Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut October 09, 2012 - 12:59 pm

Netting the ocean’s riches

Refitted Saputi makes money for QC

SAMANTHA DAWSON
Poasee Peter, who works in Saputi’s fish processing plant, says the work isn’t dangerous if you know what you are doing. (PHOTO BY SAMANTHA DAWSON)
Poasee Peter, who works in Saputi’s fish processing plant, says the work isn’t dangerous if you know what you are doing. (PHOTO BY SAMANTHA DAWSON)
Here’s where turbot is processed on board the Saputi before it’s offloaded and shipped to Asian countries. (PHOTO BY SAMANTHA DAWSON)
Here’s where turbot is processed on board the Saputi before it’s offloaded and shipped to Asian countries. (PHOTO BY SAMANTHA DAWSON)
The view from the Saputi while in Frobisher Bay. (PHOTO BY SAMANTHA DAWSON)
The view from the Saputi while in Frobisher Bay. (PHOTO BY SAMANTHA DAWSON)

If you want to find Poasee Peter, you can find him on board the Saputi, packaging Arctic shrimp or cutting off turbot tails.

That ‘s where Peter, who’s spent the past three years working for the Qikiqtaaluk Fisheries Corp.—a subsidiary of Qikiqtaaluk Corp—took visits during an Oct. 5 public tour of the ship when it lay anchored off Iqaluit.

Peter, who comes from Iqaluit, says he likes his job—that is, “sometimes,” he adds half-jokingly.

“It’s hard work, very hard work,” Peter says.

During a physically demanding day, the crew can bring in up to 40 tonnes of turbot or shrimp, which means the on-board fish-processing plant where Peter works is kept humming.

Right now, the Saputi will fish turbot another six weeks before switching to shrimp.

Like other crew members, Peter spends 10 to 20 days at a time on the ship, where he eats and lives with 30 other people in tight sleeping quarters, equipped with bunk beds, small tables and sinks. 

Peter and seven others work at the fish plant, along with about 16 others who fish six hours on and six hours off every day until the cargo hold is full.

Most of that catch comes from around Clyde River and Iqaluit. After being offloaded in Greenland or Bay Roberts, Nfld., the fish and shrimp are exported mainly to Asian markets.

And, now, due to recent improvements, the Saputi has the capacity to take on more turbot or shrimp.

That’s because it’s owner, Qikiqtaaluk Fisheries Corp. recently extended the cargo holding capacity of the Saputi by 12 metres.

That $4-million extension increased the hold’s capacity to 1,700 metric tonnes. This will allow the Saputi to carry up to 900 metric tonnes of turbot per trip or up to 650 metric tonnes of northern shrimp on its 16 fishing trips per year.

As part of its recent retrofit, the Saputit, built in 1987, also increased its length by 12 metres, to 75 metres.

This was a good move, QC president Harry Flaherty said during the shipboard visit. Before the extension, the ship was very cramped.

“It’s a lot easier for the ship out in the ocean now in rough seas and also it’s provided more comfort for the staff and the workers,” he says.

“If you’re going to be on a ship for a long period of time, you need to be a little bit more comfortable.”

The $4 million used to complete the project came out of the development corporation’s own pocket: “We didn’t need to get any external financing for that,” Flaherty says.

Qikiqtaaluk Fisheries Corp. acquired a 51-per-cent share in the Saputi in 2005 for $17 million.

Now it nets about $27-million worth of turbot and shrimp a year.

This year, the price of turbot is down but the price of shrimp is up,  so “overall we just kind of broke even,” Flaherty says.

QC hopes to gain full ownership of Saputi, now owned in partnership with an Icelandic company, in about five years, he said.

As for the jobs the Saputi brings to Nunavut, about 35 Inuit, including Peter, work on the ship.

That’s a number that Flaherty says has increased gradually over the years thanks to training programs.

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