Floating Fish Processing Factories
Floating processors (also called offshore processors) usually are ships or barges that have been converted into floating fish-processing factories. They rarely do any actual fishing. Instead, they buy and process the fish and shellfish caught by other boats.
They may also resupply these boats with food and fuel. The advantage of this cooperation is that smaller vessels don’t have to return to port to unload, resupply, and refuel, and are able to spend more time actually fishing.
Floating factory processors usually dock in sheltered bays near areas of major fishing activities. They might remain there for as long as three months at a time. There are often over 100 crew members on board processing everything from bottomfish and king crab to salmon and halibut. After the catch is hauled in, it is sorted, processed, and frozen below deck. Once the ship’s holds are full, the ship steams to port, where it docks briefly to unload its frozen catch for further processing or shipping. As soon as it is restocked with supplies, the processor returns to sea.
Because the nature of the fishery means peak times come in waves, there is a good chance you’ll be able to make quite a bit of money.
A floating processor worker told us how the pay structure worked on his boat:
“We were just paid by the hour. We didn’t get a crew share or anything but we were guaranteed a minimum number of hours of pay each week, even if we didn’t actually work them. We really made money, though, when we got busy and worked for several weeks with no days off. This allowed us to work as much as forty or fifty overtime hours per week, all at time-and-a-half pay. During busy periods we would work 12 hours on, twelve hours off, and sometimes even additional hours if we wanted to.”
Most floating seafood factory processors are based out of Seattle and operate primarily in the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea. Occasionally during a strong Southeast Alaska salmon season (late July or early August), floating processors are moved south to the panhandle in order to help the onshore processing plants.