New Gear for the Season
With the advent of new fabric technologies and continuous improvement in breathability and waterproofing, suppliers of commercial fishing products continue to push the technology envelope to ensure that the crew on deck are as comfortable and safe as possible on the job.
Grundéns USA, based in Poulsbo, Washington recently introduced the new Balder PVC Jacket and Bibs, and the response from fishermen has been very positive, according to Mike Jackson, President. "We believe that today's fishermen are athletes who happen to perform on the decks of boats."
Balder's new features include heavy-duty PVC material specially developed for oil resistance and cold weather properties. An important advance in PVC design, this material keeps its flexibility in sub-freezing temperatures, improving comfort and allowing for freedom of movement in cold Northern fisheries.
Balder jackets and bibs also feature a poly/cotton twill backing with a special water-repellent treatment and rip-stop technology for improved wearing comfort and durability in real working conditions. Balder garments are also made with a new cut that enhances mobility while improving the "mechanical ventilation" that occurs when fishermen move around on deck.
The new PVC products like Balder compliment stalwarts like the tried-and-true Grundéns' Brigg Jacket and Herkules trouser. "While PVC will always be important and can't be beat for protection in extreme conditions, the trend toward lightweight breathable waterproof gear and layering continues to grow," says Jackson. "Our Gage Weather Watch continues to be popular, because it's lightweight, comfortable, and very tough. Having a lightweight breathable jacket like Weather Watch along with traditional PVC allows fishermen to dress for the situation, finding the best combination of comfort and protection as conditions change."
Jackson adds that lightweight breathable gear often goes hand-in-hand with layering garments like the new Gage Nightwatch Puffy Jacket, an ultra-light jacket designed to be worn underneath raingear for protection against wind and cold. The Nightwatch Puffy is tailored with quilted pockets of soft, water-resistant insulation, providing warmth without added weight.
"The Nightwatch is also a great all-around outer jacket you can wear off the boat anytime you need a little warmth," he says. The new Gage Fogbow Hoodie is another great example of a new garment designed specifically to help fishermen stay dry and warm by layering. "There's no doubt that the needs and preferences of fishermen are changing, and our product line will continue to evolve to keep pace."
Bill Combs, Founder and CEO of Portland-based Bogs Footwear says the patterns for Bogs boots products haven't changed but the internal components have. Bogs is already using their signature DuraFresh organic anti-microbial product which is a non-toxic, natural way of fighting odor.
Naturally occurring microbes found in nature literally eat the wearer's sweat, producing enzymes that control odors before they start, resulting in a harmless combination of CO2 and water. Once the sweat is eaten away, the microbes no longer have a food source, thereby eliminating any odor-causing bacteria. "Commercial fishermen spend a long time in their boots, so it's a big problem because additionally, the fungus decomposes the insides of the boots, so this solves both the odor and decomposing issues," he says.
A new development in boot cushioning will be introduced in the fall of 2015. Rebound is made out of synthetic rubber, which doesn't break down. This creates a responsive cushion that absorbs impact and rebounds with every step, reducing stress on the wearer's feet. "This gives fishermen the feeling of being athletic on the job," says Combs.
The Classic Ultra High is still one of Bogs' most popular boots, with its DuraFresh anti-microbial odor protection insole and four-way stretch inner bootie that has 7 mm of waterproof Neo-Tech insulation as well as a non-slip/chemical resistant outsole that help keep food processing workers safe. And the Highliner boot launched last year, with its chemical and slip-resistant abilities along with DuraFresh protection and a dual-density, contoured EVA insole, is also a top seller.
Combs says Bogs and the footwear and clothing industries in general are still searching for the ultimate solution to moisture management. "It's the key ingredient to keeping people comfortable at work and at play."
Seattle-based LFS, Inc. offers a wide range of clothing for commercial fishermen, including Grundéns and Guy Cotten product lines. "The PVC bibs are the most popular," says Sam Fikse, Sales. "We offer all different thicknesses. It depends on what a fisherman wants; how much mobility is needed in the gear and that determines what we recommend."
"The Hercules 16 from Grundéns is a good standard," he continues. "It's a thick-weight PVC and has been really good gear since we started carrying it. The thicker weight, Brigg 40 or Brigg 44, heavy PVC are also popular; the Brigg 40 is an open cuff design and the Brigg 44 has a built-in neoprene cuff." Additionally, Fikse recommends Grundéns Gage Weather Watch, which can be bought in quantities as fishermen often go through more than one coat on a trip.
In the boot department, LFS carries the Xtratuf line, which Fikse says is sold in the thousands; the most popular being the regular and insulated plain toe. The industry-standard Atlas 620 liquid-proof PVC gloves with textured palms work well on wet and dry surfaces. Other clothing lines include Bellingham Gloves, Filson thermal wear, jackets and bibs, a wide selection of hoodies, sweatshirts, safety clothing and more.
Noise abatement and reducing vibration can make life aboard a commercial fishing vessel more tolerable. "Reduced noise and vibration means less stress on board, easier to be productive when things are quiet," says Bob Allen, Owner of Seattle-based MER Equipment, a long-time supplier of custom generator and propulsion systems for the Alaskan fishing industry. "Our exhaust silencing and anti-vibration products are applicable to either the generators or the main propulsion engines. We also build generators to supply power for refrigeration and deck gear."
MER Equipment custom-builds Isuzu, Kubota, Cummins, John Deere and Yanmar Marine Generators and Propulsion Systems. In fact, the entire MER Equipment product line has been re-branded as BOLLARD Engines & Generators, which encapsulates the lasting brand promise/company mission to design and build products with the intention to minimize the cost of installation and ownership.
There is a wide selection of BOLLARD marine generators from 8 kW to 600 kW. The 8kW custom genset, for instance, offers a seamless transition from Tier 2 to Tier 4 by maintaining the same footprint and hard mounting points with slight performance changes from the Tier 2 engine. Crank-center mounted vibration isolators and a high mass flywheel keep noise and vibration to a minimum – a significant feature that runs throughout the genset product line, which are also EPA and CARB Certified, EU and MOC Certified. Additionally, the BOLLARD gensets have a long working life, with expected overhaul times between 20 to 50 thousand hours.
MER has also expanded their line of propulsion engines, which now range from 78 to 750 HP. And MER provides equipment for re-powers. Recently, the F/V Kariel, owned by Steve Fish, a long-time Alaskan fisherman, was repowered with a 425-HP John Deere main engine and a MER MG65-KS1 65 kW Genset that brought new life to the 66-foot by 20-foot, 30-year-old Ed Monk longliner design.
"Most new boats over 40 feet are all electric, so the generator has to be running for the galley, the lighting and heat," Allen adds. "Being on a boat is pretty quiet now. Previously, you were wearing head phones, ear plugs, or losing your hearing altogether."
On the satellite communications front, Rhode Island-based KVH Industries, Inc. offers a robust product line of satellite antenna systems for maritime use called the TracPhone V-IP series. "The biggest maritime satellite communications trend we are seeing is the ever-increasing demand for connectivity and content onboard, with the latter being the particularly new trend. There are parallels to what is happening on land with people more and more attached to devices for entertainment, news, movies, sports events and more," says Jill Connors, media and communications manager.
Access to email to stay in touch with friends and family, also for the bridge for remote monitoring of engine equipment, reporting daily catch totals for fishermen, having real-time data to plan more fuel-efficient voyaging, etc. is important. KVH's satellite communications solution is the mini-VSAT Broadband network.
KVH's TracPhone V-IP series of satellite antenna systems are the onboard terminals that are designed exclusively for use with the mini-VSAT Broadband network. The TracPhone V3-IP, for instance, is known as the world's smallest maritime VSAT satellite antenna system at 39cm. It offers fast download speeds, reliable Internet and email and optimized voice communications.
Additionally, earlier this year, KVH launched their unique IP-MobileCast content delivery service which can send real-time news and entertainment to vessels with lightning speed using multicast technology. Crewmembers can download the content their vessel has subscribed to right to their individual devices or a group can watch on the ship's flat screen TVs. A number of commercial fishing vessels in the Pacific Northwest are currently beta-testing this service.
Lighting aboard a commercial fishing vessel is important for crew comfort but it is critical for crew safety. While the industry has typically relied on bulb-based lighting such as high-pressure sodium and halogen lights, the trend of switching to LED lighting is starting to pick up speed.
"When a bulb burns out, the crew has to replace it and spares have to be kept on board," says Joe Williams, Owner and CEO of Seattle-based Elmore Electric, which provides custom control panels for automation and control as well as troubleshooting, repair and overhaul of shipboard electrical systems. "Depending on the weather conditions, even at the dock, if it's raining, a mast, for instance, can be a slippery place which is a safety concern. By shifting to LED lights, the crew doesn't have to replace lights as often since LED lights last 50-100,000 hours."
For instance, a 58-foot limit Seiner may have 20 or 30 bulb-based lights but a 350-foot processor will have many more, including fluorescent lights. These lights must be disposed of according to regulations. Replacing those with LED tubes becomes more cost and time-effective, according to Williams.
Higher-end LED lights also provide the ability for users to engineer how the light lands on a particular area, rather than when using a halogen or high-pressure sodium light or lower-end LED light which sprays light out in the shape of the fixture. Additionally, the color of light is as important as the amount.
"Your eye is built to see a particular spectrum of light. It doesn't include ultraviolet or infrared, for example," explains Williams. "LED light output falls more inside the spectrum that the human eye can see. And LED lights allow you to pick and choose the color to tailor the light installation to what's most needed."
When asked how the industry is adapting to making the switch, Williams says although some fishermen are getting on board with the concept, education about the topic is sorely needed. For their part, Elmore Electric provides their customers with education and a plan that moves them from the bulb-based lights to LED lights.
The company has also developed an ROI calculator that can quickly determine the cost of replacing a particular type of light, taking into consideration the size of a customer's generator, the load they have, how many hours they run it and what fuel costs are based on the load rate on the generator.
The ROI calculator then crunches the numbers to show how much customers will save on operating costs. The final number is then measured against the investment in the new lights to see what the return on investment is. "We also talk to customers about crew safety, productivity and maintenance," adds Williams. "It boils down to obtaining the right amount of light and the right color of light in working areas so crew can do their jobs effectively and safely."