January 23, 2020

Cool Runnings: A New Generation of Fishing Vessels

SUB-CHILLING™ onboard technology not only offers fishing vessel owners a greener business model, it makes economic sense too.

SUB-CHILLING™ onboard technology not only offers fishing vessel owners a greener business model, it makes economic sense too.

Ninety thousand metric tons.

That’s the amount of fish that just five Icelandic vessels have already contributed to seafood supply chains without using any ice. This important industry disruption has been achieved through the onboard introduction of SUB-CHILLING™ systems by Skaginn 3X.

Utilizing specialist technology, these systems are capable of extending product freshness by up to seven days without freezing, thereby eliminating the need for the vessels to produce, carry and use ice. This makes SUB-CHILLING™ a crucial advancement for the seafood economy, maintaining fish in prime, unfrozen condition, which in turn optimizes its market value.

Breaking the Ice

Historically, ice has been the standard means of preserving fish caught at sea. Without it, most long fishing trips and many shorter ones would have been wasteful undertakings due to the deterioration of these inherently highly perishable products. And yet ice has its shortcomings: it is bulky – taking up a lot of room both in the fish hold and during onward transportation; it also requires significant energy to produce the volumes necessary to maintain product quality. As a rule of thumb, a typical box of haddock, cod or saithe off-loaded from a vessel would comprise 10-15% ice. For redfish, this increases to around 20%. But this has ice no value of its own.

Ragnar Arnbjörn Gudmundsson, Skaginn 3X director of sales and operations for Scandinavia and Europe, explains, “In many ways, ice has had its time. SUB-CHILLING™ offers progressive fishing companies the opportunity to take a big step forward by enabling them to eliminate all the effort, energy and expense that goes into ice production from their operations. In doing so, they’re also able to establish better handling procedures that result in higher quality fish products, with firmer flesh and a far longer shelf-life. They are also reducing their carbon footprint, which is an ambition shared by all food supply chains.”  

Cod chilled with SUB-CHILLING™ act as their own refrigerant — more effective than ice.

Early Champions

FISK Seafood’s Málmey became the first vessel to part ways with ice in favor of a SUB-CHILLING™ system in 2014. It was followed by Brim hf.’s Akurey and Engey vessels in 2017, and most recently the same company’s Videy vessel and FISK’s Drangey in 2018.

The new generation of fishing vessels equipped with onboard SUB-CHILLING™ technology (clockwise): FISK Seafood's Drangey, Brim hf.'s Akurey, Videy and Engey, and FISK Seafood's Málmey

As these companies have discovered, SUB-CHILLING™ technology from Skaginn 3X works by quickly chilling whole fish down to below the freezing point of water (fish start freezing at -1 to -2°C, while ice can only cool down to 0°C). The fish become a highly effective refrigerant, and this removes the need to use additional forms of cooling, such as gel pads or flake-fluid ice. Having this system onboard ensures that all of the flavor and healthy nutrients of the fish are locked in as quickly as possible, thereby optimizing product freshness and quality. The process also avoids the development of large ice crystals in the products’ flesh, which can lead to reduced quality. All these benefits SUB-CHILLING™ and more are detailed in a third-party report released by MATÍS, Iceland's independent food and biotech R&D institute.

Side-by-side comparison of traditionally chilled salmon (left) and SUB-CHILLED™ salmon demonstrate the vast improvement in quality yielded by SUB-CHILLING™ technology.

Adding Value

But the benefits of SUB-CHILLING™ don’t end with the fishing trip. These systems also offer seafood companies the opportunity to increase the flexibility and cost-efficiency of their catches’ further transportation, with each shipment able to comprise more fish – thereby increasing the value of those units. By the same token, the extended shelf-life allows many supply chains to dispense with expensive airfreight.

Meanwhile, from a resource perspective, the SUB-CHILLING™ method and the extended shelf-life reduce the risk of waste and increase the likelihood of consumption. In an age where the overriding consumer preference is for fresh seafood, as well as for products that take a responsible approach to the environment, SUB-CHILLING™ meets many of society’s demands for food.

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