Ibercisa at work on the fishing grounds

Ibercisa at work on the fishing grounds Ibercisa supplied the full package of winches for America’s Finest, including three trawl winches. Photo: Ibercisa

Earlier this year three technicians from Ibercisa Deck Machinery went to sea with America’s Finest to optimise and adjust the trawl winches supplied to the new trawler owned by Fishermen’s Finest. 

“This is more than just commissioning,”, said Javier Díaz Vizcaya, one of the engineer in Ibercisa’s Technology & Solutions department. He is one the Skipper’s Mates, the company’s team of specialists in a role set up by the company to assist skippers and crews in getting the maximum benefit from the systems the company supplies – in this case a set of electrical winches with energy regeneration capacity.

Ibercisa sent a team of three around the world to Alaska to join America’s Finest in Alaska. Javier Díaz, Víctor Carpintero and Óscar Piñeiro to spend time on board the 79.80 metre trawler built at Dakota Creek Industries in Anacortes WA for Fishermen’s Finest. America’s Finest is based in Dutch Harbor, the main US port for fresh fish that handles 353,000 tonnes of fish worth $474 million in 2015.

“Our task consisted of assisting the skipper and the crew. We carried out training, made the necessary adjustments – and we saw the work that the ship does,” Javier Díaz explained, adding that initially this was done over two days during sea trials, followed up with remote support. This was in turn followed by Ibercisa’s staff spending time on board during fishing operations over several trips, aiming to achieve maximum efficiency while fishing for yellowtail and Alaska pollock.

According to Javier Díaz, the trawler’s skipper had asked for the Ibercisa team to spend time on board America’s Finest.

“He preferred it like that, he felt safer. For him the equipment supplied by Ibercisa was totally new, because he was accustomed to older and less sophisticated winches, the same as the crew,” he explained.

“The skipper felt more comfortable having somebody to respond to any operational questions, so that the maintenance crew, the engine room team and others knew exactly what they had to do to avoid problems during fishing.”

The visit to Alaska was just one of the many trips that Ibercisa’s engineers make around the world, to the Falklands, Namibia, the North Sea, Russia or the NAFO zone – but the trip to Alaska was much more of an extended stay than they are used to. He explained that once on board they live ad work alongside the crew, always in the wheelhouse with the skipper while the trawler is fishing. Most of the activity was during the skipper’s twelve-hour shift in charge, but they were always on call for the chief officers at other times.

“Although every fishing vessel seems the same, each has its own way of operating. The crew has its way of working and we try to adapt our equipment to their style,” Javier Díaz said, commenting that in this case the adaptation was straightforward as the crew of America’s Finest made the transition from working with conventional hydraulic to the new electric winch system – and this presented no serious problems.

“The crew is very well trained. On other boats things can be different, but it always works out in the end,” he said, adding that adapting to a new technology is a question of time, and of matching the technology’s potential to the skills and experience of the skipper. He commented that there was a clear difference between the first and second visits to America’s Finest.

“The winches were in full use and catches were improving,” he said, comparing the second trip to the first few weeks. “When we left, the winches were working at their optimum level, and they haven’t stopped fishing since we left the ship.”

Taking service further

Javier Díaz and his colleagues see this kind of service as becoming increasingly important as technology becomes more sophisticated and efficient.

“Ultimately, it’s about control,” he said. “Learning to manage new technology is essential. You can have all of the technology in the world on board But if you don’t know how to use it, you won’t achieve anything,” he said.

At the same time, being able to work with the winches under operational conditions also presents the Ibercisa engineers with learning opportunities.

“It’s positive to spend time on board, so we can make practical use of what we have seen. It’s fundamental for us to really know the operation and how the skipper works, so that we know how to make the adjustments and what kind of problems can occur,” he explained. It is also essential in case the owner orders a new set of winches for another vessel, as part of the work has been done already – but not all of it.

“Even between two vessels from the same company, there would definitely be configuration differences,” he said. “Every skipper has his personal way of doing things.”

Full package

Ibercisa delivered a full package of equipment for the Skipsteknisk-designed America’s Finest, built to an ST-116XL design at Dakota Creek Industries. This included the trawl winches and autotrawl control system, as well as net drums, sweepline winches, gilsons, codend winches, netsounder winches, a number of auxiliary winches and the anchor and mooring winches.

America’s Finest became the most controversial fishing vessel in the US fleet when its delivery held up for more than a year after an infringement of the US Jones Act came to light, as a larger proportion of the steel in the hull construction than allowable had been used. The situation was resolved after a lengthy legal process and an exemption granted by the US senate.

America’s Finest has attracted attention in Dutch Harbor, partly due to the tortuous process leading up to delivery, but also because this is the most modern vessel in the fleet, leading the way in terms of sustainability and efficiency – which includes the electric winches supplied by Ibercisa.

“It’s big news in the area because the fleet here is very old. The industry has been waiting for this,” Javier Díaz said.

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