Astillero Contessi has been active for more than five decades in Mar del Plata, and has had to learn how to cope with restrictions affecting working hours and transport of goods in order to be able to conclude the project within the required time frame.
‘That was undoubtedly our major challenge this time. We had signed the contract with the shipowner just a few days before quarantine measures were ordered by the Argentinian government,’ said Domingo Contessi, the shipyard’s president.
‘Construction began in April, when all of the restrictions were already in place, so this boat was completely produced under social distancing requirements,’ he said.
The government of Argentina quickly decided the marine industry had to be an essential activity which should keep operating without too many limitations, but the new reality still affected Contessi’s operations significantly.
Fortunately, both Contessi’s suppliers and staff responded positively to the company’s new needs and Siempre María Elena was completed within the time agreed with Aquellos Tres S.A., the shipyard’s client.
‘We have been operating in the Patagonian port of Rawson over the past 15 years. Our aim is to renew our fleet, implement new technologies and increase the quality of our catch,’ said Gustavo González, Aquellos Tres’ director, explaining that the company wanted higher levels of seakeeping, safety, and comfort on board.
‘The new trawler also has greater endurance than the one that’s being replaced,’ he said. Aquellos Tres had to acquire a new licence and combine it with that of the previous vessel in order to match Siempre Maria Elena’s capacity.
The design corresponds to Astillero Contessi’s 40 AC prototype – coastal fishing vessel design developed over the years from another prototype, the 19 AC.
‘We have already built 15 vessels of this type, it’s a classical model for us. But we always implement small innovations and enhancements,’ Domingo Contessi said.
The main differences in Siempre María Elena is the Yanmar main engine, which wasn’t the 40 AC prototype original choice, plus a shelterdecked working area, where conveyors and automatic sulphiting machines were installed. The catch is washed and chilled on board, but not processed or frozen.
‘The electronics and the accommodation layout have been completed to the customer’s specifications,’ Domingo Contessi said.
Rawson, in the Patagonian province of Chubut, has become largely focused around Argentinian red shrimp in recent years, and it’s no surprise that this is where Aquellos Tres’ focus is for Siempre Maria Elena when it starts fishing.
‘It’s a very versatile kind of vessel and in other seasons it could be used for hake and anchovy fishing, for instance,’ Domingo Contessi said.
According to Gustavo González, the design is ideal for their local conditions.
‘In Rawson, we need boats with the smallest draft possible and with good stability at sea,’ he explained.
Gustavo González presides over Chubut’s Yellow Fleet Chamber, which represents the coastal fishing vessels that don’t freeze at sea. He said that Astillero Contessi’s designs have replaced most of such fleet over the years, which makes the Mar del Plata shipyard the obvious choice for shipowners in the region who are looking to renew their capacity.
‘Contessi has been able to do a great job in combining quality, fuel consumption and technological innovation. Although many components were imported, Siempre María Elena’s design and construction are Argentinian and it meets our requirements,’ Gustavo González said, adding that importing a new vessel had not been considered. ‘We need to prioritise out own industry,’ he said.
Domingo Contessi explained that his shipyard has recently been expanded substantially, in an effort to increase its capacity and implement innovative methods and technology. Although the yellow fleet builds usually don’t offer options for radical innovations, the company has been working to develop new options with all its designs.
‘Astillero Contessi is currently working on several projects which include very relevant technological innovations. We hope to announce a few of these soon,’ he said.