28 January 2020

The aquaculture industry has been growing rapidly in importance in recent decades. Until the middle of the 20th century, the contribution made by farmed fish to the world’s dinner plates was minimal. However, as the global population has grown, so, naturally, has the demand for food.

At the same time, in many parts of the world, standards of living have also been rising, alongside a globally rising tide of health consciousness. Both factors have driven a rising demand for seafood – a demand that can in part be met thanks to advances in technology. This progress has led to better preservation and distribution of food on the one hand and the vast market opportunities provided by e-commerce on the other.

As a result of all this, aquaculture as an industry has grown significantly so that, in 2019, it accounted for 50% of all seafood consumed around the world.  It won’t stop here though. With the world’s population set for continued growth, the Global Aquaculture Alliance (GAA) is predicting a significant increase in demand for farmed fish and seafood in the years ahead.

The GAA estimates that by 2050 there will be 10 billion people on the plant, which it suggests will lead to a 52% increase in dietary demand for animal proteins – 17% of which is likely to come from fish. In fact, it is their estimate that, as early as 2030, as much as 62% of all fish consumed will be farmed – a indication of growth at an exponential rate. This is equivalent to 93.6 million tonnes of fish consumed per annum – a 100% increase on the amount consumed in 2006.

Meeting the challenge

Eidsvaag is a small, family-owned Norwegian company that has been transporting fish feed to the aquaculture sector since the early 1980s. In 1995, as the aquaculture industry expanded, the company switched from road transportation to shipping. Today, Eidsvaag operates a fleet of sixteen privately owned and chartered vessels.

Aquaculture, perhaps even more than other sectors of the maritime industry, has a strong focus on sustainability. After all, the ability to feed a growing global population without exhausting fish stocks is the main reason for the sector’s existence

From its inception, Eidsvaag has provided its services to Skretting, one of the world’s biggest fish feed producers. At the beginning of last year it was announced that, in the pursuit of sustainable operations, Skretting had reached agreement with competitor Cargill to vessel share for the distribution of fish feed in Norway.

The collaboration, named Fjordfrende will reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the operations of both companies by one fifth. This is the same as removing 7,500 cars from the road with a resulting reduction of some 10-20 million kg of CO2 annually.

The Fjordfrende partnership is based on guidelines and models developed by a number of horizontal logistics projects receiving funding from the EU Commission. As well as improving the sustainability of the aquaculture industry, it will improve efficiency.

To fulfill its contractual obligations, Eidsvaag will require an increase in tonnage. This is a trend across the aquaculture sector where the increasing demand is driving shipbuilding activity and has been a benefit for the maritime industry at a time when some of the more traditional markets are underperforming. The offshore oil & gas industry, for example, has witnessed serious fluctuations in prices since 2014 and, despite a recent upturn, exploration and development activity remains historically low and numerous vessels remain idle.

A new life for surplus PSVs

Damen was quick to notice this problem and suggested back in 2016 that laid up platform supply vessels (PSVs) could potentially be converted to serve more active markets. It’s an innovative idea offering a number of potential benefits and Eidsvaag was one of the first companies to see the potential.

Initially, Eidsvaag considered both newbuild and conversion options. In the end, it concluded that the conversion route was often not only the fastest option, but also the most cost-effective. To those ends, Eidsvaag purchased the 80-metre, 3,300 DWT PSV previously known as World Opal; which had been laid up for some time due to the low level of offshore energy activity. It then put the conversion of the PSV to a fish feed transportation ship out to tender.

platform supply vessel drydocking damen shiprepair amsterdam (image 2)

Damen’s bid for the project was spearheaded by Eirik Eide, Damen’s sales manager for Norway who is based in Stavanger. Since the office was established in 2012 the Damen team there has seen the growing importance of the aquaculture sector to the local economy and that alongside the country’s sizeable footprint in offshore energy as well as other maritime activities makes it an important market for the group. Over the past eight years Damen’s combination of high quality, competitive pricing and short delivery times has enabled it to sell a variety of vessels to local operators.

The project involved a series of major works, not least the fact that the vessel would be cut in half and an additional five metres added to its overall length. The beam is also to be increased to give additional stability and cargo capacity using a series of side boxes 1.0 metre across. 32 new steel sections would then be built into the main hull to allow the vessel to carry a range of different fish foods. 35  new integrated silos and a newly added big bag hold together will allow the vessel to carry 2,800 tonnes of fish food. Five new cranes will be installed along with a large discharge system made up of conveyors, buckets, elevators and a discharge arm.

“One of the main things that made Damen stand out as a strong candidate in the tender process was their previous experience with the vessel,” explains Vidar Eidsvaag, general manager and owner at Eidsvaag. The vessel, now renamed Eidsvaag Opal, was part of a six-vessel order Damen built for the offshore supply company, World Wide Supply, and was delivered in 2013.

A complex project

The tender was won by Damen Shiprepair Amsterdam (DSAm), which was the most suitable yard in the group for the project, based on its facilities and its proximity to Niron Staal, Damen’s specialist steel fabricator. And the conversion does involve a lot of steelwork. The Eidsvaag Opal arrived at the yard in the final weeks of 2019, where the stripping soon got underway. The first order of business was the removal of the main deck, after which the vessel was cut in half and the sub-contractor Mammoet moved the aft section of the vessel 10 metres back in order to allow space for the fitting of the new 4.9-metre section.

31 new steel sections are now being inserted into the hull and divided into sponsons and the new big bag hold.  In total, 650 tonnes of new steel will be fabricated by Niron Staal and installed in Eidsvaag Opal while she is in drydock at DSAm. 300 tons of redundant ship’s structure will also be removed as part of the conversion process.

world opal platform supply vessel undergoes conversion (image 3)

“It is really helping speed up the project with Damen already being familiar with the design of the ship,” continues Vidar. “Of course, there were other reasons for their success in the tender process.

"In addition to knowledge of the actual vessel, Damen was able to demonstrate the successful completion of a relevant conversion for the aquaculture industry."

Damen’s previous track record includes the conversion of a Damen Combi Coaster into a fish feed transportation vessel. This involved the shipbuilder shortening the vessel in order to provide the added manoeuvrability necessary for operating within fish farms. The vessel was then outfitted with 64 silos for the transportation of different types of fish food.

“We really appreciate the close cooperation that we have with the client,” says Tjeerd Schulting, managing director at DSAm. “We sailed with the client for a trip, which is something that we do not often have the opportunity to do, and it gave us a close understanding of the way the client works. This project really is a joint effort between the client and ourselves.”

The conversion continues to be a work in progress and further updates will be published as major milestone are achieved.

damen shiprepair and ship conversion (image 4)



Platform Supply Vessel (PSV)
Damen PSV 3300 CD World Opal
Damen Shiprepair Amsterdam
Niron Staal
Damen Shipyards Stavanger
Global Aquaculture Alliance

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