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‘This was definitely a miracle’

‘This project goes back to when HB Grandi’s CEO Vilhjálmur Vilhjálmsson invited me to a meeting when they had decided to build three new trawlers in Turkey. He said that the decision had been taken that these new vessels would not be built on the basis of old technology and the technical sophistication and working practices on board needed to be raised to a new level,’ said Ingólfur Árnason, CEO of Skaginn 3X when we spoke to him about the development process that started five years ago and ended last week when Viðey was delivered by Skaginn 3X. Like Engey and Akurey, Viðey is fitted out with a fully automated fishroom system and a highly sophisticated catch handling deck developed by Skaginn 3X.

HB Grandi’s ideas had included the unmanned fishroom concept, while among the main aims of the project were to improve conditions for the crew and reduce the accident risk on board.

‘Vilhjálmur asked if it could be done and if we would be prepared to work on developing the unmanned fishroom. I have to admit that I shook my head and to start with I felt that it couldn’t be done. On the other hand, what I found exciting was the fact that Vilhjálmur and HB Grandi were looking at building a ship around a system. For us as a technical systems supplier, we have always had to work from the standpoint of placing our equipment into a pre-defined space with all of the limitations that are part of that,’ Ingólfur said.

New approach

What kick-started this new approach to catch handling on board a fishing vessel was the refit that was carried out on board Málmey. Skaginn 3X took on the challenge for Fisk Seafood in Sauðárkrókur to develop and build a catch handling deck for the trawler, based on cooling with SUB-CHILLING™ technology.

‘I have to admit that the idea of an unmanned fishroom wasn’t on the agenda when Vilhjálmur came to me. He said that staff at HB Grandi had developed ideas and worked on an outline concept of what such a system might look like. The result was that we started the development process that ended with a fantastic and unique system,’ Ingólfur said, commenting that five years on, Skaginn 3X has installed equipment in five Icelandic fishing vessels and the development processing is coming to an end.

As an idea of the process that the fish pass through, once the codends have been emptied into the holding pounds, fish are only handled once when they are bled and gutted, and in all other respects the process is automatic. Fish are sorted automatically by size and species, and placed in 320 kg. Alongside the batching process, the fish are bled. After having been bled for a set period of time, the batch is transferred to a rotary washer where the bleeding ends and the cooling process begins with water at -1°C. After around 45 minutes of being chilled at -1°C, the fish are moved on to the next stage where they are supercooled at -4°C for five minutes. This brings the temperature of the fish down to -1°C and the batches then go on conveyors to the upper level of the fishroom where each batch goes into a tub that is then transferred automatically to the fishroom. The fishroom temperature is -1°C to maintain the ideal temperature for the fish throughout the trip. Once the trawler docks, around 200 tonnes of fish can be discharged using an automated process in around four hours.

‘The conclusions regarding the quality of the fish is that it is firmer and whiter, and it is better for processing, plus that working conditions for the crew are much improved,’ Ingólfur said that this exemplary co-operative venture is what Skaginn 3X is currently particularly proud of.

A technical marvel

‘A development project on this scale could not have been carried out without active co-operation between the company and the crews of the vessels. To my mind, this is the largest development project that has taken place in the Icelandic seafood industry. My opinion is that ice-less cooling and the unmanned fishroom are close to being a miracle, a unique technical marvel,’ Ingólfur said, emphasising that the co-operation between all concerned is the key to success.

‘I want to mention the staff at HB Grandi and Fisk Seafood, the crews of all the vessels, and the research organisations and funds that supported this. We made good use of the support of research bodies Ice Protein and Matís, as well as receiving subsidies from the Icelandic Research Fund and AVS. A great many of Skaginn 3X’s staff were also involved in the project, some of them in very narrow and specialised aspects of it. The project has also benefitted from the Rannís tax mitigation arrangement, and we are grateful for all of this,’ Ingólfur Árnason concluded.