Bill's Site

Marine Listening and Observation Pages and Links

Last updated December 26, 2019

My interest in marine listening comes and goes. My radio hobby began with a combination of listening to distant AM radio and listening to Marine radio along the BC coast when I was a teenager. In recent years I mostly listen in on cruise ships visiting Halifax from April to October.  Marine listening on the old 2 MHz band is where I got my start in radio monitoring. Today's shipping uses four main radio bands:  MF/HF (2 MHz - 30 MHz), VHF Marine Band, the UHF 400 MHz on-board bands, and various Satellite services.   This scanning website deals with the VHF and UHF aspects only. 

My Specialized Page on VHF and UHF marine radio in our region, and on Halifax Traffic (with a map of the sectors and calling-in points)

 Despite my naval background I am most interested in cruise ships. I use the official cruise ship schedule included at Port of Halifax.   Some years I post an expanded schedule showing information about the ships.   I follow their movements online at, but recently I have also been using Cruise Ship Tracker as it clearly shows ship names (not just cruise ships), is easily navigated and has associated cruise ship information and itineraries. List of Cruise Ships and where they are in the world right now!  

Cruise Critic's Cruise Ship ItinerariesAlso includes Notes on new ships and ships being reconditioned etc.

Cruise Ship WebcamsSome cruise ships have webcams…watch from the perspective of a passenger or the captain!

Click here for sailwx Or go to   Presented in two different formats.

I also check the harbour webcams in our region from time to time.  Here are some major relevant cameras:

Piers 20 to 22 (main cruise ships berths)

Halifax waterfront from Alderney Gate

The Narrows and McKay Bridge

Macdonald Bridge area from south

Chebucto Head webcam

Central Harbour east of Georges, showing Eastern Passage

Saint John Harbour CBC Webcam  

Saint John Harbour Webcam  

Saint John Hbr Webcam 3

is of course a major port in the Canadian context but is dwarfed by many other world ports, including our biggest Pacific port of Vancouver.   It is quite interesting however with its steady flow of container ships, auto carriers, tankers, cruise ships and offshore support vessels, as well as our own navy and coast guard fleet, and occasional foreign military vessels.   

Like me, you will find the photos and commentary on the following observation and data websites to be very interesting:






Cap'n Ken's Blog


Halifax Shipping News




Links to Marine Related Websites of Interest

Notices to Shipping for the Maritimes

Radio Aids to Marine Navigation

My HMCS Restigouche page.  I was COMMO on Restigouche in the 1970's  a worldwide ship photo site

NOAA's Charts of the US Coasts, showing coastal Weatheradio sites and USCG stations. Excellent!

The Ship's List (Historical Records of Fleets and Passenger Lists)

Ships Nostalgia site (Interesting threads on ship and coast radio)

 Fond BC memories for me:  BC's Lighthouses    CPR's BC Coast Steamships.   BC Tugs forum  
West Coast Ferries Forum   
Tugboat Photo Site
    Evergreen Fleet (Ferries of Puget Sound and BC Coast)

Ready Aye Ready .. enthusiast site for the Royal Canadian Navy, current and historical

Description of the VHF Marine Band
especially in relation to Canada, and a channel by channel guide for the Halifax area and beyond.   

UHF frequencies commonly used on-board ocean-going ships  
Large ships  (including cruise ships) may use on-board radio to coordinate cargo handling, passengers and events.  For detail on which cruise ship uses which specific frequencies go to Bill Dunn's Cruise Ship Frequency website:   

Bill's Map of Coast Guard Radio/VTS sites in Maritimes 


Call Letters: ZEVK
Port of Registry: Suva, Fiji

Island Tug & Barge Deep Sea Salvage Tug of the 60's

This cover from my favourite magazine back in the sixties shows the three largest members of the Island Tug fleet as of 1970. Sudbury II was considerably larger than the others.   At 3000 hp she was at one time considered powerful.  The Island Sovereign had 2400, but the new large tugs coming on line in the 70's and later, such as the Island King, had increasingly powerful diesel engines.  3000 hp began to become "nothing special".


In my teenage years in which I monitored on the radio the shipping along the BC Coast, I became familiar with all the larger tugboats in the region.   I was particularly taken with the flagship of Island Tug & Barge, Sudbury II, which was much larger than all the other tugs on the coast other than its namesake the Sudbury.   (The Sudbury was an ex-corvette from World War II and both the Sudbury and Sudbury II carried out some major towing and salvage feats.  By the time I had started university studies in Victoria in 1966, and was able to frequently visit the Island Tug home base, the legendary Sudbury had suffered a boiler explosion and had finished her career.  Click here for the Wiki article on Sudbury.) The loss of Sudbury left Sudbury II as the paramount tug on the BC coast in the late 60's. 

Here is a photo of the Sudbury and one of both vessels working together on a salvage mission.



Apart from her size and rugged looks, the unusual thing about Sudbury II was that she was registered in Fiji, rather than in Canada. It always seemed strange to see her flying her Fijian flag, and of course her radio call letters ZEVK were quite exotic.  

Sudbury II was one of four sisters and 14 near-sisters built in California by the Basalt Rock Company in Napa during World War II.   The history is convoluted but via various lend-lease schemes the first four vessels were to be allocated to the Royal Navy and via subdistribution to the Royal Australian Navy.  They began with the American designation for salvage tugs which was ARS, but with a B in front, presumably to indicate their British destination, so their first designations and names were BARS-1 to BARS-4.  Once in Commonwealth hands they would receive actual names as commissioned ships as follows:

BARS-1 Caledonian Salvor
BARS-2 Cambrian Salvor
BARS-3 Atlantic Salvor
BARS-4 Pacific Salvor

Ultimately only the first two ever were delivered to the Royal Navy. The other two instead went directly into the US Navy as ARS-33 USS Clamp and ARS-34 USS Gear, so they never actually sailed under their intended "Salvor" names.  Basalt Rock went on to build 14 more near-identical vessels for the US Navy, referred to the as the Diver class, and designated ARS-5 to ARS-9 and ARS-19 to ARS-27, all with names to go with them, starting with USS Diver.  ARS-33 and 34, which were built before the main American series received higher numbers, as they were re-routed from the original Royal Navy destination.  The missing numbers in the ARS sequence belonged to other classes of salvage tugs. For the Shipscribe page on the Diver Class click here and a similar one on the Caledonian Salvor and Cambrian Salvor click here.

Following World War II, HMAS Caledonian Salvor and HMAS Cambrian Salvor were sold to private interests but retained their names.  Ultimately both of them were sold to Island Tug & Barge of Victoria, BC, but both retained their registration in Fiji.  Caledonian Salvor was renamed Sudbury II, in honour of Island Tug's Sudbury, already in service.  Unlike the diesel powered Sudbury II, the Sudbury was a steamer, which of course, as mentioned previously led to her demise.   Cambrian Salvor had a short life in the Island Tug fleet (1958-62) and was gone before I became interested in such things in the early 60's.   She did do at least a couple of long tows for Island Tug but the fact that she did not receive a name change suggests that the two vessels were purchased as a package deal but with the intent of really holding on to one of them. Cambrian Salvor was sold to foreign ownership in 1962. 

Sudbury II stayed on in Island Tug & Barge service until 1981, when sold to become a fishing boat, the Lady Pacific, but sank in northern coastal waters in 1982.


As an aside, it does seem that my 'favourite" tugs were petty much all ex-military vessels coming out of World War II service.  It is almost unbelievable to me to have to comprehend that in 1965 when my interest was at its peak, it was only 20 years since the end of the war, and these vessels were still quite modern.  The tug names that stick in my mind to this day are practially all from the World War II era.    The 70's and 80's saw a tide of replacements coming on stream.      For a Nauticapedia list of ex-military tugs and other vessels that came into commercial service on the BC coast click here.