Revolutionary French 120m long salmon farming ship provided inspiration for this land-based project

Aslak Berge

Producing salmon in closed tanks, on land or in the sea, is not new.

The name was “L’ile Sous Le Vent”. It was originally a grain barge. It was on track across the Atlantic, from the United States to France, and was called “Nieuwport”, when it was built in 1970. In 1984, the barge was renamed and converted into a floating fish farm at a shipyard in Le Havre.

For five years, from 1989 to 1994, Ola Sveen was employed as a salmon farming project manager at “L’ile Sous Le Vent”.

“It was in the English Channel. Fixed anchor, outside Roscoff, on the north side of Brest,” the fish farming veteran told SalmonBusiness.

“It was 120m long and had four tanks of 4,000 m3 each,” he added.

“L’ile Sous Le Vent”. PHOTO: Ola Sveen

Five-kilo fish
“There were two pumps for each tank, which provided 1.5 cubic m3 of water per second. Then we had two and a half metres of height. We pumped it up two and a half metres. With that lifting height, we got enough current both to distribute oxygen and to get self-cleaning against pipes in the tank,” he explained.

This is what it looked like at the bottom of one of the thoughts of “L’ile Sous Le Vent.” PHOTO: Ola Sveen

“We farmed a generation, from smolt up to five kilos of fish. The quality was very good. And we got that verified both from the smokers in France, and from Nofima and Sintef who were down to look at the fish. It was a powerful muscle,” Sveen said.

“There were very high production costs and the price fell in Norway. Although we got almost twice the price in France, for locally produced fish, it was difficult to defend it over time. But the production worked fine over time,” he added.

“That principle there has been involved in the design of Bulandet,” said the 70-year-old, stressing that both are based on throughput concepts.

Bulandet Miljøfisk is a land-based salmon farm in Bulandet, which are isles south of Florø, Western Norway, that’ll produce a combination of post-smolt and harvest-size fish. It is aiming for 20,000 tonnes of fish.

PHOTO: Ola Sveen

“When we were able to make fish in France around 1990, with the technology and equipment we had then, we will at least make it today, with the technology and equipment we have today. So that’s quite an inspiration to make it work,” said Sveen.

The ship was owned by a French consortium.

“There was a food producer in France who owned it. I don’t remember who it was,” Sveen continued.

“It is interesting that it worked, and I also believe that a similar concept can be created today. I have designed this on how Bulandet Miljøfisk will be built,” said Ola Sveen, who is also among the owners of the fish farm Svanøy Havbruk.

“It is a similar concept that is now being developed. This ship on land, it’s more energy efficient. Better than having it floating in the English Channel,” said Bulandet Miljøfisk chairman Knut Eikeland to SB.

“Ola is one of the few people who has real experience in producing large fish over several generations in a flowthrough facility,” said Eikeland.

PHOTO: Ola Sveen

Fish farming the open ocean
In early November last year, the 3,000-tonne “Guoxin 101” was launched. The course was set out in the East China Sea, where the ship will undergo testing on the open ocean. The ship’s fish farm tankers are equipped with underwater cameras, sensors and automated feeding facilities. The company wants to test out the farming of Atlantic salmon, as well as the local fish species yellow croaker.

“Today we have made a major step towards the realization of the country’s plans to build a fleet of intelligent fish farms,” said Dong Shaoguang, vice president of Qingdao Conson Group, the state-owned company funding the project.

The 3,000-tonne “Guoxin 101” aims to produce fish without polluting the environment. The idea is to produce fish far out in the ocean, where sludge/waste can be easily washed away by the ocean currents. A constant flow of clean seawater fills the tanks onboard the ship.

The company is cooperating with China Shipbuilding Group, the world’s largest shipyard group. The next move will be to build “Guoxin 1”, a 100,000-tonne vessel the size of an Aframax oil tanker. The yard will build 50 such vessels, and the fleet will then be able to produce up to 200,000 tonnes of fish annually.

Qingdao Conson manages a USD 1.5 billion marine fund and owns China’s largest tilapia breeder. It has also acquired the country’s first land-based salmon farm, Shandong Oriental, that’ll produce salmon with recirculating technology (RAS).

Check out SB’s new industry report for land-based salmon farming HERE.

The prototype “Guoxin 101”. PHOTO: Lanqing

Sveen finds the Chinese project with aquaculture ships interesting.

“I’m a little excited about the temperatures they have then. I have seen the temperatures they have in the Korean Sea, and know that it is relatively cold in winter and hot in summer. However, if they are further out in the sea it is possible to fetch water with more favorable temperature conditions,” he said.

Sveen has also operated fish farming projects in East Asia.

Ola Sveen. PHOTO: Supplied

“I was in North Korea working, near the border with Russia. And it actually worked reasonably well. They made salmon there, up to 14-15 kilos with Aquagen roe. It was in open cages, but they had problems with furunculosis. And the sanctions prevented them from getting to grips with fish feed or equipment,” he said.

Not just that. Sveen has also been part of an early land-based project in Portugal.

“I was part of a project in the late 1980s. It was a land-based facility that was planned there. We were going to get water from the spring zone,” he said.

Got started
Like many other farming pioneers, Ola Sveen joined the Svanøy Foundation. He started there in 1977.

“I was in Chile a lot, through the Svanøy Foundation. We found sites and started fish farms with Norwegian roe early. We were down for the first time in 1984, found areas, designed smolt facilities, and got down roe in 1985. It was a foreign branch of the Svanøy Foundation, and Norwegian investors, with Selmer Furuholmen. That company was called Noraqua. Later it was operated under the auspices of Aquagen,” he recalled.

But what happened to “L’ile Sous Le Vent”?

In 1997, the ship was taken out of circulation in Falmouth, UK, on the other side of the Channel, where the picture below is taken.

“L’ile Sous Le Vent”. PHOTO:

The ship was sold two years later to Canada and converted for CAD 15 million into a tanker fleet. Under the new name “McCleary’s Spirit”, the vessel was re-operated by the shipping company McKeil Marine.


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