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Aqua Caledonia: the do-it-all wellboat coming to Scotland

The Aqua Caledonia, a 'utility' wellboat that can also be used as a harvest vessel. It will be delivered this year. Photo: AquaShip.
The Aqua Caledonia, a 'utility' wellboat that can also be used as a harvest vessel. It will be delivered this year. Photo: AquaShip.

A first-of-a-kind fish farming vessel destined for use on the west coast of Scotland has been launched at a shipyard in Spain.

The Aqua Caledonia has been ordered by Norway-headquartered fish farming vessels operator AquaShip, which also has bases in Shetland and Chile.

The vessel is a wellboat and harvest vessel in one, with multi-purpose live fish handling abilities with capacity of 1,500m³, and a dedicated deck allowing instant on-site fish harvesting (slaughter).

Take a bow: The Aqua Caledonia before launch at the Astilleros Balenciaga shipyard at Santiago Auzoa, east of Bilbao in northern Spain. Click on image to enlarge. Photo: AquaShip.
Take a bow: The Aqua Caledonia before launch at the Astilleros Balenciaga shipyard at Santiago Auzoa, east of Bilbao in northern Spain. Click on image to enlarge. Photo: AquaShip.

1,000-tonne harvest capacity

AquaShip already operates seven dedicated harvest vessels and 12 wellboats but says that this is the first time one of its vessels has been designed to do both.

“The ship will have a capacity of up to 1,000 tonnes of harvested fish and will be used for the transferring of smolts, grading, transport of live salmon and harvesting of salmon at sea,” AquaShip said in a post on its website.

Aqua Caledonia will be able to perform freshwater treatment and reuse the fresh water several times. The multi-purpose nature of the vessel will increase operational efficiency, supporting the client’s plans for long-term responsible growth.”

Long-term contract

The Aqua Caledonia, which is being built at the Balenciaga Shipyard on Spain’s northern coast, will be delivered this year and is understood to be going on a long-term contract with a major salmon farmer.

Around 35-40% of Scottish-produced salmon is slaughtered in harvest vessels moored at the pens where the fish are grown, with the other 60-65% taken by wellboat to harvest stations on land.

Having a wellboat that can also be used for harvesting gives a fish farmer the ability to harvest large volumes of fish quickly if they are challenged by disease or environmental threats such as harmful algal blooms or jellyfish, as harvested fish require less room than live salmon.

‘Unparalleled capacity’

“Utility vessels saves meals,” states AquaShip on its website. “When sea farmers experience unexpected biological challenges within their biomass, AquaShip’s utility vessels are able to operate as high standard harvest vessels with unparalleled harvest-storing capacity. Instead of ending up as waste or ensilage, biomass can be harvested while quality still is good and be prepared for processing to food landside.”

Using a suitably-sized harvest vessel, a fish can be slaughtered and stored in chilled water within 15 seconds of being taken from the pen, preserving quality.