New delousing barges a step forward

New delousing barges a step forward for aquaculture The Hydrolicer fish delousing system installed on Salar uses seawater under pressure to gently dislodge sea lice. Image: Neptune Marine

The growing aquaculture sector is facing a range of environmental and operational challenges. In order to ensure an efficient and sustainable industry, on-the-water solutions for fish farms are now drawing increasing attention, reports Bonnie Waycott.

Neptune Marine, a Dutch maritime service provider and specialised supplier of marine solutions, has been building, repairing, mobilising and chartering vessels since its establishment in 1972. So far, its main markets have been the offshore and civil construction industry.

Now its services expand to other industries including aquaculture, with the development of a range of support vessels including de-lousing barges and multi-purpose workboats. With clients mainly in Norway, Scotland and Canada, and additional customers in Europe, Africa and Australia, Neptune Marine's key aim is to minimise environmental impact and offer operational excellence and reliability to aquaculture operators.

Parasitic sea lice are known to significantly disrupt salmon farms, resulting in serious problems for aquaculture. In order to remove lice from fish, various treatments are available, from mechanical methods to biocontrols.

But Neptune Marine's answer to lice infestation is delousing barges. The company recently built a 31 metre barge, Salar, at its yard at Aalst in the Netherlands for Canadian salmon farming company Cermaq Canada, which will use the barge at fish farms along the Canadian west coast.

Scheduled for delivery in July 2019, the non-self propelled vessel will be equipped with a PGHF fish pump and a 100% environmentally friendly Hydrolicer fish delousing system (four treatment lines) from Norwegian firm Hydrolicer Productions.
The system uses no chemicals and can handle 40 tonnes of fish per hour per treatment line.

Power for Salar comes from the MAN D2862LE328 engines with Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) systems, complying with the IMO TIER III emission requirement to minimise environmental impact and meet the highest environmental standards. The engines each generate 700kWm at 1800rpm drive the delousing system pumps and provide power for other areas including accommodation facilities.

"Aquaculture companies are battling sea lice issues, which are threatening production facilities," said Paul Kriesels of Neptune Marine.
"Those firms are looking for integrated and efficient solutions to combat this disease by using delousing systems that can be installed on marine equipment."

The Hydrolicer fish delousing system installed on Salar uses seawater under pressure to gently dislodge sea lice. This is done through the creation of water turbulence, which makes the lice lose their grip on the surface of the fish. Lifting lice rather than flushing them away is considered a more gentle way of delousing.

Salar also contains a non-mechanical pump system, which moves live fish without harm or trauma. The amount of time to complete a delousing operation depends on the number of treatment lines, size of cages and number of cages to treat at a particular location, but a four-line system will handle a 500-tonne cage in around 3.5 hours, not including rigging time.

"Salmon spend most of their growth period in the open sea and are exposed to parasites like sea lice," said Øyvind Nymark of Hydrolicer Productions.
"Sea lice are a natural part of the ecosystem and a common problem for fish farmers. Fish famers also have clear governmental requirements on acceptable levels and will use various methods to prevent and keep the sea lice away from the fish. However, when these levels are met or overstepped, which they will at some point, treatments are needed."

"With our delousing system, the fish are pumped through the Hydrolicer and the lice are removed gently. The fish are then sent back to sea to continue their growth, free of lice. The treatment is done in less than a minute. All transport water is filtered, and sea lice are collected on the barge and destroyed."

Salar also contains accommodation quarters for staff and a grader, which will grade fish into two sizes immediately after delousing and deliver them back to different pens and directly to wellboats.

"Our barges are specifically designed for readiness and the purpose of immediate response if there is a dramatic increase in sea lice," Paul Kriesels said.

"They can also be used as a tool to keep lice levels low. Our latest delivery, Salar, can also expand from a four-line to six-line system."

Salar comes hot on the heels of Hydroflow, Neptune Marine's 2017 delousing barge that was built for the Norwegian market and also contains equipment from Hydrolicer Productions. With four treatment lines and the capacity to treat around 200 tonnes of fish per hour, Hydroflow was delivered in October 2017 and is based on a basic pontoon design with a new type of fish pump that was designed without moving parts and is capable of handling an average weight of 6kg. Hydroflow also uses cold seawater that is considered gentler and less stressful for the fish, resulting in more effective delousing and optimal fish welfare. The filtration system was also upgraded to a filter with two large, heavy-duty stainless steel drums.

"Our systems are well-recognised and are proven efficient tools in the fight to gain control of the sea lice problem," said Øyvind Nymark.

"The main reason for this is that they maintain the most important aspect of handling live fish, which is optimal fish welfare. More than 120 lines have been delivered to countries including Norway, Scotland, Ireland, the Faroe Islands and Canada."

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