Fishermen's News - The Advocate for the Commercial Fisherman

By Chris Philips
Managing Editor 

Keep Cool


March 1, 2018

This three-ton electric system from IMS would be a good fit for a Bristol Bay boat that might not have the ability to pack enough ice to chill a full hold. Photo courtesy of IMS.

Improving the quality of harvested fish has been a priority for groups in Bristol Bay, and the most effective way to achieve this quality improvement has been found to be refrigeration.

At least one Bristol Bay processor, Icicle Seafoods, has told fishermen that they will no longer buy non-iced fish after phasing in quality requirements over several years. Other processors are expected to follow suit.

To that end, local municipalities and trade groups are offering incentives to fishermen to upgrade their equipment.

In June of last year, the Bristol Bay Borough Assembly voted in favor of enacting an incentive for those who haven't yet upgraded.

The Bristol Bay Borough is offering a tax credit to fishermen in the Naknek-Kvichak District who install a chilling system by the end of next year. Participants will be eligible for a $1,500 rebate from the three percent raw fish tax paid in the Borough's waters.

Effective from January 1 of 2017 until the end of 2018, fisherman with proof of purchase of an RSW system will get a one-time rebate of $1,500 from their fish tax. Meanwhile, the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation (BBEDC) is offering a limited number of free RSW systems to qualified residents.

The BBEDC is offering "a limited number of Refrigerated Sea Water (RSW) chillers to BBEDC CDQ resident commercial salmon fishermen who own boats adequate to install, operate and maintain the equipment, and who can demonstrate they can afford the installation."

Applicants must meet a range or criteria, including the ability to pay someone to install the system in their boat. More information can be found at

Small RSW Systems

Bristol Bay is hot now- says Kurt Ness, with IMS/Wescold, thanks to the mandating of refrigerated seawater systems (RSW) for the vessels delivering fish to large processors. "There has been what you might call a culture shift, or buy-in," he says.

In response, his company has developed smaller units for the smaller boats.

"We're selling a lot of our small electric RSW units to the Bay, particularly the smaller boats that might not pack as much, not have the capacity to run the RSW hydraulically off the main engine, or the space to install a Diesel Drive RSW." Ness says there has been a new emphasis on quality in the Bay, which led his company to develop a line of "smaller" units that complement the larger systems for the market.

"We track the sales after the close of the season," he says. "On August first the new year starts for us, and we start tracking our sales. When fisheries are healthy we do well- there are years we've sold 35 units, or 70."

Ness says last year they sold 105 units in the Bay. "This year we've done 85 units to date, and we're forecasting in the 140- to 150-unit range for the year."

The jump this year shows momentum building for the refrigeration systems, and shows the push from the processors for a higher quality product, he says.

"Their market demands a quality product, so they are asking (or requiring) their fleet to emphasize quality."

Ness says many of the sales are for new installations, new builds or fishermen new to RSW, which shows the increased emphasis on quality by investing in RSW. "About 15 percent of the sales for this fleet are for vessels replacing aging units, replacing a lesser brand, and so on." IMS is seeing customers proactively purchasing units to have as a spare, which Ness says really shows how important RSW has become and how important the RSW bonus is. "The return on investment can literally be one season, so it's obviously a wise investment that's increasing the entire value of the Bristol Bay brand," he says.

With more refrigerated boats comes a need for tenders and plants with reliable refrigeration. Along with the RSW development, Ness notes that IMS has been working with local boroughs in the Bay, supplying large containerized ice machines for fishermen in the Bay fleet. "These new machines aren't operational yet, but we should have two going in the Bay for 2018 and another for 2019," he says.

"Bristol Bay is probably a good quarter of our business," Ness says. "We provide a lot of equipment to the seine fleet and tenders, as well as supplying pollock and cod trawl boats." The company also sends "a smattering" of equipment to the East Coast, and provides parts and service to processing plants.

Refrigeration Application

Having the equipment isn't enough, though, if you don't know how to use it properly. Port Townsend, Washington-based Marine Refrigeration Solutions offers a professional vocational-technical class designed to promote knowledge of RSW, brine, and blast freezers to owners, engineers, and crew of commercial fishing vessels.

This course isn't intended for technical training, but rather designed to increase the knowledge and skill of the operator and help prepare him to communicate effectively with refrigeration technicians, should the need arise.

The class uses verbal lectures with visual aids including PowerPoint presentations and a workbook, and offers hands-on application of an instructional RSW unit.

Larger Refrigeration Plants

Lars Matthiesen, with Highland Refrigeration, has completed a CO2 refrigeration system for a Global Seas vessel, and he says he is getting inquiries for similar systems. The new system will use a titanium condenser chiller and 100 lbs. of CO2 to refrigerate the hold of the Global Seas boat.

"The system is ready to go," he says, "It's in the shop here, but the boat is out fishing, so we'll install it when the boat has some time in April."

Marine Refrigeration Solutions offers a professional class designed to promote knowledge of refrigeration systems to owners, engineers, and crew of commercial fishing vessels. Photo courtesy of Marine Refrigeration Solutions.

In spite of the recent interest in CO2, Matthiesen says a well-designed ammonia system is a good solution for most users. "As long as a system is designed correctly, a plate freezer doesn't matter at -40 degrees if it's ammonia or CO2 or some other refrigerant."

The company is also performing a conversion on the vessel Alaska Spirit.

The vessel was built in 1974 as a tuna long line vessel, and converted to a factory trawler in the 1990's.

"We're converting to a more modern system, adding freezers and new coils in the cargo hold," Matthiesen says. The company is also adding four screw compressors. "We're replacing the old, maintenance-demanding piston compressors," Matthiesen says, "which also saves room." The added space in the vessel will allow for a larger generator.

Highland is also in the process of converting the Westward Wind to a tender for Silver Bay Seafoods. The boat, originally a crabber, is undergoing conversion in Seattle. "We've been selling a lot of chillers this year," Matthiesen says. Silver Bay have been buying our products for several years."


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