#2: Come aboard M/tr Sisimiut
190 nautical miles north of Norway in the Barents Sea, the waves crash around the red keel of M/tr Sisimiut, while the crew on board is busy catching and packing cod for Royal Greenland's international customers.
Welcome on board Royal Greenland's M/tr Sisimiut, where the crew has invited us in for a chat about fishing, how production takes place on board and what everyday life looks like on a modern factory trawler.
On the Bridge
On the bridge with Skipper Per Bech, it's all about keeping an overview. All decisions, considerations and task execution in the wheelhouse take place in close co-operation with the chief mate. The team in the wheelhouse, which is packed with modern equipment, has the very best conditions for carrying out their work. Per explains;
The ship is equipped with a lot of electronic equipment that helps us fishing. We have sensors on the trawl and the buckets, and we can measure the bottom temperature to see if there are fish in any given area.
Plotters, sensors, modern sonar, GPS and other sophisticated navigation equipment do, however, not always equal a catch. It requires experience, lots of patience and good co-operation at sea. Per highlights that many years of experience among the steering crew is of vital importance in detecting where and when the fish swim in a specific spot:
In addition to our own experience, we also benefit from good contacts among other trawlers, e.g. Icelandic and Norwegian. We all co-operate and share insights about the fish's movements. We share information to find out which species of fish are being caught, and then we navigate according to that, among other things.
In the freezer in four hours
Once the fish are caught, an important rule of thumb is that it should take no more than four hours from the time the fish go on deck until they are frozen. This means that the whole crew works closely together when moving 8-10 tons of fish through production in a 6-hour shift. On deck, the crew is focused and concentrated; the work on deck is led by the first mate and trawl master, who, in addition to the work on deck, are also responsible for ongoing maintenance of the trawl and repair of fishing equipment. Once the trawl is hauled on board and emptied of fish, the process continues in the factory.
The state-of-the-art factory on board is compactly designed but compared to the old name sister M/tr Sisimiut, which fished the waters until 2019, processing the catch today is much faster. The new M/tr Sisimiut is packed with modern equipment, designed for fishing in harsh and icy waters, is much larger, operates more efficiently and is energy optimized. This can be seen in a direct comparison of energy consumption per kg of finished product, where the new M/tr Sisimiut's consumption in 2021 was 20% below its former name sister’s last full year of fishing in 2018.
See the cod products that M/tr Sisimiut produces here:
From head cutting and filleting to weighing and freezing, the production crew advances the fish on the modern conveyor belts, which are powered by electricity rather than hydraulics as in the past.
Production manager, Martin Haraldsen, has his fingers right into the production. This is a necessity to ensure the quality of the finished product and to maintain the feel of the products, all categorized as 'Frozen At Sea'. The trawler catches mainly cod in the Barents Sea, but also, for example, saithe and haddock; all products are processed and filleted on board.
In the large engine room on the lower deck, the state-of-the-art MAN engine ensures safe operation. Chief engineer William Nielsen, together with two engineers and a technical officer, are responsible for maintenance and optimal operation, and their work is of great importance for efficient fuel economy. Two auxiliary engines ensure that all functions on the ship can operate without the use of the main engine. M/tr Sisimiut is also equipped with advanced technology, including PTO/PTI conversion technology, which means that power generated in one part of the vessel can be used elsewhere.
We pull together in the boat
When the fish are hauled in and the work on deck and in the factory is fast-paced, spirits are high among the ship's crew. In fact, when it comes to production, the work can get quite sporty. But it's all done in a good atmosphere, without any major squabbles. Because if there's one thing there's no room for when you're at sea for seven weeks with the same people, it's controversy among the crew. That's why there's a good, close-knit atmosphere among the crew and a fine understanding of each other, even on the days when things don't go so smoothly.
Life at sea involves long periods away from family and friends, but the crew on M/tr Sisimiut are proud of their work. Production Manager, Martin Haraldsen, says: 'We are like a small family on the ship. It's a lot of the same people who have been with us for the years I've been here, and I started in 2001. If we lose some people, it's usually because they retire. The vast majority stay with us for a long time because they like the work and the ship.'
Below deck, down the ship's corridors, where the single-man cabins are arranged one by one on either side, there is mutual respect and an unwritten law that it must be quiet, as there is always a watch that has gone to bed.
But head up to the mess and TV room and you'll be greeted by the smell of a good meal prepared by one of the ship's two chefs, while some of the crew play cards, PlayStation or watch TV. There's warmth, high spirits and cosiness before it's time to go to bed. The spacious living areas are modernly decorated with Greenlandic, Faroese and Danish art on the walls, large windows and comfortable furniture.
On days when production is running smoothly and the sun is high in the sky and shining on the icy blue sea, life on board a modern trawler is very good. Even if you miss your family back home, there is a strong sense of community among the close-knit group, even when you are on leave and still want to pull on jackets and fleece sweaters with M/tr Sisimiut embroidered on the chest.
Unloading in Norway
In the spring, when fishing takes place in the Barents Sea, M/tr Sisimiut typically unloads in Tromsø. In less than 24 hours the cargo is emptied and put in a cold store, the vessel is filled with new provisions, packaging and maybe a new crew before the next trip. The crew on board consists of about 40 crew members, and on average they are away for 7 weeks at a time before 7 weeks off on the mainland.
The cod may already have been sold - it could be to the UK, where Royal Greenland's UK sales office is one of Royal Greenland's major customers and, among other things, sells the products to restaurant chains serving the famous English Fish n' Chips;
In the next issue of Meet Royal Greenland, you can meet our UK sales office, which sells sea-frozen cod and lots of prawns from its office in Manchester.
Thank you to the crew for inviting us on board, for acting as film directors, actors playing ‘yourselves’ and for so openly inviting us into your 'home away from home' and daily life.
About the Meet Royal Greenland series
About the Meet Royal Greenland series
In this series of articles, we invite you on a tour of the Royal Greenland organization; from the small factories along the coast of West Greenland to our large seagoing production trawlers to our sales offices around the world and many more. Welcome to Meet Royal Greenland!