Northline Seafoods Building New Mobile Processor
A rendering shows Gulf of Mexico barge refit as a vessel built for freezing, shipping, storing, and reprocessing Bristol Bay salmon.
Sitka-based Northline Seafoods secured funding to build a mobile commercial salmon processing platform for the Bristol Bay fishery. The vessel is billed as the world’s most sustainable and efficient, a one-of-a-kind vertically integrated processor. And it already has a name: Hannah.
One Ship to Freeze Them
“We developed the Hannah to produce higher quality fish through a more efficient process that benefits both fishermen and customers,” says Northline CEO Ben Blakey. “This project is a continuation of Northline’s commitment to innovation and environmental sustainability in the fishing industry.”
Hannah will deep freeze whole fish offloaded from catcher vessels. At the end of the season, it will haul the load back to its base of Pacific Northwest operations in Bellingham, Washington, where the catch is stored, reprocessed, and distributed year-round all from one vessel.
By consolidating the freezing, shipping, storing, and reprocessing operations, Hannah eliminates the number of intermediate hands that Bristol Bay salmon passes through between the catcher and the customer. And by shipping whole frozen fish to Bellingham at the end of the season, processing can be spread out over time, creating year-round jobs for processors, engineers, maintenance staff, sales and logistics personnel, and corporate management staff.
Northline Seafoods hopes the investment will raise the market quality of the final product while minimizing its environmental footprint. Flash freezing means the salmon’s skin is its protection, so less plastic packaging is needed. Also, every piece of fish is used, meaning less waste.
“We have a long history with and great respect for the Bristol Bay region. Everyone at Northline are excited about this next chapter for our company and our industry,” Blakey adds.
A rendering shows Northline Seafoods’ Hannah taking on salmon from smaller Bristol Bay vessels.
Construction is planned to begin in Washington in January 2023. The vessel will be built from an existing barge hull that will be towed from the Gulf of Mexico to Washington State.
Northline Seafoods recently closed on a $40 million Food Supply Chain loan backed by the US Department of Agriculture, with an additional $22 million borrowed from Greater Commercial Lending, which provides loans to businesses and organizations in under-served and rural communities.
Hannah, named for the US Navy’s first vessel commissioned in the 1700s, replaces Northline Seafoods’ previous processing barge, SM-3, a former helicopter logging platform that grounded in a windstorm in September 2020.
This year the Alaska Railroad is celebrating 100 years of transportation people and cargo around Alaska. While the railroad is one of the states oldest transporters, it certainly isn’t the only one, and in this issue of Alaska Business we also check in on the Marine Highway, Span Alaska, and the White Pass & Yukon Route. For those interested in Southeast, our focus on that region provides updates on Kensington Mine, Tongass FCU, the troll fishery, and Juneau’s growing landfill.