Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Choosing the Right Refrigeration

By Dan Huet

When it comes time to upgrade existing equipment or to install a new refrigeration system on your boat for the first time, there are a few important things to think about. According to Kurt Ness at Integrated Marine Systems, “There are a lot of factors to consider when exploring freezing or Refrigerated Seawater (RSW) options. Power requirements, hold capacity, vessel insulation, market demands, processors’ expectations and more.”

The initial question may be to ask yourself what your market requires. Is there a chance to work multiple fisheries in the future? If there is potential for both chilled and frozen product, you can plan for that now, since there are refrigeration systems that will allow you to chill as well as freeze.

Next ask yourself how much product you will need to be able to chill or freeze. Look at your forecast by the day and by the hour. Figure out the product’s starting temperature and then consider how cold it needs to be and how fast it needs to get there. Sometimes the boat helps make the decision for you: how much room do you have available? Often a self-contained RSW system is the product of choice. Having all major components (chiller, compressor, condenser, etc.) in one location, on a skid, saves on installation costs, maintenance, and overall ease of operation.

With the answers to these questions, you are ready to determine how much refrigeration you need. When you talk with refrigeration specialists, being prepared with this information is crucial. They need to understand where you are going and how you want to get there, in order to recommend the right equipment. Make sure you choose a company with a proven track record, history, and reputation in the industry. Each company will rate their systems differently. Either chilling a water volume and product weight or freezing a specific number of pounds down to a desired temperature in a specified amount of time will determine the required refrigeration tonnage. Ness says that when IMS is talking with a fisherman to determine their needs, “Supplying the right system takes collaboration, gathering of information, and proper engineering while ultimately offering the customer a solution that provides a return on their investment.”

Your refrigeration equipment should provide you with years of solid service. The extra dollars earned for every pound of fish you catch will pay for your initial equipment investment, often within the first year depending on your market, processor-offered incentives, and catch-rate. For example, some markets offer up to a 15-cent bonus per pound of chilled fish, so it’s easy to see how quickly the initial investment can pay for the equipment and start making the fisherman money every season. Having an RSW system also creates independence for the owner by privatizing the equipment and not being dependent on purchasing ice, wasting fuel, time, and money.

Class Time
Chilling fish is the first step in the Cold Chain, and fishermen should be rewarded for their efforts to improve the industry while offering a superior product to the consumer. A major benefit of self-contained RSW systems is the ease of operation. Industry leader Jim Stone says, “The size, portability and reliability for the price cannot be beat.” Taking the mystery out of refrigeration is key. Purchasing a unit that runs itself with very little interface is extremely beneficial. “We want to fish, not worry about refrigeration; that’s why these units are a no-brainer. Plus, the maintenance and refrigeration classes are useful,” says skipper Casey McManus.

McManus is referring to a Marine Refrigeration Operator Class (MROC), which is a professional educational program to define a proficient Marine Refrigerator Operator. A Certification of Completion is given upon attending a three-day classroom workshop, passing a written and a hands-on aptitude test that is designed to show proficiency of knowledge and skill in the following areas:
Theory of Marine Refrigeration, Sizing of units, Components, Controller programming, Safety, Operation, Maintenance, and Troubleshooting. Upon certification the MROC will also prepare an operator with the ability to communicate with technicians effectively when necessary. Classes are based on basic principles and will increase users understanding.

IMS provides RSW equipment for Marine Refrigeration Operator classes sponsored by SeaGrant and Marine Mechanical Solutions (MMS) in Alaska and Washington many times throughout the year. “By offering Marine Educational Experiences to the industry we want you to get the most efficiency out of your Marine Refrigeration Unit; this class will give you the tools to protect your investment,” says MMS co-founder, Mendi Short.

Dan Huet works for Seattle-based Integrated Marine Systems (, which engineers and manufactures refrigeration products that serve a variety of freezing and chilling needs for fishermen and processors. He can be reached

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