Inspecting a freezing Afrika

August 9, 2018 by 2 Comments | Category Compliance, Fisheries, Marine Directorate general

Boarding the AfrikaOn the 16th of July a boarding party from MPV Jura, including two trainees, carried out a routine inspection of the Dutch pelagic freezer trawler ‘Afrika’ to the east of Fair Isle.

The ‘Afrika’ is big vessel – 126m long with 11 refrigerated seawater tanks (RSW) onboard, giving her a total capacity of over 690m³. A big vessel means a long climb up from the boarding boat (a Rigid Inflatable Boat (RIB)) to the lowest accessible deck of the ship and in this case, it was about 7m from the waterline to the deck, with the only access being a rope boarding ladder lowered by the ships crew down to the RIB.

Whilst the North Sea is enjoying the same fantastic weather conditions that folks ashore are, the famed swell can still cause a metre or so of movement between the RIB and the ladder, so boarding teams have to be professional and confident when transferring between vessels to avoid putting themselves and others into an unsafe situation. On this occasion there were no problems and the boarding party were all safely up the ladder and aboard ‘Afrika’.

Once aboard we were met by the 1st Mate of the vessel who escorted the boarding party to the Bridge to introduce us to the Captain. With the formalities out of the way the inspection started with a routine check of the paperwork needed to allow the ‘Afrika’ to fish in Scottish waters. With all of this being in order, the boarding party moved to the working deck of the vessel to commence ‘dipping’ the RSW tanks to ascertain the volume of catch onboard.

To do this, an ullage (the amount of evaporation/leakage) must be checked in each tank, by ‘dipping’ a measuring tape with a lead weight on the end to determine the depth of water, and using that to calculate a m³ volume of catch onboard from ullage tables provided by the vessel. One of our roles to know how to perform an ullage measurement, so this was a great opportunity for some training! It’s not necessarily the easiest role to perform on a moving ship but our trainee managed this successfully as the m³ figure derived from their measurements against what the vessel was recording from it’s own electronic sounding equipment was very close indeed.

A second check is performed on the working deck to confirm that firstly, the separator through which the fish is pumped (which allows water to escape but fish to be retained) is welded securely in place and cannot be tampered with and secondly, that the space between the bars of the separator is compliant. By using callipers to measure the spacing between the bars and having a visual check of the separator we were able to confirm that it was indeed compliant and there were no issues.

Boarding the AfrikaWith the total catch aboard calculated and the inspection team satisfied by the deck operation it was time to inspect the factory and hold areas. The ‘Afrika’ processes her own catch – on this occasion herring – and sorts the fish by size before freezing it into blocks and storing it in their freezer hold until their return to port. With 40 plate freezers aboard, each with a capacity of 52 blocks, and each plate freezer taking about 200 minutes to deep freeze a block, all running 24 hours a day while at sea, this is a huge operation. The ship will expect to stay at sea for approximately 2 weeks at a time, by which time it will have hoped to have filled its holds and returned to port for landing.

After inspecting the factory area the inspection team moved down to the freezer hold (with their gloves firmly on!) to observe the loading operation there. Crew work in the freezer hold for four out of the six hours they are on shift, loading frozen blocks by hand from a conveyor belt into place. The freezer hold is kept at -18 ͨ, or colder to ensure none of the catch spoils and it can be landed in the best possible condition. A welcome relief from the summer sun being enjoyed, but only for a short time!

With the inspection complete and the inspection team satisfied that all was as it should be, it was back to the Bridge of ‘Afrika’ to complete the paperwork. All thanked the 1st Mate and the Captain for taking the time to explain the vessel operation to our trainees who both found the experience valuable in their ongoing training.

With that, it was a call to MPV Jura to confirm that the inspection was complete and to request that the RIB came alongside for disembarking ‘Afrika’.

A positive boarding and training experience and thanks to the Officers and Crew of ‘Afrika’ for being so accommodating throughout.

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