Keep Cool – Fishermen’s News Looks At Chilling Your Catch

March 9th, 2018

The March issue of Fishermen’s News features an in-depth article on the future of cooling your catch, reprinted here with permission from the publication. For a downloadable PDF of this article go here.

March 1, 2018

This three-ton electric system from IMS would be a good fit for a Bristol Bay boat that might not have the ability to pack enough ice to chill a full hold. Photo courtesy of IMS.

IMPROVING THE QUALITY OF HARVESTED FISH has been a priority for groups in Bristol Bay, and the most effective way to achieve this quality improvement has been found to be refrigeration.

At least one Bristol Bay processor, Icicle Seafoods, has told fishermen that they will no longer buy non-iced fish after phasing in quality requirements over several years. Other processors are expected to follow suit.

To that end, local municipalities and trade groups are offering incentives to fishermen to upgrade their equipment.

In June of last year, the Bristol Bay Borough Assembly voted in favor of enacting an incentive for those who haven’t yet upgraded.

The Bristol Bay Borough is offering a tax credit to fishermen in the Naknek-Kvichak District who install a chilling system by the end of next year. Participants will be eligible for a $1,500 rebate from the three percent raw fish tax paid in the Borough’s waters.

Effective from January 1 of 2017 until the end of 2018, fisherman with proof of purchase of an RSW system will get a one-time rebate of $1,500 from their fish tax. Meanwhile, the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation (BBEDC) is offering a limited number of free RSW systems to qualified residents.

The BBEDC is offering “a limited number of Refrigerated Sea Water (RSW) chillers to BBEDC CDQ resident commercial salmon fishermen who own boats adequate to install, operate and maintain the equipment, and who can demonstrate they can afford the installation.”

Applicants must meet a range or criteria, including the ability to pay someone to install the system in their boat. More information can be found at

Small RSW Systems

Bristol Bay is hot now – says Kurt Ness, with IMS/Wescold, thanks to the mandating of refrigerated seawater systems (RSW) for the vessels delivering fish to large processors. “There has been what you might call a culture shift, or buy-in,” he says.

In response, his company has developed smaller units for the smaller boats.

“We’re selling a lot of our small electric RSW units to the Bay, particularly the smaller boats that might not pack as much, not have the capacity to run the RSW hydraulically off the main engine, or the space to install a Diesel Drive RSW.” Ness says there has been a new emphasis on quality in the Bay, which led his company to develop a line of “smaller” units that complement the larger systems for the market.

“We track the sales after the close of the season,” he says. “On August first the new year starts for us, and we start tracking our sales. When fisheries are healthy we do well – there are years we’ve sold 35 units, or 70.”

Ness says last year they sold 105 units in the Bay. “This year we’ve done 85 units to date, and we’re forecasting in the 140- to 150-unit range for the year.”

The jump this year shows momentum building for the refrigeration systems, and shows the push from the processors for a higher quality product, he says.

“Their market demands a quality product, so they are asking (or requiring) their fleet to emphasize quality.”

Ness says many of the sales are for new installations, new builds or fishermen new to RSW, which shows the increased emphasis on quality by investing in RSW. “About 15 percent of the sales for this fleet are for vessels replacing aging units, replacing a lesser brand, and so on.” IMS is seeing customers proactively purchasing units to have as a spare, which Ness says really shows how important RSW has become and how important the RSW bonus is. “The return on investment can literally be one season, so it’s obviously a wise investment that’s increasing the entire value of the Bristol Bay brand,” he says.

With more refrigerated boats comes a need for tenders and plants with reliable refrigeration. Along with the RSW development, Ness notes that IMS has been working with local boroughs in the Bay, supplying large containerized ice machines for fishermen in the Bay fleet. “These new machines aren’t operational yet, but we should have two going in the Bay for 2018 and another for 2019,” he says.

“Bristol Bay is probably a good quarter of our business,” Ness says. “We provide a lot of equipment to the seine fleet and tenders, as well as supplying pollock and cod trawl boats.” The company also sends “a smattering” of equipment to the East Coast, and provides parts and service to processing plants.

Marine Refrigeration Solutions offers a professional class designed to promote knowledge of refrigeration systems to owners, engineers, and crew of commercial fishing vessels. Photo courtesy of Marine Refrigeration Solutions.

Refrigeration Application

Having the equipment isn’t enough, though, if you don’t know how to use it properly. Port Townsend, Washington-based Marine Refrigeration Solutions offers a professional vocational-technical class designed to promote knowledge of RSW, brine, and blast freezers to owners, engineers, and crew of commercial fishing vessels.

This course isn’t intended for technical training, but rather designed to increase the knowledge and skill of the operator and help prepare him to communicate effectively with refrigeration technicians, should the need arise.

The class uses verbal lectures with visual aids including PowerPoint presentations and a workbook, and offers hands-on application of an instructional RSW unit.

Larger Refrigeration Plants

Lars Matthiesen, with Highland Refrigeration, has completed a CO2 refrigeration system for a Global Seas vessel, and he says he is getting inquiries for similar systems. The new system will use a titanium condenser chiller and 100 lbs. of CO2 to refrigerate the hold of the Global Seas boat.

“The system is ready to go,” he says, “It’s in the shop here, but the boat is out fishing, so we’ll install it when the boat has some time in April.”

In spite of the recent interest in CO2, Matthiesen says a well-designed ammonia system is a good solution for most users. “As long as a system is designed correctly, a plate freezer doesn’t matter at -40 degrees if it’s ammonia or CO2 or some other refrigerant.”

The company is also performing a conversion on the vessel Alaska Spirit.

The vessel was built in 1974 as a tuna long line vessel, and converted to a factory trawler in the 1990’s.

“We’re converting to a more modern system, adding freezers and new coils in the cargo hold,” Matthiesen says. The company is also adding four screw compressors. “We’re replacing the old, maintenance-demanding piston compressors,” Matthiesen says, “which also saves room.” The added space in the vessel will allow for a larger generator.

Highland is also in the process of converting the Westward Wind to a tender for Silver Bay Seafoods. The boat, originally a crabber, is undergoing conversion in Seattle. “We’ve been selling a lot of chillers this year,” Matthiesen says. Silver Bay have been buying our products for several years.”

From Happy Customers

The 15-ton diesel-drive RSW that I bought from IMS paid for itself in the first year. The unit chills down fast. I have a 30,000 lbs. fish hold and the system brought it down 6 degrees an hour. I'm really satisfied with the both the unit and the service from IMS. But I've never had much of a problem - the unit pretty much runs itself!”

"Eddie" Pestrikoff, Owner, F/V Melina

After looking at the albacore in the hold, I was amazed at how good the color was - bright blue. The IMS Hatch Mount Blast Freezer is a slick piece of equipment. It works great. The buyer's inspector stated that the blast frozen fish in my hold were the finest fish he had seen all year.”

Tony Jones, F/V Dreamboat Annie

The 18-ton electric RSW from IMS has performed flawlessly for the past three years. There's been no maintenance; I've just changed out the zincs and it has a good screening system. The unit brings temperatures down fast, with more than enough refrigeration for the 55,000 lb. hold. I am very pleased!”

Mark Edens, Owner, F/V Lady Kay

IMS's chiller is such a quality system. I congratulate myself every summer for making the investment. You should be justifiably proud of the system you have designed and the company you have built. It is a pleasure doing business with you!”

Ross Kendall, Set Net Site

When we ordered the IMS 50-ton deck mount unit, we were under the gun ... It was amazing ... we had plenty of time to learn it, run it and test it. Without IMS, we would not have made our charter.”

Cathy Hansen, manager, F/V McKinley

With a premium paid for refrigerated fish, I recouped my investment within the first year. Ever since then, it's just been money in my pocket.”

Joe Hinton, F/V Menusa

'Never bought fish this cold,' stated the Japanese broker when purchasing -40 degree F blast frozen albacore from the F/V Evolution. John equipped his tanked vessel with an IMS Hatch Mount Blast Freezer for easy seasonal conversion to the albacore fishery. When buying John's albacore, the Japanese broker said he was not used to buying fish that cold from this coast. He ordered a special trailer to hold them since they were so cold. Referring to his new blast freezer, John said, 'IMS is great. When you get good equipment, then you have what it takes to meet market demand.'"

Jon McMillan, Owner & Skipper, F/V Evolution

I like the IMS unit because it's so compact and I installed it myself. I do not believe anybody chills water down as fast as I can...”

Jerry Hatton, F/V Primo Lai

I've only got good things to say about the IMS RSW system I use for brine-freezing albacore. It's compact enough to fit on my boat and I remove it at the end of the season. I turn it on and turn it off ... that's all I do. It's easy to operate, does all that IMS said it would and more! There's enough to worry about with catching fish... don't need to worry about freezin' 'em!”

Kris Samuelson, F/V Dos Ninas

Switching to all-RSW allowed us to produce higher quality fish and access new markets not available to fish that haven't been chilled at point of harvest. The single-most important thing the fisherman can do to maintain quality of the fish is to chill at the point of harvest.”

John Lowrance, Owner, Leader Creek Fisheries

IMS equipment has allowed me to deliver top product at a premium price. I have a re-newed outlook on the Louisiana Gulf fishing industry.”

Lance Nacio, Owner, F/V Anna Marie

Joe Wabey chose a 60-ton IMS RSW system. "The system worked like a dream, it's been flawless. Made our summer great. High praise for IMS and their equipment.”

Joe Wabey, Owner, F/V Arctic Eagle

I am lovin' my IMS unit. It's going on eight years now and there's been nothing to do but change belts and impellers. I fish when and where I want and am not tied to a tender. My friends have bought IMS units and they're happy too. It has only taken a few fishing season's to pay for itself and now I'm enjoying the extra money it generates for me.”

Mark Hofstad, F/V Norsemen

The core temperatures on the filets were consistent. From a production standpoint, the FastFreeze did everything I needed. Met our freezing needs and produced a high-quality product.”

Mike Briski, Production Manager, Peter Pan Seafoods Port Moller Plant

IMS refer systems have a proven history. I've used them before - they're 'Plug and Play'. They've all worked good. Nothing I've had to worry about.”

Ray Wadsworth, F/V Liahona

My titanium chiller system from IMS works great! We are able to fish offshore, stay on the grounds longer and deliver outstanding quality lobster. Our self-contained refrigeration system was easy to install - and is a breeze to operate - saving us time and money. I originally bought from another vendor in New England, thinking it might be better to buy local for better service. But I was wrong. When I later bought a system from IMS, the customer service was much better: heads above the service you generally find today anywhere. The product was also better: built as a compact and easy-to-use unit. My first product had not been well-integrated into the boat.”

Robert Colbert, F/V Miss Julie

IMS is local and well-known. Their systems are reliable and maintenance-free - which is a big issue for me. I know that if I do need parts, I'll get fast delivery. Other vendors have problems with that!”

Ron Harper, F/V Pacific Gem

It's easy to install. The system can be retrofitted in an existing boat in about four days. It's really compact and it makes refrigeration simple.”

Paolo Jurkovich, F/V Branko J

The 7.5-ton RSW system has allowed us to maximize value of our fish since 2004 when it was installed. The IMS refrigeration system allows us to earn more and be proud to deliver a high quality product.”

Ray Honea, Crewman, F/V Balrog

After looking at the albacore in the hold, I was amazed at how good the color was - bright blue. The IMS Hatch Mount Blast Freezer is a slick piece of equipment. It works great. The buyer's inspector stated that the blast frozen fish in my hold were the finest fish he had seen all year.”

Dave Fee, F/V Star Polaris