Cabo Virgenes

Cabo Virgenes

​TecnoPesca Argentina modernises 30-year-old trawler

After seven years at the quayside in the Argentinian fishing port of Mar del Plata, the 42.70 metre Cabo Vírgenes, which used to fish for hake, was missing some of its equipment. Electrical systems had been stripped out and rust was eating away at its steelwork.

Now, after ten months at the TecnoPesca Argentina (TPA) shipyard, Cabo Vírgenes is ready to operate again in Puerto Madryn, in the Patagonian province of Chubut.

‘It’s working as a fresher trawler, with no processing or freezing systems on board. Basically, it’ll be fishing for hake but is also able to fish for Argentine red shrimp,‘ explained Luis Maria Errecaborde, Vice President of Operations at Cabo Vírgenes’ new owner Red Chamber Argentina.

Cabo Virgenes has been extensively refitted and renewed at TecnoPesca Argentina for Red Chamber Argentina. Image: TPA / El Cabo Vírgenes ha sido extensamente remodelado y renovado en TecnoPesca Argentina para Red Chamber Argentina

Red Chamber reportedly took control of Cabo Vírgenes and other six vessels that were previously owned by Alpesca through a lease arranged by the provincial government of Chubut. The company then established a plan to bring the elderly fleet back to life.

‘We have several vessels to modernise. If we had decided to build brand new, we wouldn’t find available shipyards to work on them. It’s easier and faster to refit the old ones,‘ he said, adding that from a financial point of view, this also has advantages.

The steel-hulled Cabo Vírgenes was built in 1989 and in 2008, its engine was replaced with a new CAT 3512. The refit to bring the trawler back up to standard project called for work on almost every part of it, according to Enrique Godoy, TPA’s president.

Red Chamber Argentina took over a fleet of six former six Alpesca vessels. Image: TPA / Red Chamber Argentina se hizo cargo de una flota de seis buques antiguos Alpesca

‘Our work involved replacing large areas of the main deck, dismantling and checking the propulsion, stern gear and variable-pitch systems, and completely replacing the energy generation and distribution systems with modern equipment,’ he said.

Water and bilge pumps and the hydraulic winch drive systems also had to be completely replaced. A grey water treatment structure was fitted, along with a new oil water separator and a reverse osmosis filter.

The TPA yard has extensively renewed Cabo Virgenes’ steelwork and equipment. Image: TPA / El astillero de TPA ha renovado ampliamente la estructura de acero y el equipo del Cabo Vírgenes

Large areas of the hull and associated structure had to be repaired or replaced. Inside the ship, the galley and other accommodation areas were repaired. Outriggers were designed and fitted to tow trawl gear for Argentine red shrimp, and the wheelhouse electronic systems were replaced.

‘We managed to reach our main goal, which was to transform the vessel in an up-to-date fishing platform, increasing its fishing capacities and meeting the current national and international demands for safety and environmental regulations,’ Enrique Godoy said.

Cabo Virgenes had been at the quayside for seven years before the renewal process at TPA was begun. Image: TPA / Cabo Vírgenes había estado en el muelle durante siete años antes de que se iniciara el proceso de renovación en la TPA

The modernisation project was affected by the Covid-19 outbreak, which resulted in changes in routines and working shifts at TPA, he explained. Access to necessary equipment and raw materials, and the flow of goods and manpower were all interrupted. Although this was not strictly speaking a shipbuilding venture, it called for much the same resources and skills.

‘This kind of project is welcomed by the marine industry after almost three decades of declining activity. Such recovery work allows us to extend the usual working lifetime of a fishing vessel by 20 years,’ Enrique Godoy stated, and he said that TPA is currently building a new industrial plant capable of manufacturing 45 metre vessels boats.

‘Nowadays, TPA works on coastal vessels with up to 21 metres. Our expansion was planned as a 72-month process, culminating in the implementation of an 82m synchrolift,’ he said.

Cabo Virgenes on the slipway at the TecnoPesca Argentina yard. Image: TPA / El Cabo Vírgenes en el varadero del astillero TecnoPesca Argentina

TPA’s projected growth is based on the expectation that the Argentinian fishing industry has been requiring increasing shipbuilding and maintenance services, and that such a demand will keep rising.

‘Large investments require a lot of creativity from a small company like ours. But there’s an increasing and demanding need for such services. Mar del Plata, Argentina’s major fishing port, has to offer more options,’ he said.

Red Chamber Argentina intends to continue the renovation of its fleet. The first to be modernised was Promarsa III, a trawler fishing on Argentine red shrimp. The work took five months, given that no equipment replacement was needed, and it’s now active in Puerto Madryn. The next ship to be renovated is another trawler Promarsa I.

‘We’re happy about the renovation plan. These were good vessels that returned excellent results in the past. Of course, we expect them to be able to do the same after the modernisation,’ explained Luis Maria Errecaborde.