"Eco-Trawler" America's Finest Makes Long-awaited Debut

Fishermen’s News, March 1, 2019 –
By Peter Marsh –

Long before it made the headlines (see Jones Act Waiver below) in 2017, the 260-foot trawler/processor F/V America’s Finest for Fishermen’s Finest was already attracting plenty of attention from the bering sea fishing industry as the first factory trawler built in the Northwest specifically for the Amendment 80 fishery since the Starbound in 1989. Both boats were built by Dakota Creek Industries in Anacortes, but the newcomer had the benefit of 25 years of technological progress.

Beginning with the first announcement in 2014, Fishermen’s Finest owner and CEO Helena Park had described the project as an “eco-trawler.” She stated that the company’s goal was to utilize new technology to significantly reduce fuel cost and increase efficiency for catching and producing frozen white fish and groundfish products, while meeting the latest guidelines for environmental protection.

The company has been operating two catcher/processor vessels for the last 20 years. The 160-foot F/V American #1 was built by Marco Shipyard in Seattle in 1979 and christened by Senator Warren G. Magnuson, who proclaimed at the time, “This vessel marks the beginning of the end of foreign dominance in the US fisheries.” The 185-foot F/V US Intrepid, built by Bourg Shipyard in Louisiana, joined the fleet in 1997.

Norwegian Design

The planning for the America’s Finest began with the design: the ST-116XL from Skipsteknisk AS of Norway, the naval architects who have been setting the standard for large sophisticated fishing vessels for many years. Six boats of this class are operating around the world, and Dakota Creek was already building the 191-foot freezer longliner F/V Blue North, from the same designers, in 2015. The first Skipsteknisk design to fish in alaska was the F/V Araho, launched at Eastern Shipbuilding in Panama City, Florida for the O’Hara family in 2017.

For their new boat, Fishermen’s Finest had chosen the Norwegian company Det Norse Veritas (DNV) GL for classification with a hull notation of “+1A1, Ice 1B, including clean class.” One of the notable features of this Skipsteknisk design is the use of a molded hull shape, compared to the typical hard chine construction of most American fishing and workboats. The round-bilge underwater shape reduces the hull’s resistance, which provides a small reduction in fuel consumption.

Because Northwest yards like Dakota Creek rarely need to roll steel into complex shapes, they do not have the machinery to perform this work in-house. The architects suggested it would be cost-effective to have the steel certified by DNV in Norway in order to meet the classification rules, then formed by a sub-contractor in the Netherlands using a new cold- forming technology. Once in Washington, the bow and stern plates were sent to Seaport Steel in Seattle for a good deal more work involving cutting and bending.

In Anacortes, this plate was welded into the hull along the waterline, especially at the bow and stern. Elliot Bay Design Group provided production engineering services to allow all the rest of the steel to be CNC- cut locally. A heavily-weighted box keel design keeps the center of gravity low, and an anti-roll tank is included to provide more stability in a seaway when the crew are processing the catch.

Fishermen’s Finest has built a reputation as a pioneer in the use of technology in the North Pacific and bering sea head-and-gut fishery since 1967, so the company again specified the best available machinery and gear. In addition, there was a focus on reducing the vessel’s carbon footprint via reduced consumption and emissions. Much of the equipment came from Europe, from the 6,000-hp/4,800 kW, Tier II MAN diesel engine from Germany to the electric deck machinery supplied by Ibercisa of Spain. The design also included modern accommodations and services for 49 crew with a dedicated hospital unit.

MAN Propulsion Package

The Tier 2 propulsion system for America’s Finest was engineered with a specific focus on reduction of the carbon footprint via reduced consumption and emissions. MAN Diesel & Turbo was selected to supply a complete propulsion package consisting of state-of-the-art main engine, gearbox, propeller, nozzle and propulsion control system. The MAN 8L32/44CR engine represents the newest technologies in the area of medium-speed industrial diesel engines like the use of an electronic injection, high efficiency turbochargers, electronic hardware and variable valve timing.

The 32/44 medium-speed engine platform is based on a standard individual cylinder head (Bore: 320 mm – Stroke: 440 mm) providing 600 kW of power with versions from 6 to 20 cylinders available. These are manufactured at MAN’s Augsburg works, and have been installed in many large fishing vessels. America’s Finest is powered by the eight-cylinder version, producing 4,800 kW (6,43-hp) at 750 RPM for a speed of 15 knots. It is matched with MAN’s Alphatronic 3000 Propulsion Control System. This is the first use in a US-flagged vessel.

Robert Burger, managing director MAN Diesel & Turbo, USA, said that it has MAN’s proprietary common-rail technology that delivers best-in-class fuel efficiency accompanied by low emissions, with a leading specific fuel oil consumption that significantly lowers emissions of soot and NOx. The dry weight is 49.5 tons. The complete propulsion package consists of a MAN reduction gear that turns a MAN Alpha 4-blade Controllable Pitch propeller type VBS 940 Mk 5 with a diameter of 12.5 feet (3,800 mm) mounted in an AHT high-thrust nozzle. An offset PTO on the gear box runs a 2,900 kW alternator mounted above the driveshaft. The vessel is also equipped with a high-lift rudder to ensure reliable steering when trawling.

America’s Finest is fully rigged for single and double trawls for pelagic and bottom fish by Ibercisa Deck Machinery. The winches are all electric and incorporate power regeneration. Ibercisa offers a range of trawl, Gilson and sweepline winches for trawlers, in sizes from 10 to 150 tons pull with an overload range. “This machinery is undoubtedly an important new departure for fishing vessels towards electrical drive,” says Ramon Carreira, Ibercisa’s general manager.

He considers the trend toward electric gear on fishing vessels a great technological advance compared to hydraulics. Electric power improves operational performance, with less power demand. The lower weight, and elimination of pipes and fluids reduces installation costs. Other advantages are simpler connections and reduced noise levels. Ibercisa is based in Vigo in north west Spain – the largest fishing port in Europe and the home port of the world’s largest fishing company, Pescanova.

Palfinger Marine supplied three marine cranes. The mid-ship and aft deck cranes are both Palfinger Marine PKM750-16M knuckle boom cranes – capacity is 5 tons at all radius (16m maximum reach). The bow crane is a Palfinger Marine PSM200-8M stiff boom crane – capacity is 2.5 tons at all radius (8m maximum reach). They all have an integrated electro-hydraulic power pack.

The ship’s generator supplies 480V/3Ph/60Hz to each crane’s electric motor located inside the pedestal. The electric motor is connected to the hydraulic pump inside the slewing column through a cardan shaft. The pump get its oil from an oil tank inside the slewing column and feeds hydraulic pressure and flow to the main control valve, located on the control station positioned on the side of the crane. The operator can manually control the crane from the control platform, or can connect to the crane with a belly pack for remote control anywhere on deck.

Additionally, there are oil heaters inside the oil tank to pre-heat the oil in extremely low temperatures. An oil cooler is mounted on the side of the crane to maintain peak performance during continuous operations, typically in harbor while offloading from the freezer hold, said Brian Jacob, Palfinger’s business development manager.

Norway-based processing equipment manufacturer Optimar supplied the automated freezer/factory system for America’s Finest to produce frozen-at-sea groundfish products. The company has more than 40-years of experience providing equipment to the commercial fishing industry around the world. “The America’s Finest has been equipped with our latest technology to make the vessel extremely efficient, to be able to produce the best quality product, and to be a very safe workplace for the crew,” said Frank Flem, president of Optimar US in Seattle.

On the main deck, there are arrangements for high-capacity processing and automatic freezing lines comprising graders, heading machines, plate freezers, palletizing systems, conveyors and elevators. The goal in the process deck lay-out, as well as the selection of equipment for transport and handling, has been to obtain a system with the largest amount of automation, assisting the employees working in the processing area. “This layout is designed to achieve high and gentle throughput with minimum labor, all in a clean and safe work area. We aim to provide customers with the best possible solution, from harvest to finished product,” Flem explained.

Traceability and documentation are vital aspects of today’s modern food processing industry. The ship will use a Marel Innova digital platform that provides complete insight into processing operations. It is constantly monitoring and logging all the data needed to make intelligent decisions to optimize the ship’s production activity where every minute counts. Designed to improve productivity and reduce cycle-time, Innova offers a range of modules for managing and monitoring food production.

Another Norwegian manufacturer with a Seattle office, Teknotherm Marine, was chosen to supply the cargo refrigeration plant. The complete system they designed and delivered consists of several units starting with an RSW plant for pre-cooling of catch. An ammonia pump circulation system driven by three screw compressor units and horizontal plate freezers allow the catch to be frozen efficiently in a short period of time. The freezer plant for the holds uses sturdy gill-finned tube air-coolers mounted below the deckhead for natural air circulation with reduced energy consumption and a better working environment. The company says this ensures even temperature throughout the hold without ducting, electric installation or moving parts. Advantages are less dehydration of unwrapped products, the ability to use halocarbon, ammonia or brine systems and simplified installation.

A complete steam boiler plant was delivered by Parat, another Norwegian supplier with an international network. The MCS unit has a combined exhaust gas and oil-fired boiler. This two-in-one system is less expensive to install than two separate boilers, and was designed and engineered to extract maximum heat from the diesel engine’s exhaust. (Capacity 3.5 t/h exhaust gas, 5 t/h oil fired.) This is the vertical type with smoke tubes through the boiler and is approved by all classification societies to run the vessel’s fishmeal and fish oil plants. The system is fully automatic and operates with electronic controllers and electric/pneumatic actuators.

Simrad supplied most of the hydro-acoustic and a suite of fish location and analysis equipment that uses the latest technical improvements. The sonar is an SN90 – 70-120kHz FM (CHIRP) sounder with MRU-3 Motion reference unit and hoist. The high resolution and long range allows crews to detect and investigate single fish and schools — including those close to the bottom — from a distance of several hundred yards.

The echosounders are ES80 – (38kHz, 70kHz, 120kHz and 200kHz) Splitbeam with FM (CHIRP) modules. They feature the latest innovations in signal-processing technology are used to create a sophisticated, but also intuitive interface. The trawl is monitored by an FX80-675kHz trawl sonar, 200kHz down sounder, providing real-time video from inside the net via a “third wire” cable.

This equipment has the ability to locate fish well in advance of the vessel (SN90), track and analyze the fish to determine size and species (ES80) and then allow the precise trawl placement to catch the right fish—or avoid it as bycatch if it is a restricted species. “There was significant interaction between Simrad and Fishermen’s Finest to assure that the equipment is right for the application and we are very much looking forward to this vessel’s success,” said Michael Hillers of Simrad Fisheries. The company is based in Norway and is a part of Kongsberg Maritime AS.

America’s Finest Specifications

  • Length Overall: 79.8m (261.81 ft)
  • Beam: 15.4m (50.5 ft)
  • Draft: 5.6m (18.4 ft)
  • Depth main deck midship: 6.15 m
  • Depth trawl deck midship: 9.10 m
  • Depth 1st deck midships: 11.70 m
  • Depth 2nd deck midships: 14.3 m
  • Designer: Skipsteknisk AS (ST-116XL)
  • Builder: Dakota Creek Industries (US flagged)
  • Class: DNV GL rules for fishing vessels including clean class, hull notation +1A1, Ice 1B.
  • Area Fished: North Pacific Gulf of alaska, Chukchi Sea and bering sea.
  • Permit: Amendment 80 replacement vessel – designed to operate within the bering sea and Aleutian Islands (BSAI) Fishery Management Plan which allocates several bering sea and Aleutian Islands (BSAI) non-pollock trawl groundfish species among trawl fishery sectors. (inside the U.S. EEZ)

Jones Act Waiver

Dakota Creek was granted a Jones Act waiver by Congress that allowed it to deliver the $75 million America’s Finest which had been stranded at the yard because too much foreign-made steel was used in its construction. Some of the steel used in the construction of the vessel was formed outside of the US, putting the vessel in violation of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, more commonly known as the Jones Act, which requires that vessels moving cargo between US ports be US built, flagged and crewed.