According to Hugo Obregozo, BP Skipper is the largest fishing vessel built in Necochea in 40 years, something that assumes greater importance considering this was achieved during the Covid-19 pandemic.
BP Skipper is entirely funded by its owner, the fishing company Ocean Fish. Its design was inspired on Norwegian and Icelandic vessels, with a double deck and an inverted bow, he explained.
‘Both of these features are not common in Argentina. The double deck allows the catch selection, washing and handling to be carried out under shelter. The inverted bow is especially important in rough sea conditions, as it reduces resistance and vessel movement, and makes it handle more efficiently,’ he said.
According to Gastón Domecq, one of Ocean Fish’s owners, the company has always relied on Hugo Obregozo’s ability to develop a promising project.
‘We knew he was an experienced engineer and that he was able to execute this Nordic design and build an innovative hull for us. And he has certainly delivered that to us,’ he said.
With its 1000hp main engine, BP Skipper will be able to operate in Patagonian waters – the company is based in Puerto Madryn, in Chubut province – with reduced pitching and a more moderate use of fuel, Hugo Obregozo reported, adding that Ocean Fish’s skippers have taken part in the development of the design concept and in the build process.
‘Our team listened to their suggestions concerning vessel handling and fishing operations in order to make the most of their expertise,’ he confirmed.
BP Skipper has an automatic deck equipment layout with the winches centrally controlled by one crew member. Catches are brought on board over the stern and pass through pounds, before being transferred by conveyor belts to the grading, washing and handling process, and from there to the chilled fishroom.
Most of the equipment had to be imported, Hugo Obregozo said. BP Skipper will focus on Argentine red shrimp and hake.
Gastón Domecq said that from the outset of the project, he and his partners planned to build the vessel in Argentina, even though this could have been easier to do in other countries, with access to credit.
‘But we are an Argentinian company and despite all problems our country is facing now, with so many uncertainties and a general lack of credibility, we decided to keep investing here,’ he said.
The increasing prices of several components during the Covid-19 pandemic and since Russia invaded Ukraine have greatly affected the project’s financial situation.
‘All materials are paid in dollars and the workforce is paid in pesos. In that period, prices were always going up, both due to speculation and international variations,’ Hugo Obregozo recalled. Argentina has also been facing a skyrocketing inflation. In 2021, it reached 51%.
‘The rising prices greatly affected us. In Argentina, unfortunately everything costs twice the money and sacrifice that one needs to invest in order to conclude something,’ Gastón Domecq confirmed.
The build took one year and eight months. Aloncar had to restructure its team of partners, training local workers themselves for the job and hiring people from other cities such as Bahía Blanca and Mar del Plata.
‘We also base our work in prefabrication as much as possible. We develop the engineering part of components and hire the local metal fabrication industry to execute them,’ Hugo Obregozo said, commenting that despite all these financial challenges, the most important thing was to finish and gain experience with that.
‘Our shipyard needed this after so many years,’ he said.
Now, Aloncar is working on three small vessels for the artisanal fishery in the port of Rawson, a few vessel renovations, and other potential projects for larger boats.
‘Our goal is to complete a ship like that within nine months, so we will be as competitive as the market requires,’ he said.
In Gastón Domecq’s opinion, Argentina’s maritime industry can carry out any kind of project, despite its financial difficulties.
‘We certainly have some of the greatest engineers in the world,’ he said.