An old USSR ship and a massive container ship arrive in Halifax Harbour this week | News | Halifax, Nova Scotia | THE COAST
The 1,430-passenger Zaandam cruise ship, seen in Halifax on May 4, 2023, returned to Halifax on May 8, 2023.

An old USSR ship and a massive container ship arrive in Halifax Harbour this week

Container ships, cruise ships, cargo carriers and more vessels bound for Halifax the week of May 8-14.

At times, truth is stranger than fiction. This week is no exception: Halifax Harbour’s ship arrivals include a one-time USSR ship built for tracking satellites, a car carrier operated by a company convicted of running a shipping cartel, another run by a company named in the Paradise Papers leak and a container ship so massive, it’s longer than Georges Island.

This week’s shipping report also comes with a sprinkling of Norse mythology, Roman fratricide and venomous snakes. You’ve been forewarned.

Monday, May 8

The first of four cruise ship arrivals, Holland America Line’s Zaandam, returned to Halifax this week. The 1,430-passenger vessel made its third stop of the season at Halifax’s Pier 20. It arrived just after 7am on Monday from Boston and left by 4pm, bound for Sydney. All told, the Zaandam will make 19 trips to Halifax in 2023—by far the most frequent visitor of any cruise ship to arrive in our city this year.

Meanwhile, the Violet Ace ro-ro/vehicle carrier and Tropic Lissette container ship both made Monday stops in the harbour. The Violet Ace is managed by Ray Car Carriers Ltd., which was included in the Paradise Papers leak. It arrived at Eastern Passage’s Autoport just before 5am, inbound from Emden, Germany, and is sailing onward to Houston. The 160-metre Tropic Lissette, meanwhile, arrived at the South End Container Terminal just before 6am, inbound from Philipsburg, Sint Maarten. It’s headed onward to West Palm Beach, Florida.

Last but not least, the 340-metre MSC Shay container ship left Halifax just after 7am on Monday morning. It’s en route to Egypt’s Suez Port.

Tuesday, May 9

Last week’s fratricidal twin, the NYK Romulus container ship, returns to Halifax this week. The Singapore-hailing ship—which can carry nearly 4,900 20-foot steel containers—is expected to reach port from Saint John, New Brunswick around 5:25am. It will then carry onward to Southampton, UK.

click to enlarge An old USSR ship and a massive container ship arrive in Halifax Harbour this week
Iain Cameron (CC BY 2.0)
The NYK Romulus container ship, seen in Delta, BC in 2018, arrives in Halifax on May 9, 2023.

Halifax’s second cruise ship arrival of the week is a much more diminutive one: The Hanseatic Inspiration has a capacity of just 230 passengers. Operated by Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, the ship is travelling from Boston to Toronto with stops in Saint John, Halifax, Baddeck, the Magdalen Islands, the Gaspé Peninsula, Quebec City and Montreal. Once there, it will stick around the Great Lakes into July.

Three more container ships and a ro-ro/vehicle carrier round out Tuesday’s arrivals: The MSC Nuria, ZIM Monaco, ONE Hawk and Morning Laura are all expected to reach Halifax Harbour. The Nuria is the first of the bunch, expected to arrive from Montreal just after 6:15am before sailing onward to Barcelona. The Monaco arrives at the same hour from Valencia, Spain, and will continue onward to New York City.

The 8,000-car Morning Laura vehicle carrier, operated by shipping giant EUKOR, is expected at Eastern Passage’s Autoport around noon. It left Zeebrugge, Belgium on May 1. Meanwhile, the ONE Hawk container ship might be the prettiest (and biggest) of the pack, all 364 metres decked out in hot pink paint. It wraps a long voyage after stops in Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Egypt.

Wednesday, May 10

Here’s a bad setup to a nonexistent punchline: A cruise ship, a cargo ship and a vehicle carrier all sail into port—and one of them’s a snake. The third day of the week brings three arrivals in the form of the Ocean Voyager, Oceanex Sanderling and Taipan. With a capacity of just 200 passengers, the Ocean Voyager is the smallest cruise ship to arrive in Halifax all week; it’s sailing from Portland, Maine, to Toronto with stops in Halifax, PEI, Quebec City and Montreal.

The Taipan, meanwhile, takes its name from one of the most venomous snakes found in Australia—which is ironic, given its parent company’s history with the country: Wallenius Wilhelmsen was convicted of criminal cartel conduct in Australia in 2021 after admitting to participating in a cartel arrangement along with shipping lines NYK and K-Line. (The company was ordered to pay a $24-million fine.) The ship—which can carry up to 6,500 cars—arrives in Halifax after a weeklong crossing from Southampton.

Finally, the Oceanex Sanderling makes its weekly port call from St. John’s, NL around 10am.

Thursday, May 11

The MSC Rosaria container ship is the first of three Thursday arrivals. Inbound from Sines, Portugal around 5:30am, the ship measures 275 metres long with a summer deadweight of 63,427 tonnes. After its Halifax stop, it will carry onward to Boston.

Following in its wake, the Nolhan Ava ro-ro/cargo ship is expected at the Fairview Cove Terminal for its weekly Halifax stop around 8am. It’s currently in St. Pierre and Miquelon.

Rounding out the trio is another frequent harbour visitor: The Atlantic Sea container ship is slated for a 6pm arrival at the Fairview Cove Terminal. It wraps a weeklong voyage from Liverpool, UK.

Finally, on Thursday evening at the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21, a gala dinner will honour the 150th anniversary of the SS Atlantic sinking, the biggest marine disaster ever in Nova Scotia’s history.

Friday, May 12

Things quiet down in the harbour on Friday, with just one expected arrival: The 130-metre Selfoss container ship makes a port call from Portland, Maine. The ship, which calls the Faroe Islands’ Tórshavn its home port, has been running a loop from Reykjavik through Portland, Halifax, Argentia and back.

(A quick aside about Tórshavn: With a population of roughly 13,000, it’s the largest city in the Faroe Islands and has been its political hub for more than 1,100 years. The name comes from “Thor’s harbour.”)

click to enlarge An old USSR ship and a massive container ship arrive in Halifax Harbour this week
Allan Watt (CC BY-NC 2.0)
Tórshavn, seen in 2016, is the home port for the Selfoss container ship, which arrives in Halifax on May 12, 2023.

Saturday, May 13

Speaking of Norse things, the 380-passenger Viking Polaris cruise ship arrives in Halifax this weekend. It’s en route from New York City and headed to Toronto, with stops in Halifax, PEI, the Magdalen Islands and Quebec City. The ship was only built last year, but suffered tragedy not long after: In December 2022, a passenger aboard the Polaris was killed by a “rogue wave” as it sailed to Argentina.

Also arriving Saturday are the Atlantic Sky and CMA CGM Marco Polo container ships, and the BBC Arizona cargo ship. The Sky is slated for an 8am arrival; it’s currently travelling from New York to Baltimore, where it will carry onward to Norfolk, Virginia, before returning north along the Atlantic Seaboard. The Marco Polo, meanwhile, is on its way from Tanger Med, Morocco. At 396 metres long and with a summer deadweight of 187,625 tonnes, it’s the largest ship of any kind to arrive in Halifax Harbour this week—so big, in fact, that it’s longer than Georges Island. It’s expected at the South End Container Terminal at 6pm.

click to enlarge An old USSR ship and a massive container ship arrive in Halifax Harbour this week
The 396-metre CMA CGM Marco Polo container ship, seen in Southampton in 2012, is the largest vessel arriving in Halifax Harbour the week of May 8-14, 2023.

Finally, the BBC Arizona cargo ship is on its way from Belfast, Northern Ireland. It’s slated to arrive in Halifax around 3pm.

Sunday, May 14

The last cruise ship arrival of the week is a former USSR satellite-tracking ship. True story. The 490-passenger Seven Seas Navigator was built from the hull of the former Akademic Nikolay Pilyugin, which underwent construction in 1988 but was never completed. Here’s one accounting of how it came together:

“Intended as one in a class of three, the Akademik Nikolay Pilyugin was laid down…in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) [on] the 12th of april in 1988… The Akademik Nikolay Pilyugin was to be the largest spy-ship in the Soviet navy and she was to be fitted with a powerful satellite antenna to follow the movements of Western navies… It was only in November of 1993 that work on the Akademik Nikolay Pilyugin was suspended, after the Soviet Union had fallen apart and was replaced by the Commonwealth of Independent States from December 1991 onwards. The newly-formed state of Russia was not interested anymore in its fleet of spy ships and the half-finished ship was sold to V-Ships instead.”

click to enlarge An old USSR ship and a massive container ship arrive in Halifax Harbour this week
EWY Media
The Seven Seas Navigator cruise ship, which arrives in Halifax on May 14, 2023, is a former USSR satellite-tracking ship.

There are disputes with this recounting: Finnish maritime historian Kalle Id writes that Western sources, in particular, “delight in referring to the Soviet research vessels as spy ships” instead of research vessels, “handily obscuring the fact the Soviet Union had the largest number of researchers per capita of any country.”

Regardless, Radisson bought the ship and had it converted. Today, it’s sailing from Miami to Montreal, with stops in the Bahamas, Bermuda, Halifax, Corner Brook and Quebec City.

At last, the MSC Tianping and APL Southampton container ships are due at the South End Container Terminal at 8am and noon, respectively. The Tianping is currently docked in Baltimore. The Southampton is on its way from New York City to Norfolk.

About The Author

Martin Bauman

Martin Bauman, The Coast's News & Business Reporter, is an award-winning journalist and interviewer, whose work has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Calgary Herald, Capital Daily, and Waterloo Region Record, among other places. In 2020, he was named one of five “emergent” nonfiction writers by the RBC Taylor Prize...
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