BELLINGHAM—Northline Seafoods, a company that processes Bristol Bay Alaskan Salmon, is commissioning a mobile, commercial salmon processing platform to be built in Bellingham starting in January 2023.
“We’re building a vessel that we hope is going to revolutionize how fish are processed and brought to market out of Alaska,” said Co-founder and CEO of Northline Seafoods Ben Blakey in a telephone interview with The Bellingham Herald.
Once it’s complete, the 400-foot by 100-foot vessel — known as the Hannah — will go to Bristol Bay, Alaska, every summer to buy salmon directly from fishermen.
The salmon will be immediately frozen on the Hannah and transported back to Bellingham Bay where they will be stored, reprocessed and distributed all year long from the same vessel.
“The existing path from Alaska to getting (the salmon to Bellingham) is a long and complex supply chain,” Blakey said. “What the Hannah aims to do is consolidate a lot of the steps of fish changing hands between the processors, shippers and cold storage folks and integrate it into a single system.”
The vessel can hold up to 14 million pounds of salmon, according to Blakey.
“This is the first of its kind,” Blakey said. “We thought it would be a great idea to take some of those steps into our own hands and improve quality.”
The Hannah will provide a “net-benefit” to other local Bellingham fishing companies, according to Blakey, by providing them with more raw fish. Northline Seafoods will still rely on existing seafood companies to complete the final step in preparing the salmon for distribution, Blakey told The Herald.
When construction is complete, the vessel is expected to create 37 full-time jobs year-round for people based in the Bellingham area.
Those positions include engineers, refrigeration specialists, logistics specialists and sales and distribution managers.
“Over 6,000 jobs in Whatcom County are created or supported by marine trades and the Port is thrilled to see more jobs coming to our dynamic working waterfront,” Port of Bellingham spokesperson Mike Hogan wrote in an email to The Herald.
The Hannah will have a number of environmental benefits as well, according to Blakey. The vessel is expected to use less diesel, cut traffic and transportation emissions and reduce fish waste compared to typical fish processing and transportation methods.
The construction itself is expected to take about 15 months and generate about $12 million in construction wages and new full-time jobs for Whatcom County, Blakey told The Herald. The Bellingham Herald was unable to independently confirm the builder for the project.
The ‘Hannah’ is expected to be operational for the 2024 summer salmon season, according to Blakey.
Northline Seafoods secured a $40 million USDA food supply chain loan to be used to partially fund the construction of the vessel, according to Blakey.