Aqua Nor

Nor­we­gian Gan­net could trans­form the salmon farm­ing sec­tor ‘if rea­son pre­vails’

Fish Farmer - - Contents -

Nor­we­gian Gan­net

THE Nor­we­gian Gan­net, the float­ing salmon pro­ces­sor, was de­signed to rev­o­lu­tionise the way fish are han­dled, processed and trans­ported, but in its first year of oper­a­tion the ves­sel has sailed into a po­lit­i­cal storm.

Carl-Erik Ar­ne­sen, CEO of Hav Line, which owns the ship, told a seminar in Trond­heim that it had at­tracted much at­ten­tion in its inau­gu­ral year, with some 720 sto­ries ap­pear­ing in the press, by his cal­cu­la­tion.

‘It’s a very spe­cial story,’ said Ar­ne­sen. ‘We’ve had close re­la­tions with the au­thor­i­ties and have all the li­cences in place, money from the Depart­ment of En­vi­ron­ment, the Depart­ment of Trans­port and a lot of sup­port from the last Min­is­ter of Fish­eries (Per Sand­berg).

‘Ev­ery­thing was fine and then, in late Au­gust last year, we got a new Min­is­ter of Fish­eries who turned it all round and with­drew the li­cence we had been given to op­er­ate fully.’

The ex­pla­na­tion is com­plex and af­fects Nor­way only.

The Nor­we­gian Gan­net, 10 years in the plan­ning, is the fu­ture of fish farm­ing, or cer­tainly a part of it, claim its pioneers.

It col­lects fish at the cage site, har­vests and pro­cesses it on board, and de­liv­ers it to port – Hirtshals in Den­mark – for pack­ag­ing and ex­port­ing to fi­nal des­ti­na­tions across the con­ti­nent and be­yond.

The ship has the ca­pac­ity for 1,000 tonnes of salmon and can han­dle up to 150,000 tonnes a year, more than 10 per cent of the cur­rent to­tal

Nor­we­gian salmon pro­duc­tion. Since its launch last year, the Nor­we­gian Gan­net has processed 14,000 tonnes of fish, from 13 dif­fer­ent fish farm­ers, at 21 lo­ca­tions, in­volv­ing 41 trips, in­clud­ing one to Scot­land (see next page).

It is en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly, with its hy­brid propul­sion cut­ting car­bon emis­sions, and has even won a men­tion in the Guin­ness Book of Records for the most en­ergy ef­fi­cient en­gine.

The Nor­we­gian Gan­net also has wel­fare ben­e­fits for the fish, said Ar­ne­sen. Nor­mally, well boats pump fish on board and then trans­port it to a pro­cess­ing plant – and in Nor­way this means also keep­ing the fish in ‘wait­ing cages’. Af­ter pro­cess­ing, the fish is trans­ported, 70 per cent by ferry to Europe and 30 per cent by air freight.

‘The Gan­net goes to the cage and does all this process in one han­dling of the fish, in­stead of three, so it is good for fish wel­fare, he said. ‘The big­gest disease risk in the in­dus­try is in the trans­port of live fish and we have solved that.’

What’s more, the han­dling of the fish is dif­fer­ent from a well boat, where farm­ers are ac­cus­tomed to load­ing fish on board as fast as pos­si­ble.

‘With the Nor­we­gian Gan­net, we har­vest as the fish come into the boat and the fish should be stressed as lit­tle as pos­si­ble, so the way they are crowded is very im­por­tant,’ said Ar­ne­sen.

‘We go to the farm a day or two be­fore the Gan­net ar­rives to talk to the farmer and ex­plain the pro­ce­dure. We teach them what will hap­pen and we’ve seen im­prov­ing re­sults from this on the qual­ity.’

He said the ves­sel is still in its start-up phase and will be fur­ther op­ti­mised, but al­ready, Nofima, the Nor­we­gian re­search or­gan­i­sa­tion, which is doc­u­ment­ing its re­sults, has found the Gan­net is a boost for an­i­mal wel­fare.

The boat can go from one cage to the next and then, once full, will de­liver to Den­mark, at a com­pet­i­tive cost, said Ar­ne­sen – ‘the more fish we get, the cheaper we can do it’.

But it is the Gan­net’s very ef­fi­ciency that has pro­voked a po­lit­i­cal back­lash. New fish­eries min­is­ter Har­ald T. Nesvik, at first ar­gu­ing that the ship would take pro­cess­ing jobs away from ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties, then used an out of date Nor­we­gian qual­ity reg­u­la­tion to halt its progress.

The rule, cre­ated in the 1980s, stip­u­lates that ‘pro­duc­tion’ fish (those with vis­i­ble de­fects) must be sorted and the faults cor­rected be­fore they are trans­ported out of Nor­way.

The think­ing at the time, sup­ported by farm­ers, was to pro­tect the rep­u­ta­tion of Nor­we­gian farmed salmon. How­ever, to­day the rule is seen as ob­so­lete but main­tained as an in­di­rect sub­sidy for Nor­we­gian land based pro­cess­ing.

Nesvik used the loop­hole to pre­vent the Nor­we­gian Gan­net ful­fill­ing its po­ten­tial, but fol­low­ing an out­cry in the in­dus­try, he is­sued a tem­po­rary ex­emp­tion for a year.

This al­lows grad­ing to be car­ried out in Den­mark, with pro­duc­tion fishtyp­i­cally, no more than five per cent of the catch- brought back to Nor­way for pro­cess­ing.

Ar­ne­sen said at the time, he was pleased that the min­is­ter of fish­eries ‘let rea­son pre­vail’, but he ad­mits now: ‘The Danes are laugh­ing, they think this is stupid.’

The waiver would not ap­ply to any new ves­sels, thus thwart­ing the com­pany’s plans to de­velop a fleet.

Ar­ne­sen and his col­leagues at Hav Line and at the ship’s de­signer Wart­sila are fight­ing Nesvik, whose mo­tives they have ques­tioned.

An editorial in the Au­gust is­sue of the Nor­we­gian ship­ping mag­a­zine, Skips Revyen, re­ferred to the min­is­ter’s for­mer em­ploy­ment in the well boat com­pany Solv­trans, and quoted other par­lia­men­tary rep­re­sen­ta­tives ac­cus­ing the gov­ern­ment of ‘hav­ing a hid­den agenda’ in the Nor­we­gian Gan­net case.

The Nor­we­gian Gan­net’s cre­ators are not about to give up on their dream though. Ove H. Wil­helm­sen, man­ag­ing direc­tor of the ship de­signer, Wart­sila, said the com­pany has al­ready de­signed a big­ger ves­sel, 10m longer and 3m wider than the Gan­net, to pro­vide full pro­cess­ing fa­cil­i­ties on board, and thus con­found Nesvik’s re­stric­tions.

In the big­ger ship, ev­ery­thing would be done on board, in­clud­ing filet­ing and pack­ing the fish, so there would be no re­quire­ment to send pro­duc­tion fish back to Nor­way to process.

‘It’s strange we need to build a ves­sel like this be­cause of one per­son,’ said WIl­helm­sen. ‘But the de­sign is ready. If some­one wants to op­er­ate this on the Nor­we­gian coast it’s fully pos­si­ble to do so.’

Wil­helm­sen is also chair­man of the mar­itime chap­ter of the Nor­we­gian Fed­er­a­tion of In­dus­tries and is lob­by­ing against Nesvik’s rul­ing.

‘We are very clear that the de­ci­sion made by the min­is­ter is against any in­dus­try – so we can use that pow­er­ful lobby to cam­paign. It’s on Prime Min­is­ter level now. It’s per­sonal mo­ti­va­tion, it should not hap­pen in a coun­try like Nor­way.

‘We would like to build more so we can de­velop the com­pany,’ he said, in­sist­ing that even a big fleet wouldn’t jeop­ar­dise land based pro­cess­ing.

‘If we were to do the whole Nor­we­gian salmon in­dus­try, in five years we would need 100 of these boats, and that’s not go­ing to hap­pen.

‘But there are many fac­to­ries in Nor­way that are now up to 40 years old that re­ally need renewing, and that’s big in­vest­ments.’

Ideally, they would build a new ship every two years- ‘it takes two years to build one and we

“Ev­ery­thing was fine and then we got a new min­is­ter of fish­eries who li­cence” with­drew the

Left: Ove H. Wil­helm­sen and Carl-Erik Ar­ne­sen in Trond­heim

(Nor­we­gian Gan­net pho­tos cour­tesy of Hav Line)

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