The Diane Morrison – named after Marine Harvest’s director of fish health – will soon be home away from home for some fish farmers in the Port Hardy area. The barge also serves as a new fish-feeding system for their company’s pens.

Aquaculture barge floats into use

The largest concrete float ever built by Pacific Marine Construction has been completed right here in Campbell River and will soon be put to work for Marine Harvest Canada.

The $2-million accommodation and fish feed storage barge was built to integrate state-of-the-art technology used for raising B.C. salmon and will soon be moved to one of the company’s salmon farms in the Port Hardy area.

Marine projects manager for Marine Harvest Dave Pedersen says the work of Campbell River contractors on completing the barge has been exceptional.

“It is on time and budget, despite being the biggest concrete barge we’ve ever built and having a new design with a walk-around apron to improve safety,” Pederson says.

It was also important, Pederson says, that the work was done here in Campbell River – by Campbell River companies and workers.

“We could have easily had it done in Vancouver, but it was really important to us to have the jobs go to local businesses,” Pederson says. “Right down to the cabinet makers and painters, everything was done by companies right here in town.”

To secure the barge on site up-Island, other local businesses have been contracted to provide services such as towing, anchoring and commissioning.

The size of the barge – it has eight bedrooms – will ensure comfortable accommodation for operations personnel and contractors, Pederson says, adding that farm employees on the barge will have separate rooms, desalinated and hot water on demand, improved anchoring, and a safer design for feed storage.

Pacific Marine Construction owner Cory Handyside says construction of the barge took four and a half months at his shipyard at Discovery Harbour.

“It was a very rewarding project to work on,” Handyside says.

“We had a crew of 10 people on it full time to build such a big float house, battling weather and tight timelines.

“It took excellent teamwork.

“Sure, we’ve made some of these,” he says, looking up at the floating building from the dry dock it was constructed on, “but this is by far the biggest. It was quite the job.”

Another Campbell River business benefitting from the build is Powerserve Energy, which installed the electrical and communications hardware including the Steinsvik feed delivery and monitoring system.

Powerserve Energy owner Stefan Schedler said his firm’s experience in providing power generation and electrical support for the aquaculture industry continues to grow.

“This is a challenging and highly specialized field,” Schedler says. “We’re very grateful for the industry as well as our dedicated and skilled team of technicians here in Campbell River who can successfully execute this often difficult type of work.”

The Diane Morrison – named after Marine Harvest’s director of fish health – is replacing another one which was basically just a feed-storage facility, whereas this barge not only stores food, but also has an entire computer-operated feeding system built into it, Pederson says, which can feed six pens of fish at once and minimizing waste at the same time.

They often have short windows of opportunity to feed sometimes, due to factors like weather, tides, predation, plankton levels, “and before, when we’d be able to feed, we could only do two cages at a time. We now, for the first time, can feed six cages at once when we feed,” Pederson says.

“The success of getting the feed to the fish is just that much greater, now, and that’s a great thing.”