According to Dmitry Trubnikov, General Director of Russian Crab, this also brings other benefits. In March this year Russian Crab signed contracts with Russia’s Onega Shipyard for seven crab vessels and also placed an order for more three more at the Oka Shipyard.
These vessels have a length of 57.70 metres and breadth of 12.60 metres, and are scheduled to be delivered between 2020 and 2025. The estimated cost of the ten newbuildings is approximately Rub15 billion (€204 million), with seven of the new crabbers designed to deliver live crab and three to process on board.
‘We did a lot of research work on those contracts. It’s important that the vessels are delivered on time and built to the required quality. We analysed infrastructure, experience, and previous projects, and it was not the price, but the risks that were the primary factor taken into account,’ he said.
‘It’s no secret that the Russian shipbuilding industry has not been doing quite well in recent years. It was in crisis – which meant it was important for us to find partners we could have confidence in.’
The vessels will be built to a design by Damen Engineering. Russian Crab asked for designs to be tendered to they could choose the best.
‘We had a long discussion on propulsion. Finally, we decided to go for a 12-knot speed to have optimal fuel consumption. Capacity was also a key issue. This refers both to on-board processing factory capacity and storage tank capacity to keep crabs alive,’ Dmitry Trubnikov said.
The company has calculated how many vessels and of which designs it needs to make efficient use of its quotas throughout the fishing seasons.
‘When dealing with live crab, apart from the tank storage capacity, it is essential to understand that live crab is delicate. It’s a challenge to keep it alive. So, balancing between these requirements, our project took shape. For our customers, it is important not only to receive crab alive, because these crabs are delivered all over China and South Korea, and it has to live for some time in the restaurants’ tanks. So it is not enough to land crab alive – we need to deliver it in good condition so that it can live some months longer,’ he said.
The new vessels have plenty of new systems to improve the quality of the finished products. This includes a crab storage system in cages with a water ratio of 5 to 1, providing high-quality conditions for live crab, with automatic temperature, oxygen, and ammonia content control systems. The processor vessels’ key advantages are double the capacity for catch, processing, and storage of live and frozen products, and carry double the number of traps on board, with 3000 instead of 1500.
‘This year, Russian Crab Group plans to enter the US market with cooked and frozen crab. Today, we see this market recovering. There is a redistribution of the volume of deliveries of frozen products from the HoReCa segment to retail. Supermarkets are showing increasing sales growth,’ he said.
‘The Russian Crab Group will offer American customers opilio from the Sea of Okhotsk and the Bering Sea. This crab is larger than the Canadian, which is in the 5-8 ounce range. Our main size is 8-10-12 ounces and no more than 10% is in the 5-8 ounce bracket. There’s plenty of interest from importers and there is a high demand for these products, so the market looks positive,’ Dmitry Trubnikov said, commenting that with new vessels and new equipment coming to the Russian crab industry, Russia has opportunities to make real progress in promoting its products internationally.
‘I’m confident of making progress not only in Asia but also on the American market, where we could be far more competitive compared to Canadian and Alaskan crab.’