NEWPORT — After the F/V Evolution took on eight tons of flake ice last Friday, Oct. 16, Ed Backus, general manager of Community Ice, walked out the gangway to thank the captain. It wasn’t the first time the boat filled up at the new ice plant. “It’s good ice,” the News-Times overheard someone on the boat tell Backus.
The F/V Evolution is a shrimping boat, mixing in the ice as the shrimp is loaded on board. When delivered, the ice and the shrimp are mixed.
“What’s important to a shrimp vessel is that the ice stays cold and loose, so they can shovel it easily when they’re mixing it with the harvested product,” Backus said.
Community Ice has been in operation for three weeks. Business has been good, Backus said, but he recognized it was the end of the shrimp season. He noted the time taken to build the plant to be fast and efficient.
“We don’t want to keep vessels at the dock for more than an hour or an hour and 20 minutes, depending on how much ice they’re taking on.” Backus noted, “It’s good to get things right from the start.”
Explaining what he called the peaks and valleys of demand, Backus related the seasons. “November and December, aside from ground fish, is going to be slow.” January, February and March, Community Ice will serve the crab buyers, he said. “Spring and summer is when it really picks up. You’ve got tuna, black cod, shrimp, salmon — a much greater diversity of vessels and products being harvested.”
Everybody buys the same product, flaked ice, but uses it in different ways. On a hake (also known as whiting) boat, there are refrigerated seawater systems on board. When they get a large number of fish on board, which has a lot of heat, they use ice to chill the already chilled water down. “On a salmon troller, they’re probably taking a tote and making a slush tank, adding ice and water together, so it’s a super chill, a speed chill, on the salmon,” Backus said.
Community Ice is an ammonia plant. Backus noted that ammonia not a greenhouse gas. Ammonia is a very efficient refrigerant, he said, explaining the process. “You’re running liquid ammonia to a vapor ammonia, and in that boil-off process, you’re pulling heat from water inside an ice machine. That vapor goes back to a compressor and runs to a condenser, which changes it back from a vapor to a liquid by cooling it off, getting rid of that heat off the top of the roof through the condenser. Then run the cycle again. It’s all a big loop.”
Backus observed that while the processing plants sell ice, they are also unloading product at the same time. “Sometimes the docks are quite crowded,” he observed. “This is alleviating some of that bottleneck.”
The Hall family, descended from Wilburn Hall, of Waldport, owns Community Ice, as well as 40 acres on the point at the Newport International Terminal. Backus pointed to where earth-moving machines were working and utilities were to be installed. “The goal is to develop it as a seafood processing industrial park,” he said. “Providing ice is one of the first steps in that process. I see this as a first step to create breathing room for vessels and other companies to expand their operations.”