Choosing the Right Refrigeration

By Dan Huet

When it comes time to upgrade
existing equipment or to install a new refrigeration system on your boat for
the first time, there are a few important things to think about. According to
Kurt Ness at Integrated Marine Systems, “There are a lot of factors to consider
when exploring freezing or Refrigerated Seawater (RSW) options. Power
requirements, hold capacity, vessel insulation, market demands, processors’
expectations and more.”

The initial question may be to
ask yourself what your market requires. Is there a chance to work multiple
fisheries in the future? If there is potential for both chilled and frozen
product, you can plan for that now, since there are refrigeration systems that
will allow you to chill as well as freeze.

Next ask yourself how much product
you will need to be able to chill or freeze. Look at your forecast by the day
and by the hour. Figure out the product’s starting temperature and then
consider how cold it needs to be and how fast it needs to get there. Sometimes
the boat helps make the decision for you: how much room do you have available?
Often a self-contained RSW system is the product of choice. Having all major
components (chiller, compressor, condenser, etc.) in one location, on a skid,
saves on installation costs, maintenance, and overall ease of operation.

With the answers to these
questions, you are ready to determine how much refrigeration you need. 
When you
talk with refrigeration specialists, being prepared with this information is
crucial. They need to understand where you are going and how you want to get
there, in order to recommend the right equipment. Make sure you choose a
company with a proven track record, history, and reputation in the industry.
Each company will rate their systems differently. Either chilling a water
volume and product weight or freezing a specific number of pounds down to a
desired temperature in a specified amount of time will determine the required
refrigeration tonnage. Ness says that when IMS is talking with a fisherman to
determine their needs, “Supplying the right system takes collaboration,
gathering of information, and proper engineering while ultimately offering the
customer a solution that provides a return on their investment.”

Your refrigeration equipment
should provide you with years of solid service. The extra dollars earned for
every pound of fish you catch will pay for your initial equipment investment,
often within the first year depending on your market, processor-offered
incentives, and catch-rate. For example, some markets offer up to a 15-cent
bonus per pound of chilled fish, so it’s easy to see how quickly the initial
investment can pay for the equipment and start making the fisherman money every
season. Having an RSW system also creates independence for the owner by
privatizing the equipment and not being dependent on purchasing ice, wasting
fuel, time, and money.

Class Time
Chilling fish is the first step
in the Cold Chain, and fishermen should be rewarded for their efforts to
improve the industry while offering a superior product to the consumer. A major
benefit of self-contained RSW systems is the ease of operation. Industry leader
Jim Stone says, “The size, portability and reliability for the price cannot be
beat.” Taking the mystery out of refrigeration is key. Purchasing a unit that
runs itself with very little interface is extremely beneficial. “We want to
fish, not worry about refrigeration; that’s why these units are a no-brainer.
Plus, the maintenance and refrigeration classes are useful,” says skipper Casey

McManus is referring to a Marine
Refrigeration Operator Class (MROC), which is a professional educational
program to define a proficient Marine Refrigerator Operator. A Certification of
Completion is given upon attending a three-day classroom workshop, passing a
written and a hands-on aptitude test that is designed to show proficiency of
knowledge and skill in the following areas:
Theory of Marine Refrigeration,
Sizing of units, Components, Controller programming, Safety, Operation,
Maintenance, and Troubleshooting. Upon certification the MROC will also prepare
an operator with the ability to communicate with technicians effectively when
necessary. Classes are based on basic principles and will increase users

IMS provides RSW equipment for
Marine Refrigeration Operator classes sponsored by SeaGrant and Marine
Mechanical Solutions (MMS) in Alaska and Washington many times throughout the
year. “By offering Marine Educational Experiences to the industry we want you
to get the most efficiency out of your Marine Refrigeration Unit; this
class will give you the tools to protect your investment,” says MMS
co-founder, Mendi Short.

Dan Huet works for
Seattle-based Integrated Marine Systems (, which engineers and manufactures
refrigeration products that serve a variety of freezing and chilling needs for
fishermen and processors. He can be reached