Taiwan - from fishing boats to yachts
Poorer deep-sea stocks, reports David Hayes, have meant marine and freshwater aquaculture has grown, creating a new market for fishery equipment. There are more than 50 companies in this business today and many small firms act as subcontractors to larger companies. Some companies producing deck equipment and fittings for fishing boats also produce equipment for other boats, for example, while producers of fishermen's tools and fish handling equipment often supply similar equipment to other industries.
One trend has been the transfer of production to China and some other lower-cost production centres in Southeast Asia. While most Taiwanese fishery equipment producers have opened factories in China, their head offices stay in Taiwan handling product design and sales.
Taiwan is a major manufacturer of electronic and telecommunications equipment and so it has become an important exporter of radio buoys attached to long lines and purse seine nets. However, though local boat builders still import electronic navigating and other hi-tech equipment from Europe and Japan.
The decline in the inshore fisheries catch has also encouraged aquaculture, though disease has caused many prawn farmers to move to Thailand. Live eel exports to Japan are a large item, while tilapia are produced and exported as frozen fillets to the United States.
Fish tank frames and plastic sheeting, plastic housing, pumps, aerators, piping and other equipment is now produced, including tools, knives and other items for servicing fishing equipment, and handling and processing the fishing catch.
Taiwan also has a long history as a builder of fishing boats and other vessels. One legacy is the large number of deck machinery and fishing net companies in business in Taiwan supplying local boatyards and fishing companies, as well as exporting worldwide.
"Taiwan is a very important fishing boat builder of vessels from 200 gross tonnes to more than 2,000t. Our yards build quickly and cheaply," according to Lu Chung-Yung, deputy director of R&D at United Ship Design & Development Centre in Tamshiu near Taipei in northern Taiwan, "The yards build for local and foreign shipowners. But the market has reduced because of overfishing and there are not so many orders. So the yards have changed to building other ships such as patrol vessels, tug boats and small cargo ships."
Jong Shyn and Chien Fu are Taiwan's two largest ship yards, building steel-hulled fishing vessels, while four other yards build fibreglass, reinforced plastic hull fishing boats.
"Before there were many fishing boat yards -- but not now because of overfishing," Lu said. "Fishing companies today can only build replacement boats."
United Ship Design & Development Centre is a private, non-profit organisation. The centre previously had a larger involvement in assisting shipyards with fishing-boat design, but is now mainly involved in designing merchant marine and military ships along with ocean research and fishery research vessels.
"We have three functions," Lu explained, "Ship design; technical consultancy services such as inspections, mainly for shipowners; and our third function is R&D. We do government-funded projects for fishing, yachts and merchant shipping."
Most of the fishing vessels which the centre has designed have been purse seiners and long liners. Recent projects include the design of a 2,200 gross purse seiner built by Jong Shyn of Kaohsiung, which owns a fleet of purse seiners and long liners; also squid jigger vessels that fish in Argentinean waters.
"The company built the vessel for itself and wanted to sell the same design to another customer," Lu said. "This vessel is a US-type purse seiner. We used US Fast Ship software for half form design, and flow dynamics to analyse and optimise the half form."
Another local company that has used the centre's design services is Funz San Industry Co of Kaohsiung, a major fishery equipment manufacturer that supplies fishing boat stabiliser fins, fishing line haulers, hydraulic trawling winches, sea anchor winches, hoists, power packs and fish pumps for purse seiners. Other equipment supplied includes capstans, fish water separators, fish size sorters and side rollers for hauling fishing nets.
"Funz San's fin stabilizer is our product. They commercialised it," Lu said. "So far there have been nine fishing boat orders for this stabiliser for vessels ranging from 500t to 3,000t. All have been for local fishing boat owners."
Funz San recently asked United Ship Design to design a large fish pump after the company developed an eight-inch diameter pump which fishing boat owners found could not be used with large fish. The company has sold about 100 pumps to local and overseas customers.
Fish farmers use pumps to transfer live fish from one tank to another without having to catch to fish. "We developed a 12-inch diameter fish pump. The original pump was eight inches in diameter and could only pump slim fish. With the 12-inch pump, fish up to 8kg can be pumped alive," Lu said. "We expect a working prototype will be complete this year as Funz San has orders from some fishing-boat owners and fish farms which want to use the pumps for stock selection and control.
We developed some improvements for them like the pump blade as it operates at a slow speed and can pump the fish alive."
Meanwhile, fishing boat builders in Taiwan are using their skills to build yachts and other boats now that business is mainly maintenance and building replacement fishing boats for customers.
"The look of a fishing vessel is not important but for a yacht things is different. Taiwan is No. 5 in the world for yacht building. There are many yacht builders in Kaohsiung. Some have converted from building fishing boats to build yachts."