Cargo handling in remote locations

In one of the rare occasions where I was driving the TV remote I chanced upon a documentary produced in Canada of the vessel Taiga Descagnes discharging cargo at Chesterfield Bay in the Hudson Bay.
What little information I have is she is GRT 12936, DWT 17287 tons and 143 metres. She was fitted with 3 cranes of about SWL 45 tonnes.
What made it interesting was she had two Small tugs And two barges of approximately 10 x 20 metres with a moulded depth of about 1.5 metres were carried onboard. Ships cranes discharged these and then loaded the barges.
The first things on the barge to the beach were two large payloaders fitted with forks. These lowered a ramp first then unloaded 20 foot containers ,vehicles and break bulk.
The operation was pretty slick and I like others in this forum, have discharged and loaded cargo just outside a coral reef I had never seen this done except by the military.
With the name of the program “ High Artic Haulers” I chanced upon it by accident thinking it would be about large unwashed truckers chancing their luck on ice.
It has some shots of the Canadian Coastguard working with freighters in ice as well.


Here she is in her present colours’:


I heard many sea stories about the North Star III, mostly from one former shipmate,

The single VC2-M-AP4 Diesel-powered Emory Victory operated in Alaskan waters for the Bureau of Indian Affairs as North Star III .

Meet a few mariners who sailed on this one:

Michael Gordon photo

The Aleutian Developer. The harbor facility at Adak was a bit weak, but that’s OK, the Aleutian Developer had its own gantry crane, plus an electric bow thruster to get away from the pier (or push into it when the winds were contrary, which was almost always the case) and extremo fine dual radar, one so fine it could see fist-size rocks on the shore, as well as locate the bald eagle nest over on Lucky Point. My good buddy Willie Scales was the Chief Engineer on this ship, and so I spent some time down inside. The crew’s meals were certainly better than mine!

From this site:

I spent much of my sailing life on ships that served “port” with little or no facilities. (But in warmer climes than in Alaska, or Norway)

Discharging into Surf boats while the ship was drifting just outside the reef was “routine”.
We used the motor lifeboat to tow it through a gap in the reef and surf it onto the beach, or (in worst case) surf over the reef to get into the calm waters of the lagoon:

One memorable operation was to lash two surf boats together to bring a large dump truck (in 3 parts) onto the beach at Lord How Island.

PS> The dump truck was re-assembled and used to build an airport on the island.


The first 14 SA-15 -type Arctic freighters were delivered with a small hovercraft that could be used to transport cargo to ashore over water and ice. However, they were not very popular and were quickly abandoned. My coworker recalls seeing one of them on a scrapyard somewhere up there.

The ships could also lower their stern quarter ramp onto the ice but it was quickly found to be too steep for anything but military vehicles. Now that I think about it, I don’t recall ever seeing photographs of the ramps being used even at quayside…

Anyway, these ships were quite capable and there were 19 of them so sometimes the Russians formed convoys of just SA-15s. This kind of view is of course impossible today as there are only two such ships in service…


Bank line otherwise known as Andrew Weir and Sons had a few SA-15’s in service. Quite a lot of information in Admiralty “Ocean passages of the World” came from their company records, particularly the recommended routes for sailing vessels. The routes for sailing vessels still have relevance for ocean towing.


We did the same to unload a 19 tonne fire tender at Aitutaki in the Cook Islands using two lighters lashed together. Also discharged a crawler crane that had been disassembled so the parts weighed under 20 tonnes.
But somehow it was more pleasant doing it in the sunshine and warm sea.

Wait until you see how Desgagnes delivers fuel in the north. Here is a photo I took of Sarah Desgagnes in Milne Inlet last summer. Claude Desgagnes was up there, too as I recall.

From my young and tender days. Ship loading “Klippfisk” (Bacalhau) from wooden barges in Ålersund, 1950s:

On the other side of the world.
Discharging cargo at Pitcairn Island from ACT 5 in 1991.

Photo by Stuart Ross, Facebook.


The cooling water for the generators of this ship could be piped through the potable water tanks so that the ship could be beached at high tide to off-load cargo directly into trucks when the tide goes out. Used in Bristol Bay Alaska.

The scow was the main form of transport of goods to towns outside the main ports. Copied from a US design they had 2 or 3 centreboards and a couple were still in service up until the late 1950’s. One was still sailing but with an auxiliary engine calling up the estuary where I lived .
They discharged a load of steers for the freezing works 5 miles away. The steers, having never encountered anyone not on horseback got lose and romped through the Chinese market gardens.
If I had captured the scene on film I could have retired then and there.

I worked with one of the SA-15 type vessels in East Kalimantan, Indonesia in 1995.

You didn’t mention the slot in the stern where the bow of another ship can be pulled in when operating in ice condition.

I was involved in replacing the port anchor cable of one of the ACT vessels. They lost the original off Pitcairn Island. The Royal New Zealand Air Force successfully parachuted a bulldozer there a couple of years ago.

I wonder if that was ever used after the 1983 Arctic shipping crisis where one SA-15 was pushed through the ice by an icebreaker and others used their stern notches to take weaker ships into tow.

For those who don’t know what ships we are talking about, there’s a pretty extensive article in Wikipedia:

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I like this sort of obscure stuff. The US Military has to have this capability (no shore facility) but they are increasingly moving to connex containers that can be airlifted to the beach. Having worked at a depot repair facility (waterborne) I can tell you it’d be hard to reproduce forges, dynometers, extensive weld shops and metal storage, huge presses, furnaces, and and and and … and put it in a box!
On adak, they use a anchor chain for a wind sock! … all the cement trucks, dozers etc. are still there, all lined up with the tires going flat. the d-9 is still near the beach with a wire mesh fence around it. I could sure use it here but it may as well be on Mars.


Has anyone worked for PAE aboard MV V. Adm. Wheeler in Korea? Any details on the ship/shore duty are appreciated.