Nordlaks builds world’s largest offshore fish farm

Norwegian aquaculture company Nordlaks has built the world’s largest offshore fish farm, designed to cope with harsh conditions in areas previously thought impossible to use.

Costing around NOK1 billion (€UR104.5 million) and with the simple project name ‘Havfarm’ (sea-farm) before being christened Jostein Albert, it was designed by NSK Ship Design, built at the CIMC Raffles yard in Yantai, China, and has unique specialist equipment from, among others, the Dutch Van Aalst Group’s Norwegian engineering company Techano AS. As I write, and despite construction being affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s currently aboard Boskalis heavy lift vessel Boka Vanguard on its way from China to Norway.


Measuring 385m long, 59.5m wide and capable of holding 10,000 tonnes of salmon in six pens, it’s the first of two planned Havfarms and will be stationed about 5km south-west of Hadseløya in Vesterålen, northern Norway—a sea area that up until now has been impossible to utilize for aquaculture. Nordlaks describes the project as a quantum leap in fish farming technology.

CIMC Raffles specialises in offshore construction and, at 400m-long by 120m-wide, has one of the world's largest drydocks. It won the Havfarm contract in a global competition against 15 other yards.

Techano is supplying two unique, customized, rail-mounted service units (RMSU), one for each side of the Havfarm, plus an offshore crane. Given their outreach of 25m, the RMSU cranes allow operators to reach all parts of the six fish pens and also allow for ROV support and control.

Nordlaks’ spokesman Lars Fredrik Martinussen told me: “Today’s fish farming technology is adapted for sheltered conditions, which dictates placement in fjords or in straits. The Havfarm is built to withstand much tougher conditions, at the same time protecting the fish.

“The Hadseløya location was selected based on a number of criteria, including the environment, other users, distance to other farms, environmental data, and logistics considerations. The Havfarm will be turret-moored and will rotate according to weather conditions for optimum heading.”

Nordlak worked in close co-operation with CIMC Raffles and placed a commissioning team on site in Yantai. Techano and Van Aalst also have a long history of working with the yard. Techano commercial director Øystein Bondevik stated: “Lately, we worked on the two Frigstad (now Bluewhale) D90 rigs, the world’s largest.

“As for challenges with Havfarm, they mainly relate to the offshore conditions, such as increased dynamics and movement that affect load handling towards other vessels, especially under rough conditions. Our equipment is designed to both withstand rough weather and give operators a safe working platform.”

Jostein Albert is scheduled for hook-up during the summer with the first stocking of salmon following shortly after. COVID-19 restrictions played a part in delaying the planned original May 2020 hook-up.

The project has attracted global attention, not least from the world’s largest shipbuilder, Seoul-based Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI), which is studying the concept. HHI’s research & development team sees aquaculture as a profitable future field, especially following the slump in demand for traditional vessels. That’s coupled with booming demand for salmon in South Korea—set to surpass Japan as Asia’s biggest consumer of Atlantic salmon.

As for Nordlaks, in addition to the Havfarms it has an equally large investment programme for a new well-boat—a fishing vessel with a well or tank for the transport of live fish—plus new production capacity both for smolt (land-based in fresh water) and slaughtering/processing.

“Aquaculture is a challenging combination of external conditions, logistics, technology and biology,” Martinussen concluded, “and of course we will learn new things and meet new challenges with the Havfarms. Equipment and procedures are relatively easy to make plans for, but the fish can’t be told what to do. We are especially eager to see how the fish will respond, both to the new technology and the different and changing weather conditions we have planned for.”

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