Navy Ship Embarks on New Career in Fishing Fleet

By Hal Bernton, Seattle Times, June 2, 2016 —

The Seafreeze America, formerly the Navy vessel John McDonnell, was converted by U.S. Seafoods to fulfill a new role in its fleet working in the Bering Sea, Aleutian Islands and the Gulf of Alaska. (Mike Siegel/The Seattle Times)

The fishing vessel Alliance, docked on Lake Union, is being replaced by the Seafreeze America. (Mike Siegel/The Seattle Times)

Seafreeze America’s $30 million conversion is the latest investment in the local fleet of catcher processors that work off Alaska.

Seattle’s fishing industry on Thursday feted the latest addition to the fleet, a 233-foot former Navy oceanographic vessel overhauled at a cost of more than $30 million for a new line of work — catching and processing fish off Alaska.

The Lake Union ceremony drew several hundred people to watch the traditional breaking of a Champagne bottle across the bow of the former John McDonnell, newly christened as the Seafreeze America.

Later this month, the ship will head north to harvest yellowfin sole and other species in the Bering Sea.

In a Seattle increasingly swept up in a tech boom, the SeaFreeze Amercia offers a reminder of the vitality of an older and still potent Puget Sound industry.

“My whole thing is that it’s important for Seattle to maintain a diverse infrastructure,” said Matt Doherty, president of United States Seafoods, which owns SeaFreeze America. “Everyone is not a computer programmer.”

The SeaFreeze America was overhauled in Seattle with the assistance of a wide range of maritime vendors.

United States Seafoods employs some 450 people with a fleet of nine vessels that will be fishing this summer. Some 50 to 70 will crew on the SeaFreeze America.

The ship will work in what is known as the Puget Sound-based “head and gut” fleet, a group of vessels that use trawl nets to scoop fish off the sea bottom, and then process them on board. Much of the harvest is sent to China, where it is reprocessed and then sent to markets in Europe, North America and elsewhere.

Over the decades, the head and gut fleet has aged, and maritime tragedies — including the 2008 sinking of the Alaska Ranger that claimed 5 lives — raised safety concerns. Meanwhile, federal regulatory restrictions effectively prevented any new replacement vessels.

Those restrictions have been lifted, and several companies in the fleet are now investing in new vessels, said Chris Woodley, executive director of the Groundfish Forum, an industry trade association.

Under the harvest system now in place, United States Seafoods won’t be able to catch more fish by operating the Seafreeze America.

But for crews who labor for days on end in often-rough seas, the Seafreeze America will offer a safer platform than the much smaller vessel it will largely replace. And the state-of-the-art processing operations will enable the company to turn out more high-value products and reduce discards.

“It allows us to maximize the use of the fish that we are already are catching,” Doherty said.

The F/V Ocean Peace is Modernize and Upgraded

By Peter Marsh,, June 1, 2016

A Deflector high-lift rudder was fitted to the 219-foot F/V Ocean Peace, which required the rudder to be certified by DNV. Photo by Peter Marsh.

The new Ocean Peace has an automated plate-freezing system from FM Automation that has a capacity of approximately 65 metric tons per day. Photo by Peter Marsh.

The original Norwegian Bergen KRMB 9-cylinder 2,600-HP diesel is an extremely durable model that is still cranking away at a steady 825 rpm. Photo by Peter Marsh.

The F/V Ocean Peace, a 219-foot factory trawler owned by Ocean Peace Inc., was lifted out at Lake Union Dry Dock in Seattle in December for the installation of a Deflector high-lift rudder, replacement of the controllable-pitch propeller blades, and a re-positioned transducer chest. Numerous upgrades were also completed in the engine room, on the processing deck, and in the galley.

The work is part of the owner’s continuing effort to improve the efficiency and safety of its fleet of two catcher-processors and one trawler, the 98-foot F/V Green Hope, previously refurbished and fitted with a Deflector (DMR) rudder in the Northlake Shipyard in 2014. The Green Hope was built by Master Marine, Bayou La Batre, Alabama in 1979. Past work had included sponsoning and lengthening at Tippet Marine, also in Seattle.

The great improvement in the Green Hope’s handling convinced the company to order a larger version of the rudder for the Ocean Peace, which also had difficulty turning around when on the tow.

Steve Becker, who is now the port engineer for the Ocean Peace fleet, had been discussing the advantages of the Deflector Rudder for some time with the designer and builder Lowell Stambaugh. “When the decision was made to rebuild the Green Hope, I again reached out to Lowell about the new project, which included installing a new C32 Cat engine, a custom Hundestaad CPP system with reduction gear and a new Kort nozzle,” he explained. “The new defector rudder was a great choice for that vessel. After seeing how it performed, we made the decision to install one on the Ocean Peace.”

This is just the latest of many changes in the boat’s 30-year history. It was built in Escatawpa, Mississippi by Moss Point Marine in 1984 as the Amfish – one of the first modern catcher/processors in the US. It was the largest fishing vessel of its type on the East Coast, setting a new standard for catching and freezing squid. It was powered by a Norwegian Bergen KRMB 9-cylinder 2,600-HP diesel – an extremely durable model that is still cranking away at a steady 825 rpm.

US Marine Corporation incorporated Ocean Peace Inc. in December 1990 and purchased the Amfish in Alaska in February 1991 after it had been idle for two years. It was delivered to Puget Sound for a seven-month re-fit at Tippet Marine in Seattle, where it was reconfigured for the head-and-gut fishery in the Bering Sea. A modern processing deck was designed and installed by Flohr Metal Fabricators with a complete refrigeration system from Sabroe Refrigeration of Seattle with eight Jackstone plate freezers.

The Ocean Peace began fishing in the North Pacific in August, 1991, based in Dutch Harbor, so has now logged 25 years under the same owner. The vessel has been regularly upgraded with more modern technology, and 2007 saw a completely new on-board factory installed at Port of Seattle Pier 91. The new plant has an automated plate-freezing system from FM Automation that has a capacity of approximately 65 metric tons per day.

The Ocean Peace underwent its biggest modification over the winter of 2011-2012, performed by US Fab at Vigor’s Portland Shipyard, working to plans from naval architects Jensen Maritime under the supervision of Becker as the vessel’s chief engineer and also project manager. A new fuller bow section with bulb and thruster was designed with approval by classification society DNV, then CNC cut and pre-fabricated before the boat was drydocked.

The hull was transferred onto a heavy-lift trailer in the drydock, and transported onshore where the old bow was cut away. The hull was sponsoned by seven feet per side, increasing the beam from 34 to 50 feet, and the processing deck was expanded into the sponsons, where new piping and systems were run. This resulted in the cargo hold increasing to almost 39,000 cubic feet – an increase of approximately 55 percent. Fuel tankage was also increased by more than 50 percent to 126,000 gallons.

The deck area and operational stability increased significantly while measured tonnage rose from 1,144 to 1,557 gross tons (US) while loadline draft was reduced slightly to 15.5 feet. There was also a major renovation to the factory deck to enable it to produce over 100 tons a day of finished product, with improved amenities for the crew.

George Vojkovich had joined the ship in 2012 and as chief engineer has been fully involved with all the smaller overhauls and upgrades that have continued every winter, “We always have mountains of work every winter,” he assured me. “The main engine and propulsion system from Norway are original equipment, but the manufacturers are now part of much bigger international companies,” he explained. “Fortunately, parts are still available because Bergen is now part of the Rolls Royce organization, along with MTU and Detroit Diesel.”

Their northwest agent, Pacific Power Group in Kent, Washington had just performed a complete “in-frame” overhaul that included replacing all the individual cylinder heads and installing new fuel lines and injectors. George pointed out an unusual feature behind the Bergen that is also original: the generator that is mounted above the propeller shaft and is driven at 1,800 rpm by a huge PTO at the top of the Volda reduction gear. (Volda is also a Norwegian company and was founded over 100 years ago. It was acquired by Scana Industries in 1998.) That electric output is dedicated to the eight electric motors on deck that run all the hydraulics for the Brattvaag and Norwinch trawl winches.

Power for all the ship’s needs below decks is supplied by a Caterpillar 3508 main gen-set backed up by a pair of Caterpillar 3406’s, which are all due for overhauls and upgrades in the near future, when the main switch board will be replaced with the latest technology. The new galley from 2014 that serves a crew of 56 was given a brand new walk-in freezer/cooler and its compressor-evaporator has been overhauled. Also, there is a new ORCA III physico-chemical sewage treatment plant in place to handle both black and grey water. This plant operates on a continuous basis and is fully automatic in normal operation.

From all the projects this winter, George said he was most impressed by the new plate freezer control panel by FM Automation, which replaces a half dozen bulky switchboxes. Other items checked off the to-do list included full overhauls of the four Grasso Unisab II compressors in the Highland Refrigeration system at the forward end of the engine room.

Aft of the bulbous bow installed in 2012 is a spot where the new transducers have been installed, placed to avoid the disturbed water that has interfered with the images on the previous fish finders. Below the waterline, evidence of the sponsoning is hard to recognize except for a double line of welding along the sponson joint. At the stern, the propeller shaft and CP hub had been re-furbished at the yard’s machine shop and four new propeller blades with a different profile had been selected to reduce cavitation. (This upgrade didn’t work out during trials and the decision was taken to re-install the old blades for another season.)

However, Becker reported to Stambaugh that the Green Hope’s steering has been dramatically improved with the new rudder and it now handles “like a sports car.” It should quickly pay for itself with the increase in fishing time and efficiency, and reduced fuel consumption, he reckoned. The rudder was designed and built by Lowell Stambaugh’s Deflector Marine Rudder in Naselle, in SW Washington to fit this application. It has a hydrofoil cross section, an area of 72 square feet, and is engineered to meet DNV rules by Gisli Olafsson P.E. at Kraftmar Design Services of Seattle.

The rudder’s high-lift action derives from the articulating flap on the trailing edge that is activated by a simple and very strong 4.5″ diameter stainless steel fixed pin on the counter aft of the rudder shaft that rotates the flap via a slotted arm on the rudder head. A second arm works in the same way on the bottom of the rudder, with the pin fastened to the extended shoe – a steel bar 12 inches wide and 3 inches thick. It was built with a notch to closely match the shape of the propeller hub.

Stambaugh has 40 years of experience in boat building and marine engineering. He began building high-lift rudders more than a decade ago and soon attracted the attention of small trawler operators, who were spending valuable fishing time trying to turn the boat while trawling. In the last two years, he has supplied big rudders to several well-known Bering Sea trawlers from 80 feet to more than 200 feet long, and all the operators have reported very positive effects with far tighter turns and easier, faster maneuvering in all situations. (Lowell still manages to fish Bristol Bay and the Aleutians every summer, as he has for 50 years.)

Summing up all the recent work done on the Ocean Peace, Steve Becker explained that when he was originally employed as the senior chief engineer by the company he was given a concept drawing of the “new” Ocean Peace. “I was given the go-ahead to start the planning process a short time later,” he said. “After close to two years of planning, we ended up getting final approval for the project, which has been completed in several stages. The propeller upgrade and the new Deflector rudder were the last two items on the list. We did a horsepower increase on the Bergen engine before the sponson project in anticipation of the increase in vessel size and the new rudder design was also a part of it to correct for the added width of the vessel.”

Ocean Peace Inc.’s second catcher-processor is the 230-foot by 40-foot Seafisher, purchased in December, 2011. It was originally built as an offshore supply vessel, the M/V Savage, in 1976 by Halter Marine Services, Inc., at Moss Point, Mississippi. In 1990, it was converted into a catcher/processor by Tohoku Dock Tekko in Shiogama, Japan and renamed Seafisher.

The Ocean Peace fleet provides a variety of premium wild-caught Alaskan whitefish under Amendment 80, certified by the Marine Stewardship Council as long-term sustainable.

Fishermen’s Finest CEO Helena Park Made Disciplined Bold Investment in $80 Million Factory Trawler

By Melissa Crowe, SEAFOODNEWS.COM [Puget Sound Business Journal], April 1, 2016 —

In 2014, Helena Park put a deposit on an $80 million factory trawler.

The move for the owner and CEO of Kirkland-based Fishermen’s Finest was a bold one.

The fishing company makes its money catching, processing and exporting fish to Japan and China.

But Fishermen’s Finest is facing a major challenge. Fisheries regulations not related to Park’s core product line limit how much fish her company can catch, which limits how much she can sell, and ultimately how much money the company can earn.

Despite the challenges, the company’s two boats were able to catch $64 million worth of fish last year.

Some might say Park has been lucky.

“Luck only comes to those who are prepared,” Park said.

Now, Fishermen’s Finest estimates when the new boat begins operations it will bring in $40 million a year for the next 40 years, an impact of $1.6 billion.

“It took 30 years of financial discipline to put a deposit on this expensive boat,” Park said. “I poured just about all the (company) earnings back into it.”

At 260 feet, America’s Finest is one of only two new vessels to join Alaska’s trawler fleet in 30 years, and it will have the smallest carbon-footprint of any trawler in the Bering Sea.

Park knows how to bide her time and when to buy a bigger boat.

Korean-born Park joined Fishermen’s Finest in 1986 as a changing marketplace opened up an opportunity to export groundfish to Asia.

“I didn’t know how to fish, per se, but I knew how to sell it,” Park said.

Park seized on the opportunity. The company that got its start fishing for King and tanner crab and then had a stint in pollock, found its new niche with a collection of groundfish that are staples in Asia.

Then a problem emerged: halibut. When you catch groundfish, you also catch halibut.

Although tasty on their own, companies like Fishermen’s Finest cannot legally sell halibut. Federal regulations also limit how much halibut they can scoop up along with the groundfish. It’s in the company’s best interest to catch as few halibut as possible.

Fishermen’s Finest redesigned its nets and added camera technology to reduce the amount of halibut swept up in them.

Still, the regulations mean when the company’s two boats reach their limit of halibut, the company has — by default — caught all of yellowfin sole, arrowtooth flounder, rock sole, Alaska plaice and dusky it can catch for the season. That limits the amount of fish it can sell.

Park and her team are strategizing ways to make those challenges pay off. They plan to reduce the number of fishing trips and spend fewer days at sea — about 140 days versus 180 annually. By being more efficient, using new technology and putting that $80 million new factory trawler into service, the company has potential to boost revenue.

Park wants to spearhead the replacement of what she calls the “rust buckets” of the fleet.

“I feel like my work has just begun,” Park, now 60, said. “I can have an impact beyond my crew, my company and my industry.”


  • You have to fight if there are problems. Present your case and stand up for yourself.
  • Everything has to be a win-win, and everyone should make money.
  • Reinvest in your infrastructure to grow, and that will impact everything else.
  • Believe in the work your people do. Give them the platform to do the best job they can. Ideas should come from the bottom up, not the top down.