National Fisherman

Delivering twins

Mississippi boatyard converts southern oil supply boats for Mid-Atlantic menhaden fishery

By Larry Chowning

Omega Shipyard at Moss Point, Miss., recently delivered two menhaden steamers to the Omega Protein plant in Reedville, Va. They will be fishing in Chesapeake Bay and off the Virginia coast.

Both steamers are converted offshore oil supply boats that operated in the Gulf of Mexico, carrying equipment and personnel to and from oil platforms.

The 196' x 40' Rappahannock was built in 1982, making it the largest boat operated by Omega Protein. The 184' x 38' Fleeton was built in 1976. The addition of the two boats gives Omega's Reedville menhaden fleet a total of seven steamers.

These are not "steamers" in the sense of being powered by coal-fired steam engines, as menhaden boats once were — starting in the 1870s when steam replaced the sail power of schooners, sloops and pungies. Today the boats are diesel powered, but around Chesapeake Bay they are still referred to as steamers.

"The offshore supply boats make good fish boats," says Omega Protein's general manager, Monty Deihl. "The boats are wide and long, stable and low-sided. We have to be able to work from the deck, so we must have a relatively low-sided vessel." He adds that converting a supply boat as opposed to building a new steamer is "a very cost-effective option."

Of course, taking boats designed for work not at all related to commercial fishing and giving them the capability to catch menhaden requires some alterations. In an 18-month project, the Omega yard rebuilt about 40 percent of each steamer. Most of the work took place in the stern and the midship section.

National Fisherman Live

National Fisherman Live: 3/10/15

In this episode, Online Editor Leslie Taylor talks with Mike McLouglin, vice president of Dunlop Industrial and Protective Footwear.

National Fisherman Live: 2/24/15

In this episode:

March date set for disaster aid dispersal
Oregon LNG project could disrupt fishing
NOAA tweaks gear marking requirement
N.C. launches first commercial/recreational dock
Spiny lobster traps limits not well received

Inside the Industry

Alaska Gov. Bill Walker is required by state statute to appoint someone to the Board of Fisheries by today, Tuesday, May 19. However, his efforts to fill the seat have gone unfulfilled since he took office in January. The seven-member board serves as an in-state fishery management council for fisheries in state waters.

The resignation of Walker’s director of Boards and Commissions, Karen Gillis, fanned the flames of controversy late last week.

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Keith Decker, president and COO of High Liner Foods, will take over for the outgoing CEO, Harry Demone, who will assume the role as chairman of the board of directors. The Lunenburg, Nova Scotia-based seafood supplier boasts sales in excess of $310 million (American) for the first quarter of the year.

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