Shipspotting 101: Sailing vessels

Cat Boat

catboats are simple, and feature only a main sail. the Opti or the Laser are common Examples. Not restricted to small dingys, the  Hinterhoeller built Nonsuch is a cat rigged keel boat that was built in lengths of 22-40 feet.



sloops feature 2 sails – a Main sail behind the mast, and a Jib forward. a Jib will not extend rearward beyond the mast, however a Genoa will. Genoa’s are also known as an overlapping jib, and can be seen on the examples above. this is also a Simple fore and aft rig (with a sail infront, and behind the mast) which will be repeated on larger vessels.

Yawl / Ketch

Dorothea is a ketch. Both vessels add a second “Mizzen” mast behind the main sail, the difference in name comes from whether that mast is located Fore or Aft of the Rudder post. In Dorothea’s case, the rudder is on the Transom, So its a Ketch. The Mizzen mast on a Yawl is typically much smaller then the main, and as far to the rear as possible.

a famous yawl was Joshua Slocum’s vessel Spray


Schooners are a complicated sail plan, because there can be so much variation. Bluenose is an example of a Gaff rigged schooner. A schooner is a ship rigged the main sail (largest) on the main mast, and a foresail on the foremast. The Gaff rig refers to the the spar member at the top of the sail, which allows for more sail area as the sail doesn’t need to be triangularly shaped to come to a point at the mast.

3 masted schooners are also common, and simply add an additional sails. (the largest schooner featured 7 masts) topsail schooners feature additional top sails on the masts, as seen on the Pride of Baltimore II.

Finally a Bermuda rig schooner features triangular sails off the fore and main masts, as you would see in a sloop. – Not surprisingly, the Bermuda rig is found on the 3 masted schooner Spirit of Bermuda. This Ship also Shows the relative hights of the Masts – the Main Mast (the center mast, carrying the largest sail) is Tallest, the foremast is next, and the mizzen is shortest. The Spirit of Bermuda’s masts are also Raked – or angled rearward. this was done to improve performance of the ship.


A brigantine is like a schooner, however it features a Gaff rigged main sail on the main mast, and is Square rigged on the foremast. While many historical examples exist, the only current examples I know both belong to Bytown Brigantine, The Black Jack, and Fair Jeanne (pictured)


A brig features 2 square rigged masts. the Main Mast features a Small Gaff rigged sail as well to improve maneuverability. the US Brig Niagara is a replica of Oliver Hazard Perry’s relief flagship on the great lakes durign the war of 1812.


A Barquentine is a vessel with 3 or more masts – the foremast being Square rigged and the others being gaff rigged. Peacemaker (above) is an example.


A barque is a vessel with 3 or more masts, the foremast and main mast being square rigged, and the Mizzen mast gaff riged. The Picton Castle is a good example of a barque.

Full Rigged Ship

A full rigged ship features 3 or more masts, all square rigged. The Italian Navy vessel Amerigo Vespucci is a full rigged ship, though I don’t have a photo of her with her sails up.


Finally, In Summary:


How a Container Terminal Works

As a followup to the ShipSpotting 101 post on Container vessels, A look at how the Container terminal operates was in order. The process here applies to both terminals in Halifax.


Loading and Unloading trucks and railcars is known as working the terminal.Once the train arrives, the locks holding the Containers together must be released. this is done by a guy on a platform on the back of a truck. they unlock one side of the train, then flip to the other side and release it.

In this Case, a Toplift picks up the container, and backs up. a yard tractor advances, and the container is placed on a Chassis. The yard tractor then takes the container to its appointed block. Someone then removes the locks from the top of the bottom container still in the rail car.

Each block is sorted by ship, so all containers destined for a vessel go to the appointed blocks. Once there, another toplift picks up the container and adds it to the stack. the container will then dwell here until the appointed ship arrives. Similarly, outgoing containers will dwell in a stack until they can be loaded onto a train or truck. Halifax Dwell time is less then 2 days.


Outside the terminal group, there is a lashing force, and a number of crane units. These handle containers on and off the ship.


The lashing force has the task of releasing locks, and removing the lashings used to secure the container stacks on deck. The locks are released by pulling on a tail on the lock with a long pole. the locks release the top container from the one below it, and remain inserted in the bottom of the container. a team stationed at the brow of the ship, removes the locks as the yard tractor brings the container around.

Deck containers sit on hatch covers – which they are locked to. however the hatch covers are not held down. the lashing rods help stabilize the stack and secure it and the hatch cover to the deck. In the photo above, the platform is the hatch cover itself, and you can see the lashings securing the stack to the catwalk. bellow is a look down one of the catwalks. The rods are inserted on an angle into the containers, then the bottom is placed in a turnbuckle (AKA a Bottle) and tightened.


Each hatch is identified by 3 numbers. the Middle number is used if 40′ containers are used. the two side numbers are used if there are two 20′ containers on the hatch. In other words, you can have a 40′ in row 21, or a 20′ in row 20, and a 20′ in row 22. containers longer then 40′ go on top of the stacks, and over hang the walkways between stacks. (Some vessels, Such as Oceanex Sanderling, have deck positions for 53′ containers) Containers below the hatch covers are held in place by guides – so there are no lashings or locks to be undone. below we are looking into one of the holds. its 9 containers deep.

Each crane unit Consists of the equipment and men required to run one crane and Supply it with containers. Besides the crane itself, it consists of yard gantry’s and top lifts, as well as 5 yard tractors. ideally each crane unit moves 30 containers an hour.


Containers are sorted on ship by destination. So all containers destined for Halifax will be located in only a few stacks. when loading, the containers get placed based on their destination. As Containers come off a checker in the crane records the serial number and indicates which block in the yard it should be placed in. the Crane pulls a container off ship, places it on a yard tractor, the yard tractor takes it to the appointed block, Stoping at the brow to have the locks removed,  and a toplift or yard gantry removes it and adds it to the stack. Loading the process works in reverse


Shipspotting 101 – General Cargo

General Cargo vessels can carry containers, Bulk Cargoes and Break Bulk Cargoes.
We have Looked at Containerized Cargo, and Bulk Cargo but havent yet touched on Breakbulk.

breakbulk is basically any cargo that is not in a container, and cant be poured. Heavy Equipment, telephone poles, Bags of Nickle Sulfate, locomotives are all examples of breakbulk cargo, and can be carried in general cargo ships.

Nirint makes a regular run to and from Cuba. the HC Melina is carrying containers, but also bags of Nickle Concentrate in bags in her hold. these bags get unloaded from the ship, then onto railcars for points west.

Holds typically do not have container guides. Also usually the full hold can be opened. These vessels may or may not have cranes, and are typically in the 100-150m in length range.

(Above) Capri ( and several other Vessels) frequently deliver rails for CN.
(Below) Frisian Spring Loading Poles for export. Note that Capri (above) Has Cranes, where as Frisan Spring requires shore based facilities.

(Above) SE Veridian Delivered Windmill Components.
(Below) Flintermar Loading Wood Pellets.


Shipspotting 101 – Container Ships

Containerships are one of the most common vessel types to call on Halifax. While these vessels can be measured by their dimensions, the most common unit of measure is the TEU – Twenty foot Equivalent Units. This is the count of the Number of 20′ containers that can be carried on a ship. Containers are typically 20, 40, 48 or 53 feet in length, and can vary slightly in height.

Post Panamax/Neo Panamax

post panamax ships are ships too large to fit through the original Panama Canal.  Halterm has been dredged to 50′ to accommodate these vessels.

APL Coral is a Post Panamax vessel that frequents Halifax. Post Panamax vessels are usually larger then 6000teu. Currently the largest caller is just over 9000TEU. With the opening of the New locks in the panama canal, vessels of 1,401′ in length, 180′ in beam, and 50.0′ in draft are able to use the canal. this leads to the creation of a new catagory of  Neo-Panamax Containerships, which are up to 13,000, basically encompassing the entire post panamax category of vessels.



For Container ships,  965′ long, 106’wide. Draft 39.5′ and a 190′ Airdraft. The Airdraft of the 2 Harbour bridges is 50m, 7m less then panamax, though most ships have a lower mast. these ships are in the 4000-6000 teu range.

OOCL Antwerp is Typical of the Panamax vessels we get. She Comes in at 5888TEU. Panamax vessels were, up until 2015 made up the majority of the container ships coming into port.

ULCS – Ultra Large Container ship

The ULCS is the category of Container Ship capable of carrying 13,000+ TEU. Halifax is likely a number of years away from seeing one of these vessels make a regular call.


Seawaymax vessels are 740′ long, 78′ wide, and have a draft of 26.51′ and a airdraft of 116′ they are typically sub 3000teu, and can make it into the great lakes. Maersk Calls on Halifax (And Montreal) with a set of 2902TEU veseels.

The presence of container guides in the holds typically differentiates Container ships form general cargo. The Guides are easy to see on the AFL New England (Now trading as WEC Majorole) And the Stadt Cadiz (below) Compare the 2747 TEU Stadt Cadiz to the 700 TEU AFL New England.

The Stadt Cadiz also carries cranes. this is common, and allows ships to service unequipped ports. If overhead cranes are available, the ship mounted ones are simply swung out of the way. The Melfi Iberia blow shows how versatile container traffic can be. with flat racks, you can ship entire trucks, buses and trailers.



Shipspotting 101: Con-Ro’s

Con-ro’s are vessels that carry both Containers and have Roll on Roll off Capability. Once more frequent, these vessels are quite flexible, And Halifax is served by Several Regulars.

Oceanex Runs a twice weekly service from Halifax to St John’s Newfoundland with the Oceanex Sanderling. Looking Much like a container ship, the huge Stern Ramp gives her away. She typically moves between Halterm and Autoport. Carrying Cars, Containers, Heavy equipment and even some traditional trailer loads.

 Oceanex also runs the Oceanex Connraiga, which offers a similar service, but from Montreal. Her stern ramp is built into the large block on the Stern.

 The National Shipping Company of Saudi Arabia, now operating as Bahri, has a fleet of New con-ro’s serving Halifax monthly. more space is devoted to Roll on Cargo, and containers are stored up front. The new vessels also carry 2 cranes for container, which is unique for a con-ro if this size.

Atlantic Container Lines runs a twice weekly service between Halifax and Europe. Besides Containers, ACL frequently carries heavy equipment, Helicopters, and Assembled sections of Bombardier CRJ Aircraft in the RO-RO bay. These Vessels will be replaced by newer ones in the coming months.

Fusion ran a weekly service to the French islands of Saint Pierre and Miquleon off Newfoundland. She can carry containers in a Hold or on deck, and features a stern ramp to allow trucks and other vehicles to drive on and off. Fusion was Replaced by the Larger (But near identical in Layout) Nolhanava


Shipspotting 101: Bulk Carriers.

Recent CSL Arrivals make a good lead into Bulker terminology. Firstly a bulker is a Bulk Carrier – they typically carry bulk cargos such as gravel, salt, grain, gypsum, wood pellets etc. They come in 2 Basic Types – Geared and Gearless.
Atlantic Huron is a Geared bulker, She carries her own fixed to ship unloading Gear.
Atlantic Huron is built to Seaway max dimensions, hence its stout appearance. Passing through tight locks also leaves her sides looking rough as seen in a stop from 2012 . Compare her to CSL Tacoma Earlier in the week, which is only built for ocean travel.  (Below)
Both of these bulkers are self unloading. the Holds empty onto a conveyor belt, that travels up and to the end of the boom. this greatly speeds the unloading process though at a cost of capacity. Atlantic Huron at top is unloading to the Halifax grain Elevators, but you can truly See the power of the unloading boom on CSL Metis in Tampa
Malmens (below) is a much smaller bulker, and usually carries gravel. She too is a self unloader with her boom mounted midship, and able to swing out over the pier.

Another type of geared Bulker uses cranes and clamshell buckets for unloading. Universal Amsterdam clearly shows the clamshells on deck between the First and second Crane.

Other Vessels, offer both Options – Such as Barkald, Which has both unloading Cranes and the Self unloading arm. Presumably this offers some flexibility, such as being able to load trucks or rail cars directly with the buckets at unimproved ports.

Finally we have Gearless Bulkers. These vessels rely on shore side handing facilities to offload Cargo. CSL Birchglen is an example of these.

While this post has concerned itself with unloading, We do have 2 posts on Loading. first we have Patron, a Small gearless Bulker loading grain for export. We also had a post on the geared bulker Irma loading wood Pellets.

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