Gear Maker Vónin’s Tour de Force

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Alongside top-of-the-line trawl designs, ropes and netting, innovative new trawl doors for both pelagic and bottom trawling consolidate Vónin’s undisputed reputation as a leading international provider of fishing gear.

[Edmund Jacobsen & Bui Tyril]

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For fishing companies, working efficiently to optimize performance in relation to effort has always been key to making a profit and achieving a return on investment.

Now, with weather conditions and marine ecosystems constantly in flux, not to mention a tendency in many places toward a politically and legally challenging environment, the high degree of risk and uncertainty generally associated with commercial fishing contributes greatly to skippers’ unrelenting demands for top quality operational equipment.

Enter Vónin, one of the world’s leading developers and manufacturers of fishing gear, built on that very premise. “We make fishing profitable,” as their tagline reads.

“Vónin’s focus has always been centered on delivering and maintaining the optimum gear for trawlers and purse seiners,” CEO Hjalmar Petersen commented. “An essential part of our business model is about truly understanding the conditions of the fishing fleets; so we are proud of the fact that our staff consists largely of aspiring and former fishermen, whether bridge officers or deckhands. We have a company culture around this phenomenon that is crucial to our ability to communicate effectively with our customers, and it’s a fundamental part of the process of product design and development.”

The role of research and development has not decreased over the years, on the contrary, even as the product range has increased markedly.

The latest product launches include trawl doors ‘Tornado’ and ‘Storm’ for pelagic and bottom trawling, respectively. The first one is rapidly gaining popularity among skippers in the Faroes and elsewhere, according to Mr. Petersen.

Using Tornado doors, Faroese pelagic trawler Jupiter has been able to reduce the size of their trawl doors from 14 square meters to 12m2. At the same time they achieve better squaring of the trawl mouth, which means that, compared to earlier, they can, with less effort, fish at least the same, and sometimes even higher, volumes.

“The Tornado design makes it possible for trawlers to go down in trawl door size without reducing catch rate,” Mr. Petersen noted. “This product offers a real improvement in efficiency, and is seen as an eye opener for many of our customers.”

Mr. Petersen added that Norwegian vessels have bought four sets of Tornado trawl doors, with other pelagic customers switching too.

Top-notch equipment

The Storm trawl doors is suitable for a wide variety of demersal fisheries, for example, shrimp, cod, or flatfish. Royal Greenland factory shrimper ‘Akamalik’ has used Storm doors with good results. Another factory shrimper, the ‘Polar Nanoq’, has also started using Storm with promising first indications.

Besides the Storm and Tornado trawl doors, Vónin and its Danish design partner have developed the Flyer, a lift generating device that takes as much space as four floats in a trawl’s headline, but provides a significantly greater amount of lift.

Envisaged for both demersal and pelagic gears, the Flyer is shackled to the headline and unlike conventional kites that can require careful adjustment, it is self-stabilising once in position. Like a kite, the amount of lift is relative to the towing speed, generating 90kg of lift at a 2.50 knot speed, while those four conventional floats provide 30kg of buoyancy.

At final testing stages, the Flyer’s hydrodynamic design for reduced water resistance will decrease the trawl towing effort substantially.

Other relatively new products from Vónin include Capto rope and Fortis netting. The success of the former has been such that virtually all new pelagic trawls from Vónin are made with it.

Headquartered in Fuglafjørður, Faroe Islands, since its inception in 1969, Vónin today has offices and net lofts across the North Atlantic, in six countries alongside Faroe: Norway,  Lithuania, Russia, Iceland, Greenland, and Canada.

Construction of a new net loft and head office is to commence this year (2017) in Fuglafjørður, with estimated time of completion by 1 March 2018. The 18 by 115-meter new building will be a significant improvement compared to the presently used premises. Furthermore, a new storage facility is in the works for Vónin to offer its clients to stock their fishing gear in one location.

In Lithuania, meanwhile, the company is extending its existing facility by an additional 5,600m2 to the existing facility, to make it 9,000m2 once completed, expectedly by 1 September 2017.

In the fish farming business, meanwhile, Vónin has long been making inroads, so much so that the Aquaculture division has become one of the fastest growing parts of the company’s business. The Vónin Aquaculture service center at Norðskála is to be extended by 1,200 to 1,500m2 to make more room for repair and maintenance of fish farming equipment as well as cleaning, disinfection and antifouling, according to Mr. Petersen.

As he points out, the Faroe Islands is a perfect testing ground for fish farming equipment.

“Equipment that can withstand the strong currents, winds and waves in Faroese waters will work anywhere,” Mr. Petersen said. “We also use highly realistic software simulations of weather and current related strains and stress on fish farms. This enables us to produce top-notch equipment, not only to our domestic customers but for export as well. In brief, we offer a round-the-clock service that is highly appreciated by our clients, and backed by highly competent and skilled personnel with a fleet of vehicles and all the necessary tools at the ready.”

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