The West Coast commercial fishing fleet is blessed with many dynamic deck machinery manufacturers of both independent-family owned and multinational-corporate varieties. New products are regularly announced and legacy products improved. Shop expansions move forward, increasing field-service capabilities, and bestselling trends shift. Companies rise and fall.
For those in the commercial fishing industry, tracking the pulse of the region’s deck machinery scene is part of the lifestyle. Herein are a few notable highlights from the industry to help you stay informed.
La Conner Maritime: La Conner and Mount Vernon, Wash.
La Conner Maritime was founded by Ed Oczkewicz in 1978 to make deck gear for commercial fishing boats. The company started providing field service in Bristol Bay around 1984 and acquired their current boatyard in La Conner in 1992. In 2021, La Conner Maritime acquired their new shop in Mount Vernon, Wash., and have moved fabrication to the location.
Oczkewicz’s son, Isaac Oczkewicz, carries on the tradition as General Manager of La Conner Maritime.
“One year ago, we moved the fabrication/deck-gear division of our business from the La Conner yard to a shop/existing business we acquired in Mount Vernon, which has been a great way to diversify our talent in the off season of deck gear building and add capabilities,” Isaac Oczkewicz said. “We still maintain the yard at La Conner.”
Notable improvements were recently enacted upon the company’s rotator gillnet drums used for bow-stern picker-style salmon gillnet boats to “enhance usability, efficiency, and safety,” according to Isaac Oczkewicz. These changes include:
- A slider lock pin was redesigned to lower the profile, improve ease of operation and make servicing and maintenance easier.
- Slider hold downs were redesigned and are now easier to install, stronger and simpler.
- Rotator lock pins were replaced with heavy-duty stainless steel draw clamps for easier use, lower maintenance and simplicity.
- The drum rotation mechanism, which uses a heavy-duty slew bearing design for deck crane operation, was refined to make drum rotation with net weight easier. Access with removeable cover was added to easily service grease zerks on bearings when needed.
The company’s bestsellers this past year have included rotator gillnet drums due to the number of bow-stern and through-picker boats being built.
“Two other very popular deck gear items continue to be our set net power rollers, used on set net skiffs, and our Big Bay roller, a more robust and capable version of the standard powered stern roller used on gillnet boats for years,” added Oczkewicz.
Deck gear sales in the last year have doubled from the previous year, according to the company, largely because of the ongoing success of the Bristol Bay salmon fishery.
“Demand for deck machinery is currently strong, and we anticipate it remaining so as long as the market for Bristol Bay salmon is strong and customers continue to find value in the quality and innovation found in our deck gear,” Oczkewicz said. “We have more orders for deck gear on the books now for the next build season (winter 2022-2023) than we have had as long as I can remember in my 25 years with the company.”
MacGregor is a global marine industry leader with more than 1,900 employees across 31 countries. The company’s origins date back to 1929,, when the founding MacGregor brothers produced their first steel hatch covers for fishing vessels in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England. But the company also claims roots in 19th Century Norway with the founding of Pusnes and Porsgrunn.
Pusnes reportedly worked with Antarctica exploring legend Roald Amundsen to make the anchor winch for his iconic ship Fram.
MacGregor maintains a West Coast presence with ongoing projects for the region’s commercial fishing fleet. Today, their Fishery, Research and Marine Resources department specializes in working vessel builds, including trawlers and purse seiners.
Their seiners are synonymous with Triplex products and net-hauling systems that utilize three rollers to simultaneously haul in the net. The Triplex setup is meant to minimize the number of crew on deck and maximize safety at sea.
Kinematics Marine Equipment Inc. Marysville, Wash.
Kinematics Marine Equipment Inc. has been in the deck machinery game for more than 40 years. Their products and services span the commercial fishing, research vessel and work boat sectors. Kinematics makes and services net drums, drum drives, winches, gill net rollers, power blocks and deck winches for seining, levelwind reels, pot haulers, capstans and more.
“Kinematics offers a variety of deck equipment from the East to West Coast. We don’t see any lack of equipment to build,” shop manager James Davis said. “This last year has definitely had its challenges.”
The availability of hydraulic motors and materials dropped and longer-than-normal lead times from various venders also were challenges, he explained. But despite the supply chain obstacles, the company has been busy with refits, primarily for Bristol Bay commercial fishing vessel.
“Our sonar winches for oceanographic surveying have been increasing steadily,” Davis added about deck machinery trends he’s observed.
Integrity Machining, Inc. (Makers of Kolstrand Equipment) Marysville, Wash.
Integrity Machining is the worldwide supplier of Kolstrand marine parts and products aimed at the industrial and commercial maritime sectors. Prominent Kolstrand equipment includes hydraulic power blocks, line and pot haulers, anchor winches, purse winches, trolling gurdys and davits. Kolstrand also manufactures complete seining and pot-fishing systems.
Among Kolstrand’s top-selling products are the Kolstrand 4-inch and 3-inch nylon block equipped with v-sheave and swivel. New products include a Kolstrand line of stainless steel gurdy davits (48-inch reach, 15-inch reach and multi-spool trolling), a 17-inch long-line hauler, and JKFab 18-inch direct drive stainless steel anchor winch.
Notably, in July 2020, Integrity Machining,. acquired JK Fabrication and its assets. JK Fab is known as a manufacturer of Nordic winches and JKFab products.
“This acquisition marks a transformative moment for Integrity Machining and our customers. Commercial fishermen in the Pacific Northwest have long relied on innovative and rugged Kolstrand and JKFab products and services,” Integrity Machining President Paul Glyer said in a news release. Kolstrand also moved from its historic Seattle location to a larger manufacturing facility in Marysville, Wash. in 2019.
Naust Marine Iceland-based with Poulsbo, Wash. location
Naust Marine is an Iceland-based maritime manufacturer with a location in Poulsbo, Wash. It specializes in electrical winches, winch control systems and generator systems. The company’s Poulsbo office was established in 2011 with the first Naust Marine trawl winches delivered to American Seafoods of Seattle in 2016.
In December 2021, the company announced an ATW Trawl Winch Control system upgrade for the trawler Akraberg, which was built in 1994 and owned by Faroese company Framherji. Installation and start-up took place in the Faroe Islands.
“Sea trials went well, and the vessel headed straight to fishing,” the company said in its announcement.
The Naust updated system allows the 86-meter by 14-meter vessel to tow two trawls, which in turn increases the ship’s catch performance. The system includes all new electrical control equipment associated with towing.
Maximum Performance Hydraulics Seattle, Wash.
Maximum Performance Hydraulics specializes in marine and industrial hydraulics, winches and cranes. The company opened its doors in 2000 and acquired Pacific Winch and Hoist in 2001. These days, the company has a 22,000-square-foot facility with more than 25 employees.
Their lineup of products includes both electrical and hydraulic winches, hydraulic pumps and motors, Rotek bearings, hydraulic cylinders and parts and a full line of Parker Hose and Fittings. Notable projects from the last few years include a crane removal, overhaul and reinstall for the F/V Saga of Deadliest Catch fame and a net-handling crane rebuild for the F/V Defender.
Norris Comer is a Seattle-based writer and author. His debut memoir, Salmon in the Seine: Alaskan Memories of Life, Death, & Everything In-Between is now available wherever books are sold. You can find him on Substack, Instagram and at norriscomer.com.