. Charlottetown, which is nonetheless enjoying a record year for cruise ship visits, has had eight cancellations. Gaspé and Charlottetown are the two ports closest to the speed reduction zone. Gaspé also relies on tenders to ferry cruise ship passengers to and from shore.  That adds to the cost of port visits and makes arrival and departure times critical.

“The speed reduction was just too sudden,” said Trépanier.  “The cruise ship industry can’t turn on a dime.” He noted that cruises to turnaround destinations like Montreal and Quebec City have been mostly unaffected, as ships can skirt the zone to reach or leave those ports and are less constrained by arrival and departure times.

One port’s misery has also proven to be another’s gain. Sept-Iles, for example, received an unscheduled visit from the Queen Mary 2 in mid-September after the legendary Cunard Lines’ vessel cancelled a visit to Gaspé. And Gaspé got four unscheduled trips of its own.

Overall, however, Trépanier said this fall’s cruise season “has been a global loss for the St. Lawrence. There have been 22,000 fewer passenger visits” due to the cancellations.

According to recent industry data, cruise ship passengers to Quebec spend an estimated $140 per person per day in ports. “It’s not the end of the world for us, but no one is happy about cancellations,” said Les Parsons, CEO of the Charlottetown Harbour Authority. According to Parsons, Charlottetown has a record 84 cruise ships with 100,000 passengers scheduled in 2017. The previous record was 70,000 passengers at the island province’s main port. Parsons said the eight cancelled calls were all tendering. “That takes extra time and added cost,” he said.

It’s not just cruise ships however that have been affected by the speed reduction.

Container lines that operate scheduled routes between several ports have been forced to take various measures to make up for the 5- to 8-hour delays that result from sailing through the whale zone.

“Container vessels operate like a bus system with very exact time schedules,” said Sonia Simard, Director of Legislative and Environmental Affairs for the Montreal-based Shipping Federation of Canada.  “The longer transit adds to the time and overall fluidity of the logistics chain.” Like bulk carriers, which lose only 3-4 hours due to the speed restrictions in the zone which some 30-40 ships transit each day, Simard said container vessels can make up for lost time by going faster on open seas and by working overtime or weekends. “That adds to fuel costs and sailing times,” she said.  “But ship operators are used to dealing with unforeseen constraints like weather delays or mechanical issues.  “The key is for them to get that information beforehand so they can work it into their schedules.”

Simard also noted that the marine industry is both eager and accustomed to working within the confines of speed reductions in Canadian waters. In addition to voluntary reductions to protect killer whales near the entrance to the Port of Vancouver, beluga whales at the confluence of the Saguenay and St. Lawrence, and to prevent soil erosion between Sorel and Montreal, she said the industry has participated in two major conservation actions in recent years to help protect right whales in the Bay of Fundy. Those actions include changes in the width and location of the shipping lanes of the Traffic Separation Scheme (TSS) in 2003, and an IMO-sanctioned and recommended seasonal ‘Area to be Avoided’ (ATBA) for ships of 300 gross tonnage and upwards in the Roseway Basin in 2008. “We have shown in the past that we can take the measures necessary to ensure whales and ships can co-exist,” said Simard.

She added that other measures, including hull and propeller designs to reduce the impact of collision and noise, are also being taken by the marine industry at the international level. Simard said her group and other stakeholders are pushing the federal government to elaborate plans and actions in the Gulf of St. Lawrence for 2018 and beyond. Suggested measures include reducing the size of the speed-reduction zone, having observers on board ships like in Alaska, and the use of whale-detecting acoustic buoys like in the waters off Cape Cod. “No one knows if the whales will return to the Gulf of St. Lawrence again next year,” said Simard.  “But we need to be prepared in case they do, and we want to work with government to discuss and elaborate plans.”

In an email to Canadian Sailings, a TC spokesperson said the ministry is continuing to monitor the whales, “and will adjust or remove the zone when possible. Transport Canada and its other federal partners are committed to working with industry to find more permanent solutions, should the situation warrant.”

Diversification efforts paying off for St. Lawrence Seaway? Cargo up 13 per cent

Are efforts to diversify and expand cargo routes contributing to a 13 per cent increase in year-to-date cargo shipments via the St. Lawrence Seaway? According to The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation (SLSMC), total cargo tonnage from March 20 to August 31 reached 19.9 million tonnes – 2.3 million tonnes more compared to the same period in 2016. Year-to-date shipments of high-value general cargo totaled two million tonnes, up 40 per cent over the 1.4 million tonnes carried during the same period last year.

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CSL now operates the largest conventional geared bulk carrier in the Canadian domestic fleet

Earlier this year, Canada Steamship Lines welcomed M.V. Ferbec, a 49,502 DWT conventional geared bulk carrier equipped with four cranes and grabs, which is now fully operational in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. The vessel, which previously operated in CSL’s Australian fleet as CSL Melbourne, is the largest vessel of its type in the Canadian domestic shipping market.

Upon arrival in Québec City on May 13, 2017, the vessel underwent modifications to adapt to its new operating environment. Ferbec is now operating under Canadian flag in the Havre St-Pierre to Sorel corridor for long time-customer Rio Tinto.

“It is by design and with great pride that we revived the name Ferbec for this vessel,” said Louis Martel, President and CEO of The CSL Group.

“Like the original Ferbec – a 56,000 DWT ocean bulk carrier – the new Ferbec is plying the same trades along the same Saint Lawrence routes, evoking fond memories for coastal communities who used to see the old ship go by. Unfortunately, just like her predecessor, the new Ferbec will never be seen on the Great Lakes. Built as an ocean-going vessel, as her hull is too wide for the locks of the St. Lawrence Seaway.”

The arrival of Ferbec in the Canadian fleet is part of CSL’s fleet optimization and capacity management program, which has seen the introduction of six new state-of-the art Trillium Class vessels to the Canadian fleet and the retirement of older, less efficient ships.

Logistec announces strong second quarter 2017 results

Logistec Corporation announced its financial results for the second quarter and first six months ended June 24, 2017.

During the second quarter of 2017, consolidated revenue reached $101.9 million, an increase of $22.2 million or 27.9 per cent compared with the same period in 2016. The increase in revenue came from both the company’s marine and environmental services segments and more particularly from increases in its bulk-handling business from three new terminals, which were added to the network since the beginning of the year.

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Algoma Central Corporation announces results for the quarter ended June 30

Algoma Central Corporation announced its results for the quarter ended June 30, 2017.

Second quarter highlights include:

• Total revenues of $123.9 million, up 25.1 per cent over the same period of 2016.

• Total net earnings more than doubled from $13.3 million to $29.2 million. Net earnings from continuing operation of $15.4 million represented an increase of 21 per cent, compared to $12.7 million for the same period in 2016.

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Seaway welcomes new members to its Board of Directors

The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation (SLSMC) is pleased to announce that Raymond Johnston and Patrick Bushby have been appointed to its Board of Directors.

Mr. Johnston is President of Chartwell Consulting Services Inc. and has a long history in the marine industry. From 2000 to 2013, he was President of the Chamber of Marine Commerce, and prior to that was President and CEO of Canada Steamship Lines. Mr. Johnston is also the President of Green Marine Management Corporation.

Mr. Bushby is Director of Operations for Ontario and Quebec for Viterra, a major Canadian grain industry participant. His grain industry experience also includes senior management positions with the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool.

Terence Bowles, President and CEO of SLSMC, welcomed the appointment of Mr. Johnston and Mr. Bushby, noting that their many years of experience will provide SLSMC’s Board with a wealth of knowledge to draw upon.

The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation is a corporation created in 1998 pursuant to the Canada Marine Act to operate and maintain the Canadian locks and channels of the St. Lawrence Seaway.

Seaway cargo up 18 per cent year-to-date

Total cargo shipments through the St. Lawrence Seaway are up 18 per cent this year as the marine highway supports business growth from key sectors of the North American economy. According to The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation, total cargo tonnage from March 20 to July 31 reached 16 million metric tons – 2.5 million metric tons more compared to the same period in 2016.

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Nova Scotia’s Nautical Institute has been training young men and women for careers at sea for over 140 years

By Tom Peters

Part of Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC), the Nautical Institute, originally started in Halifax in 1872 as the Halifax Marine School, is located in Port Hawkesbury on the Strait of Canso and draws students from all over the world.

The face of the commercial marine industry has changed drastically in the past several years with ships’ sizes of both container vessels and bulk carriers reaching levels not anticipated 30 years ago, and with the constant evolution of technology.

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Captain Alain Richard joins Laurentian Pilotage Authority

Laurentian Pilotage Authority (LPA) is pleased to announce the appointment of Captain Alain Richard as Executive Director, Marine Safety and Efficiency. He assumed his duties as of April 18.

Holder of a Certificate of Master Mariner, Captain Richard has more than 35 years of maritime transport experience. He served as Director of the Institut maritime du Québec in Rimouski, and for more than five years oversaw major undertakings related to the establishment of a Maritime Training Center in the Quebec City area and the development of the Maritime Institute, at the international level. He has also worked on the development of pilotage risk analyses, and recently sailed as Captain.

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