M/V Excellence Refit
Following a year-long refit, processor M/V Excellence boasts a new process line and deck layout
February 1, 2018
Premier Pacific Seafoods is well known as the marketing and management company for the 680-foot S/S Ocean Phoenix – the largest fish-processing vessel operating in the United States. It was built in 1964 as a cargo ship, refitted as a container carrier in 1972, and finally converted to a factory processor in the early 1990s in Portland and Seattle. That's a remarkable career, but the partners' second vessel, the 367-foot by 56-foot M/V Excellence also has an unusual history. It was originally built in Japan in 1973 as a factory trawler, the Tenyo Maru #5, was bought by American investors and re-flagged in 1990, then refitted to become an ABS-classed uninspected mothership processor.
The Excellence became the third-largest factory ship in the US, operating up to 8 months of the year processing pollock in the bering sea and hake off the coast of Washington and Oregon. The ship participates in four separate fisheries during the year with contract periods ranging from 30 to 90 days, depending on the fishery. The crew complement varies from 115 to 150, with about 2/3 working on the processing line. They can handle up to 600 tons per day, producing fillets or surimi, with a freezer-hold capacity of 1,700 metric tons of finished product.
The fish are supplied by a small fleet of 4 or 5 trawlers like the 104-foot Arctic Fury, the 118-foot Mark 1, and the 80-foot Miss Berdie, sponsoned in 2015 by Fred Wahl to increase hold size to 7,500 cubic feet (see Fishermen's News, October 2015). Like most of the ships that comprise the Pacific Northwest factory fleet, the Excellence has also received a number of upgrades in the last 25 years, during layovers at its base on Pier 90 in Seattle, including its latest upgrade of a brand new processing deck.
This latest project was not the typical short-term job: the planning had been ongoing since January of 2017 and the work had actually been underway since spring. According to naval architects at Glosten who were commissioned to engineer and manage the operation, it constituted a full mid-life refit.
"Short-term upgrades or repairs are always confined to a limited area and fitted into a very tight schedule between seasons, which can be very frustrating when you have a good team assembled," explained Joseph Bersch III, one of the partners in the Phoenix Processors Limited Partnership and general manager of the Excellence.
That was how they managed to replace the plate freezers in 2010, and manage some other upgrades, followed by a re-power in 2012 – a major effort that pushed the limits for a short-term project. Removing the original engine on any 40-year old vessel of this size is a considerable challenge, but the Excellence was launched with a Niigata 5,000 hp two-stroke direct-drive engine turning at 290 RPM with a controllable-pitch wheel that tipped the scales at around 100 tons and was practically an antique. This was a challenge, to say the least, and the partners turned to Industrial Resources Inc. (IRI) a contractor based in eastern Washington that specializes in fabricating and installing complex modular components for marine and industrial clients.
IRI created a plan of action with Hatton Marine, who were supplying a new 4,220 HP Tier 2 GE 12V250. This required extensive pre-fabrication: IRI began by building a solid pair of engine rails 3 feet tall, while Hatton assembled several skid-mounted support modules for the engine systems, including a cooling tower and a complete exhaust system. When the ship arrived, this expert team was ready to open the upper deck, remove part of the fish processing line on the main deck, then open an access to the engine room below. With a temporary roof overhead, the Niigata was quickly dis-connected and lifted out through two decks.
The new engine rails, modules, and a custom Lufkin reduction gear were lowered into the engine room and the rebuilding began immediately. With everyone working around the clock, the space was prepared to receive the GE – a modern medium-speed diesel that is not a lightweight, but weighed only 22 tons – less than one quarter of the weight of the Niigata! The work proceeded with the re-connection of systems for cooling water, lubricating oil, fuel delivery, compressor and air-starting system. The welders then replaced the main deck beams and plate, allowing work to begin to re-establish the process line, while the IRI team moved outdoors to replace the upper deck.
IRI also prefabricated a new 250-square-foot incinerator room in a container that was fitted permanently on the port quarter.
The new engine has proved a great success. "We were able to replace a 5,000 HP engine with a much more efficient 4,220 HP GE because we needed less power as a pure processor," explained Bill Lucas, then port engineer for Premier Pacific. "The ship travels faster – up to 14.5 knots – burns less oil, and makes far less noise," he added. In 2014, the same team cleaned off the starboard side deck and dropped in a new generator room with three Cummins 1044 kW QSK 38's with a C Command Elite+ control system. In addition, they installed a Haarslev Compact Fish Meal Plant from Denmark that was delivered pre-assembled with a capacity of 400 to 450 tons per day.
Fast-forward to 2016, when the partners embarked on the next stage of the ship's evolution. In part this was to create more floor space for the factory floor, then upgrade the entire processing line to increase productivity and quality. The expansion was accomplished by removing existing structures in the factory space and by covering the aft end of the trawl alley. This would require moving the four winches on the upper deck and the trawl winch on the main deck, and presented the opportunity to improve the layout and function of the port and starboard aft deck houses.
This could definitely not be effectively accomplished in stages, Bersch explained. To pull this off in a timely and cost-effective manner, the partners decided to lay the ship up entirely in 2017. They commissioned Glosten Naval Architects to engineer a complete overhaul and factory update for a "mid-life extension" on the Excellence. The scope included full design, engineering and stability work to extend the main deck, winch foundation renewal and placement, improving engine casing and access and tankage modifications, using a modular approach wherever possible.
The ship was in drydock for its 5-year ABS inspection in March, then moved to the Port of Bellingham, Washington where IRI dismantled the upper deck aft of the bridge, and removed the old trawl winch – another heavyweight piece of gear that had been redundant since the ship stopped trawling after it was re-flagged.
The reconstruction began with substantial new supports under all four of the new Gilson and cod end dumping winches and the new hawser winch.
Rapp Marine had been selected to supply seven electric winches, and the preparations to install them began with re-building the supports for the new upper-deck winch station, for the two GW-4000BE model Gilson winches with a 41 ton capacity, and two GW-4000BEC cod End winches with a pull of 25 tons. All four winches can hold more than 800 feet of 1-1/4-inch soft line.
The main hawser winch is a Rapp TWS-11040BE that does the bulk of the work in the fish transfer and handling operation, with a pulling capacity of 47 tons and spooling approximately 1,900 feet of 3-inch soft line hawser. This winch is powered by a pair of powerful electric motors for redundancy, via a Rapp multi-drive gearbox. On the stern, a smaller pair of GW-680E cargo winches can handle 5 tons of load, and hold more than 250 feet of 3/4-inch wire. Included in the delivery package with the winches is one central variable frequency drive cabinet that provides the power for smooth operation of the winches. Several different control options have been provided, including a wheelhouse control station as well as several wireless belly packs for operation on deck.
In the fall, the ship returned to its moorage at the end of Pier 90, Seattle for the makeover to continue. The surimi line was set up in the new extension, while the all the processing machinery was inspected by specialists from Kami Tech Inc, the Danish/American supplier of food processing equipment with a workshop on Pier 90. With around 20 employees in Seattle, Kami builds, overhauls and repairs all types of processing machinery and equipment. The new production line on the Excellence starts with a fish receiving area, an observer station, and an overhead manual control panel for the plant. They supplied all the new conveyors, a fish grader and sorting bins for five sizes. For surimi, Kami supplied six rotary screeners, thre high kneaders and twin screws (extruders) that fill the 10-kilo freezer pans. The block ejectors were also supplied by Kami. "This was an enormous and exciting project that demanded our best work for design, install, and test," said Claus Erland Eskildsen, president of Kami who came from Denmark to inspect the ship.
Jay Follman, of Industrial Resources Inc., estimated there were as many as 100 people working on the deck at the same time, including mechanics and welders, as well as fire watchers and hydraulic and compressed air specialists.
Hatton marine rebuilt the reduction gear, supplying and installing a new clutch, and commissioned an additional new Cummins generator set on the trawl deck level. The hydraulic parts were supplied by UK-based Redline Hydraulics and electrical work was performed by Sound Service Marine of Seattle who laid about five miles of wire.
"Our goal remains to process freshly caught groundfish into a quality product easily marketed around the world," said Joseph Bersch. "Now we have a state-of-the-art factory line that will allow us to achieve the maximum efficiency and quality, and will last for many years."