Seattle naval architect Hal Hockema has designed a lot of fishing vessel conversions during his 40-year career. But often it can make more sense to start new from the keel up, he says.

“With vessels in the upper-end groundfisheries, the owners are retaining their vessels by sponsoning (widening hulls) or lengthening, or both,” said Hockema, whose firm Hockema Whalen Myers Associates draws plans for those projects.

“The more changes you do, the more expensive it is,” said Hockema. An operator’s desire to convert a trusted vessel is understandable, he said, “but there’s a point where you do so much, it might take a year to finish, and the costs end up much higher.”

Hockema will make a presentation at Pacific Marine Expo in Seattle on Friday, Nov. 22, to talk about those kinds of considerations for fishermen and the concepts behind his firm’s latest designs in the 58- to 130-foot range.

The 58-foot hull length is rooted in Alaska’s salmon seining regulations that set the limit on boat size, said Hockema. That’s made it a ubiquitous class in the Pacific Northwest as well.

“Say if you have a 58-footer that’s a salmon seiner, you might fish for halibut and blackcod, then for Dungeness (crab),” he said. “The 58-foot market has always been healthy.”

That’s also due in part to another Alaska rule requiring permit holders in those fisheries to be onboard their vessels, Hockema noted.

“This is one of the tenets of the Alaska fishery,” he said. It’s helped create a system where established operators can afford to build themselves new vessels, and pass on their older boats to younger fishermen.

“It’s a good economic cycle for the boatbuilding industry, the owners and crews,” said Hockema.

In the groundfish sector, Hockema thinks the fleet may be entering a period when operators need to make the decision to invest and upgrade with newbuilds.

“Especially the pollock fishery. It’s such a large-volume fishery, and new vessels are needed,” he said, adding that there has already more demand for major rebuildings and newer designs.

Hal Hockema hosts the New Fishing Vessel Designs for the North Pacific: 58 to 130 feet conference session at Pacific Marine Expo in on Friday, Nov. 22, at 2:45.

Associate Editor Kirk Moore was a reporter for the Asbury Park Press for more than 30 years and a 25-year field editor for National Fisherman before joining our Commercial Marine editorial staff in 2015. He wrote several award-winning stories on marine, environmental, coastal and military issues that helped drive federal and state government policy changes. Moore was awarded the Online News Association 2011 Knight Award for Public Service for the “Barnegat Bay Under Stress,” 2010 series that led to the New Jersey state government’s restoration plan. He lives in West Creek, N.J.

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