Canada’s register to add two crude tankers

MV Palva in Montreal, now owned by Transport Maritime St Laurent

I’m back in Quebec, passing through Quebec City, on our way
to Oswego, with a load of Aluminum ingots from the smelter in Sept Iles, bound
for Mitsubishi. As we pass my “old stomping grounds” in Quebec City I see no
signs of Valero’s “new” Panamax tankers. Apparently the whole deal and its
details are quite hush, hush, but they are around, I am told.

Valero, the US based oil company that operates Ultramar’s
Jean Gaugin Refinery, in Levi, across the river from Quebec City, has purchased
two Panamax tankers for an undisclosed sum. The tankers Stena Poseideon and the
Palva, where jointly owned by UK based Concordia Maritime, and Finnish oil
company, Neste Oil; the deal closed in April 2014. The new owners are Transport
Maritime St Laurent Ltd., a new shipping entity in Canada, with Desgagnes being
tapped as ship managers.
MV Palva in Montreal
The two ships have a length of 228 m, a beam 32 m, and a
draft of 12.2 m, with deadweight of 74,000 tons. They are powered by a MAN-B&W
6S60 MCC main engine, delivering 13,560 kW to a controllable pitch propeller
(CPP), to give them a 16 knot service speed. The ice classed ships were built
in 2007 and 2006 at the Brodosplit Shipyard, in Split, Croatia, and are classed
by DNV.  The two ships are bound to be
some of, if not, the largest ships on the Canadian ship registry.
The Stena Poseidon has
been renamed the Espada Desgagnes, and the Palva, has been renamed the
Laurentia Desgagnes. Until Desgagnes takes full management control, Concordia
Maritime remains the ship managers. The ships are currently trading
internationally in the North Atlantic area, and still fly the Barbados flag,
with a non-Canadian crew aboard. In the fall of 2014, they are expected to
start regular service between Montreal and Levi, carrying 350,000 barrels of
Alberta crude, with 100 trips a year planned.  

Picture by FleetMon

The “new” ships are expected to carry crude from Montreal,
to Levi, utilizing Berth 86; the smaller, but recently dredged “inside” berth.
The bigger outside berth will remain for crude imports from overseas. The plan is
based on Valero wanting to take advantage of the cheaper Alberta oil sands crude,
coming to Montreal, by Enbridge’s pipeline “9B”, from Sarnia and points west.
But until the East West Pipeline Reversal proposition is “rammed through”,
errrr, I mean approved, they are faced with a transportation issue between
Montreal and Levi.

Media reports state that Valero is spending CDN$180M. on upgrades
to their facilities, in Montreal and Levi, to accommodate the two ships. Desgagnes’
Jean Marie Beaulieu is quoted as saying 100 jobs will be created with this new
Berth 86 at Valero’s St Romuald Marine
Terminal near Quebec City
A couple of years ago, Valero completed a clean product
pipeline from Levi to Montreal, which alleviated some pressure on the local
tanker market. Currently, Quebec City based Desgagnes’ Petronav division
handles most of the product moved out of the refinery, utilizing Desgagnes own ageing
tankers, and those from the (ex)Rigel fleet of four vessels.
Crude oil for the refinery has been coming in from places like
Northern Africa on foreign flagged tankers. The addition of two large ships in
the St Lawrence River, moving crude, is a net increase of ship borne traffic in
Canada, and is sure to stretch the resources available.
One of the problems with the plan, apparently, is a lack of
seafarers able to handle this surge in work. Desgagnes is renowned for their
low wages, especially for Marine Engineers, so this crewing problem is probably
not going to get any better fast. Regardless, it will undoubtedly put some
additional pressures on an already tight labour market.
With the federal government’s unwavering support for the
Alberta crowd, I wonder where they are going to magically make Engineering and
Deck officers appear from. I estimate you would need 20 or so engineering
officer alone.
Sister ship Stena Perros

Perhaps we are going to see the “highly successful” Temporary
Foreign Worker program come into play, but I would assume this would be too
cumbersome for the companies involved, especially with cumbersome and archaic Transport
Canada personnel certification regulations.

Alternatively, I would suspect some
kind of foreign crewing arrangement, as they don’t have too many options to
choose from. At the very least I would expect a strong demand for Certificate
of Equivalency.

Given Valero’s past experiences with Canadian cabotage, I
would suspect the latter will be deemed necessary, and eagerly facilitated by
the Harper Government ™. Of course, we tax paying professional Canadian
seafarers we’ll keep getting the “high standards” from Transport Canada, and be
left onshore.
Ok, maybe I am too depressing in my views, but no matter
what, this is a major development in Canada. There are very few – five other – Canadian
crewed, managed, crude oil tankers operating in Canada, so there is a shortage
of experience in this market, I would propose. This is a very ambitious plan by
Valero, and it is bound to be a major shift / blow / impact on the current
Canadian seafarer / shipping scene.  

Stena Perros and Vega Desgagnes on Montreal 2008

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