As fish farm companies moved away from using anti-fouling coatings (such as copper) on their nets, keeping the nets clean became another job all together.
In order to keep up with the changes in the industry, Kevin Onclin, CEO of Badinotti Net Services Canada, decided they needed a specialty boat.
“Our company over the last three years has been operating with other vessels, but we knew we had to get more efficient,” he said.
On Wednesday, Badinotti hosted an open house at Coast Discovery Marina revealing the catamaran, Bravo II, specifically designed for net cleaning.
From the initial idea to the completion of manufacturing, this has been a two-year project and Onclin said the boat and all the equipment on board is worth $2.5 million.
Onclin contracted Armstrong Marine Inc. to create his vision. In total, construction took about six months.
“I was really looking for specific expertise in catamarans,” he said. “You are spending most of your time at the farm, you have distances between the farm but really most of your time is spent on the farm so you want a nice platform that your staff feel comfortable on. It’s safe, you can run a crane, you aren’t worried about stability.”
The boat is a fully-equipped work platform. The remotely operated net cleaners (RONCs) are controlled from two pilot chairs in a control room at the back of the vessel.
“It’s a lot like a video game, you’ve got a joystick for each side of you and you are basically just watching what’s happening on the monitors,” said Chris Chambers of Passage Marine Mechanics, one of Badinotti’s contractors.
The pontoons on either side of the vessel house the engines,the generator, the desalinator and the hot water tank.
“That is basically a full service boat, like a little city, anything you have got in your house we’ve got on the boat,” Chambers said.
With the desalinator on board, the crew can make fresh water both for themselves as well as to prolong the life of the machinery on board that is consistently exposed to salt water.
“What you want to do is soak it up, run fresh water through it as much as you can and that extends the life, reduces our maintenance costs, that sort of thing,” Onclin said.
What is basically a giant pressure washer, the vital piece of equipment that allows Badinotti to do what they do, according Chambers, is housed in the centre of the vessel. It pumps around 700 litres of water per minute at 5,000 psi.
The staff quarters are located at the front of the boat, with two bunks below on either side, a storage room on one and a full bathroom on the other.
There are three crew members on board during a shift. As well as extensive in-house training, they have small vessel operator’s licenses, crane operating licences and their WHIMIS, first aid and marine radio operation certifications.
“Everybody in this community has been involved in one way or another along the line,” Onclin said.
The boat arrived in Campbell River in January and is still being put through its paces but Onclin figures they will be able to service six different sites with the vessel as the nets need to be cleaned every three to four weeks. Though some fish farm companies do net cleaning internally, Onclin is confident that this is a sustainable business model in the long term.
“The challenge when you are doing it internally is that it isn’t their core business, this is our core business, this is what we do all the time,” he said.