Reliable pumps are the be-all and end-all

Reliable pumps are the be-all and end-all

"The introduction of the vacuum system is the biggest positive change that has taken place in the fishing industry in all the years I have been a fisherman," says Roi Magnussen, chief engineer and co-owner of "H265 Asbjørn", which is one of Denmark's largest and most modern fishing vessels 

When "H265 Asbjørn" was built in 2008 – then under the name of "Gitte Henning" – it was Denmark's largest fishing vessel. Since then even larger fishing vessels have appeared, but "Asbjørn" remains an impressive sight as it lies docked in Hirtshals. At 75.4 metres in length and 15.6 metres at its widest, the well-proportioned ship has a total capacity of 2600 square metres of fish, divided into 11 refrigerated tanks.

If you go down into the depths of the fishing vessel you will find four large vacuum pumps from Samson Pumps. A central part of the ship's giant vacuum system, which is used for unloading the catch, and which plays a crucial role in the efficient operations of an ultra modern fishing vessel such as "Asbjørn".

"The introduction of the vacuum system is the biggest and most important change and improvement that has taken place in the fishing industry in all the years I have been a fisherman," says Roi Magnussen, 49, who is chief engineer on "Asbjørn" and co-owner of the vessel.

Fish for both industry and consumption
"Asbjørn" fishes for both industrial and edible fish. Industrial fish, which is processed into fish oil and fishmeal, comes ashore mainly in Skagen and Hanstholm. Edible fish is comprised almost exclusively of herring and mackerel, which ends up as jars of pickled herring and canned mackerel respectively. The herring comes ashore in Skagen where it is also processed, while the mackerel is brought to Hirtshals and then taken for processing in Sæby.

Fishing is done almost exclusively with drift nets and gill nets. When the "bag" in the trawler needs to be emptied, this is done by pumping the fish up. A hydraulic pump is used for this (thus not a Samson pump). "Asbjørn" is also equipped for purse seining, but this method is rarely used.

"Depending on the quotas and on how the fishing goes out in the fishing areas, we are out at sea for anything from one or two days up to a couple of weeks or more. The fishing areas are spread over a vast area. For example, fishing for blue whiting for industrial use is done west of Ireland, we catch herring in the North Sea or Norwegian Sea and mackerel near the Shetland Islands," says Roi Magnussen.

The vacuum system handles the whole thing
In the "old days", before the vacuum systems had made their debut in the fishing industry, the unloading of fish from vessels like "Asbjørn" was done either by lowering a conveyor belt with shovels down into the load, after which the fish were shovelled by hand onto the bucket elevator, as it is called. Alternatively, a suction hose was fed into the load. With its flexible suction head, this was able to suck up the fish from large sections of the cargo hold.

"Today, our vacuum system handles the whole thing. We pump both the fish and water directly into the tanks of the plant and have the water returned to us. The unloading is done much faster and far more efficiently than previously, and there is hardly any manual work left to do. Our job is mainly to check that the vacuum system is running as it should, and if this is the case, we can empty our tank of fish in just 10-11 hours, even with a full load. This means a great deal, because also in fishing time is an important factor. We need to be out at sea as much as possible and sitting in dock as short a period as possible," says Roi Magnussen, who is thus very happy with "Asbjørn's" vacuum system – and the four Samson pumps.

Samson pumps – hardy and reliable
"It means a great deal for us to be able to place our trust in our vacuum system, and that it works quickly and efficiently. Just as important is that we can quickly get things fixed if something breaks down. Luckily this does not happen often, largely thanks to our four Samson pumps. They are extremely reliable and hardy. And this is necessary, because the pumps must work in a very tough environment, with salt water and so on. If an accident does happen, and something breaks down, we can usually continue operating, as we have two vacuum systems that can work both in tandem and on their own," explains Roi Magnussen, who is Faroese but who moved together with his family to Hirtshals in 1979.

Family enterprise in a beautiful setting
"Asbjørn" is named after his father, 75-year-old Asbjørn Magnussen. Roi Magnussen purchased the vessel in autumn 2013, together with his brother, Fridi Magnussen. The latter is skipper on "Asbjørn", his son is coxswain and there is also a cousin among the crew, which totals 8-10 men depending on whether any apprentices are on board.

The job of a fisherman remains hard and toilsome compared to most jobs on land, but much is done on a ship like "Asbjørn" to provide the crew with the best possible workplace for a life at sea. This applies to everything, from the bridge and the sleeping quarters to electronics with satellite dish, good internet connection, etc.

"We want to get the best out of people. In this regard the pay obviously plays a role, but for most people it's just as important that there are good, safe and orderly conditions, both when they are at work and on their days off. We try our utmost to live up to that," concludes Roi Magnussen with Faroese modesty.