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Helga María back to sea as a fresher trawler

Last Saturday was a milestone for HB Grandi’s trawler Helga María which then sailed for its first trip as a fresher trawler. Previously named Haraldur Kristjánsson HF, Helga María and sister vessel Sjóli HF were  the first freezer trawlers to be built for the Icelandic fleet and they arrived 25 years ago.

The decision was taken at the beginning of last year to convert Helga María to operate as a fresher. HB Grandi’s management decided to put more emphasis on on-shore processing of its groundfish and to reduce frozen at sea production. A shipyard in Gdansk was contracted to handle the conversion and the work at the yard was finished in November. Helga María was back in Reykjavík at the end of November and then Icelandic contractors took over to complete refitting the catch handling deck.

According to skipper Eiríkur Ragnarsson, who has been on board since the ship arrived new in 1989, initially as chief mate and relief skipper and as the regular skipper since 1995, they were able to sail from Reykjavík at 6 pm on Saturday.

‘All the tests ashore were completed and now it’s time to try it all out at sea,’ he said, adding that this first trip with be a shakedown trip and there will be seventeen crew plus four technicians on board, while the usual crew will be fifteen. He told us that the forecast for the next few days doesn’t look good, so conditions will be demanding for the ship, and probably will push the technicians to their limits as well.

Helga María’s catch handling deck has been fitted out with a sophisticated handling system designed to ensure top quality. The fish are bled and gutted as soon as they arrive on the catch handling deck, before going to a bleeding tank and then to a chilling tank where the temperature is brought down to 0°C, which can take around 40 minutes. This is a double system with a throughput capacity of approximately 16 tonnes per hour. After chilling, the fish are graded into four size brackets and then packed into tubs in the fishroom and iced with slurry ice.