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   A Memorial University of Newfoundland Publication

July 24, 2003

High speed fishery

Dr. Don Bass (L) and Dag Friis.
Photo by Chris Hammond
Dr. Don Bass (L) and Dag Friis.

The concept of a safe harbour might seem strange in Newfoundland’s multimillion-dollar inshore fishery, where the image of a lone dory casting nets off Cape St. Mary’s has long been replaced by fish-finders, dwindling stocks, shrinking communities, and cutthroat competition. But in the unforgiving North Atlantic, running away remains a valid means of self-protection. And now, with the help of two Memorial engineering professors, the ability of fish harvesters to stay one step ahead of bad weather could improve significantly.

Dag Friis and Dr. Don Bass have been performing vessel motion and resistance testing for a 65-foot catamaran design. The project is partly funded through the NRC’s Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP) and the Canadian Centre for Fisheries Innovation, with the majority of funding coming from Bon Pelley Enterprises of Springdale for whom the work is being carried out.

Mr. Pelley, who has been a fisherman for over 30 years, conceived the idea of using a high-speed, multi-hull vessel for the offshore fishery while working the stormy North East Coast – Funk Island Bank area. Mr. Pelley believes the catamaran has tremendous potential as a faster vessel – a ship capable of getting to and from lucrative fishing grounds twice as fast, while at the same time offering a much more stable and safe working platform. Construction of the prototype is currently underway and it is expected to be in service for the 2004 season.

“The inshore fishery fleet is now being forced further afield,” Mr. Friis said. “When bad weather comes up, they need to be able to get to sheltered waters more quickly.”

Fish harvesters risk their lives to stay financially viable, the professor explained, because of the federal fisheries regulations limiting the length of inshore vessels.

“The 65-foot limit on vessel length is driving the fishing industry to extremes. They’re pushing their boats – fishing with all sorts of different gear, coming to port and changing gear, trying to do processing on board, trying to cram everything into that space. The result is that you’re going out in beam, down in depth and up in height, which is not necessarily a good thing.”

“The rule might not have been too bad when they were close to shore but now that they’re going further afield because of their quotas – it’s a fishery that’s much riskier. So this catamaran design is one possible way of trying to address the problem.”

Operating at a speed of at least twice that of most 65 footers (up to 20 knots), the catamaran can halve the usual two to three days of travel time out to the grounds – a difference, as Dr. Bass pointed out, which also means an improvement in product quality.

“You can get the product back to port very quickly,” Dr. Bass explained, “and that’s very important for some species, like crab where quality is so important.”

The engineering professors are performing vessel motion and resistance testing on computer-generated models of the design and assessing its performance capability. They need to give the boat enough capacity for storage and the proper shape hull to move it through the water quickly and efficiently. Also collaborating on the project was Lee Hedd of Oceanic Consulting Corporation who was involved in the modifications to the hull form to improve vessel performance and also constructed the original model.

“Because they have two hulls, catamarans tend to be more stable,” Dr. Bass said. However, there is a trade off between stability, speed and carrying capacity in any vessel design; a catamaran has the stability, but speed is gained at the expense of carrying capacity.”

Mr. Pelley is optimistic about this new design and believes it will have a positive impact on the local fishing industry.

“This is what we as engineers should be doing,” Mr. Friis said. “Being an engineer, you want to see that link between the theory that you’re working with and the practical application.”



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Next issue: August 7, 2003

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