Two New Vessels Coming Online to Groundfish Fisheries in May

By Margaret Bauman

Harvesting of wild Alaska pollock, the nation’s largest
commercial fishery, is under way in the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands and Gulf of
Alaska for 1,387,146 metric tons of the whitefish, up 3.8 percent over last
year’s allowable harvest.
A year ago the total allowable catch was 1,335,944 metric
tons, with the harvest measured at 1,207,726 metric tons, the second highest
since 2007 when the TAC was 1,481,317 metric tons and fishermen brought in
1,408,66 metric tons.
The Pacific cod TAC for this year is 320,600 metric tons,
down from 326,701 metric tons in 2012. In 2011, when in which the cod TAC was
293,050 metric tons, the highest since 2007, fishermen harvested 300,559 metric
Genuine Alaska pollock, a member of the cod family, average
1.5 pounds to 2 pounds in weight. It is a popular ingredient in more than 1,000
consumer products worldwide, from value-added seafood meals and breaded
products such as fish sticks, to fish and chips and surimi seafood products.
Alaska cod, a flaky textured whitefish with a slightly sweet
flavor, average 5 to 10 pounds, and are also adaptable to most cooking methods,
from baking and poaching to deep-frying for fish and chips.
Data compiled by the McDowell group in Juneau for the Alaska
Seafood Marketing Institute notes slightly lower average prices per pound this
year, as the market offerings include a big increase in the supply of Atlantic
cod. The global supply of Alaska pollock is also much higher than it was in
2008-2009, and cod prices have fallen significantly in Europe.
The financial meltdown also had an impact on cod prices in
2009, the latest date for which they are calculated; the threat in Europe still
looms, and ex-vessel prices have not come up much since then, said Andy Wink, a
seafood analyst with McDowell.
But the Euro has actually gained value against the dollar in
the last three to four months, so it’s pretty close to what it was last year at
this time. “That’s good, since it’s good for Alaska seafood when our buyer’s
currencies are strong,” he said.
Right now frozen pollock fillets from Alaska sell for 10
cents to 20 cents premium per pound over twice-frozen Russian product, and the
big question is whether Marine Stewardship Council certification will affect
that price premium. Alaska’s pollock is MSC certified and certification of the
Russian product is now pending.
One big unanswered question is whether MSC certification, if
it happens at all, will affect that price premium.
The At-Sea Processors Association announced on Feb. 11 plans
to file an official objection by day’s end challenging MSC certification of the
pollock fishery in the Russian Sea of Okhotsk. APA is a seafood trade
association comprised of six companies participating in a number of MSC
certified fisheries, including Alaska pollock, Pacific hake, Pacific cod and
Alaska flatfish. APA serves as the fishery client for the Bering Sea/Aleutian
Islands and Gulf of Alaska pollock fisheries.
“Our position is that we have invested a lot in the MSC
program over the last 10 years and it is important to us that fisheries that
get certified (as sustainable by MSC) really meet the standards, to protect our
investment in the program,” said Jim Gilmore, public affairs director for APA.
”While some of our concerns were addressed, most were not,” he said.
Back on Sept. 28, 2012, APA made lengthy comments on the
draft report issued by Intertek Moody Marine on the Russia Sea of Okhotsk
pollock fishery, on several issues. These included objections to the lack of
independent or verifiable catch statistics.
Meanwhile, in shipyards in Tacoma, Washington and Ketchikan,
Alaska, shipbuilders were working to complete two new groundfish fishery
vessels scheduled for delivery by the end of May.
At the J.M. Martinac Shipbuilding Corp. of Tacoma, the Northern
, which will be the biggest longliner in the world by volume, is
also the first Z-drive, diesel-electric fishing boat ever produced. She was
launched at 5:27 a.m. on Jan. 26, said Jonathan Platt, vice president at
Martinac. “We have to deal with the tides,” he said.
Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-WA, heralded that launching, calling
it a tremendous accomplishment for Martinac and its workers, and good economic
news for Pierce County, Washington. “The launch of the Northern
 is another proud step in the 89-year history of Martinac
building ships and creating jobs in the Puget Sound,” she said. “I was proud to
write and spearhead the passage of Congressional legislation in 2010 that
supported the construction of the Northern Leader. We look
forward to building more state-of-the-art fishing vessels right here in
Washington State and supporting the growth of our maritime economy.”
The Northern Leader, to be home ported in
Kodiak, is being completed now while in the water, since it was too large to
finish up indoors.
The vessel, primarily a cod vessel, is owned jointly by the
Alaska Leader group of Lynden, Washington, and the Bristol Bay Economic
Development Corp., will be 184.3 feet long, 42 feet wide and have a depth of
18.75 feet. She will be capable of carrying 1,000 tons of fish, Platt said.
“She will pay out 45 miles of line and drop a hook every four feet, so about
76,000 hooks.” The hook drop will proceed over a period of seven to eight
hours, followed by a slower turn around, to pick up the line over a 16 to 18 hour
period, he said.
“The people building this boat are very progressive, savvy
and they are not only the owner, they fish these boats, and they are a terrific
customer for us,” he said.
The Northern Leader is an extremely
efficient diesel electric vessel, with everything on the boat run by
generators, Platt said.
The environmentally friendly vessel design allows for full
utilization of the targeted fish species by using equipment with minimal
environmental impact on the ocean’s ecosystem, while maintaining the lightest
possible operational fossil fuel footprint, according to Jensen Maritime,
Crowley Maritime Corp.’s Seattle-based naval architecture and marine
engineering firm, which designed the Northern Leader.
“We are proud of the innovation we’ve been able to infuse
into the design of Northern Leader,” said Jensen’s Johan
Sperling, vice president, in a statement issued by the company in December. “We
know that commercial fishermen operate in some of the world’s harshest and most
isolated environments, which can create extremely hazardous working conditions.
“To counteract the dangers and increase the comforts for the
crew, we have designed a vessel that will keep them safe from harm, while
capitalizing on the small seasonal window they have for harvesting their catch.
The vessel’s ‘green’ features will also help sustain Alaska’s fish population,
and thus their livelihood, for years to come,” he said.
The Northern Leaderwill have 38,000 cubic
feet of freezer hold representing a frozen production capacity of 1,867,000
pounds, making it one of the largest capacities of any longliner vessel. It
will also be capable of fishing 76,800 hooks using a Mustad Autoline Super
Baiter simultaneously and will have a daily freezing capacity of 153,000 pounds
of headed and gutted product.
With a fuel capacity of approximately 136,000 gallons, its
propulsion will be powered by two Schottel Z-Drive rudder propellers of 1,000
kilowatts each and a 300-kilowatt Schottel tunnel thruster. The diesel
generating system will be provided by NC Power Systems of Seattle and consist
of four Caterpillar C32 gensets rated at 715 kilowatt each, one Caterpillar
C-18 genset rated at 425 kilowatts each, and one Caterpillar C9 genset rated at
238 kilowatts.
In Ketchikan, meanwhile, Alaska Ship and Drydock has been in
construction for the Alaska Longline Co.’s new factory longlinerArctic
 since March of 2012.
The vessel will be 136 feet in length, with a breadth of 41
feet, depth of 26 feet 3 inches, and draft of 15 feet. Freezer capacity for the Arctic
 will be 16,300 cubic feet.
Plans are to deliver the new vessel in May, said Doug Ward,
a spokesman for ASD, a Vigor Industrial company that is managing ASD under a
30-year operating agreement with the Alaska Industrial Development and Export
The Arctic Prowler, which will operate in
the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska, is a steel hulled vessel also designed by
Jensen Maritime Consultants. It will be the fourth vessel in Alaska Longline
Co.’s fishing fleet, featuring an auto-line, circle-hook baiting system and
state-of-the-art freezing system for Pacific cod, sable fish and turbot. It
will be the first vessel completed in ASD’s state-of-the-art 70,000 square foot
assembly hall, which can accommodate ships up to 250 feet, with a maximum
capacity of 500 feet.
The assembly hall has an adjacent five-story production
center designed to minimize material flow and maximize efficiency. Randy
Johnson, ASD’s vice-chairman, characterizes the project as a great example of
government and industry working together to create employment and investment
opportunity in Alaska.
“The partnership between ASD and AIDEA has allowed the
creation of a new and invigorated industry in Ketchikan,” Ted Leonard,
executive director of AIDEA, noted last August. “This true public/private
partnership has resulted in the development of a state-of-the-art facility that
has created and continues to create new jobs in the region and new
opportunities for the state.”
The next phase of improvements scheduled for the Ketchikan
Shipyard will include a $10 million steel fabrication shop to be completed late
this summer.