DEADLIEST CATCH Captain Sig Hansen can’t say enough good things about the Thrane & Thrane Fleetbroadband 500 marine satellite services terminal currently operational on his 126 foot crabber, the Northwestern. Risking life and limb working the treacherous and unpredictable waters of the Bearing Sea, Captain Hansen and his crew rely on the revolutionary technology afforded by the Fleetbroadband 500 marine satellite services terminal to find and catch king and snow crabs faster, stay in touch with family and friends and, perhaps most importantly, keep them out of harms way. “If I had to go back to fishing without Fleetbroadband I’d feel like I was taking 10 steps back – life would be pretty tough,” says Captain Sig.
The Northwestern can carry up to 90,720kg (200,000lb) of crab worth more than $1 million US dollars. The FBB500 allows the crew to maximize their time at sea by providing them with “real time” access to online weather forecasts for the Bering Sea, which lies west of Alaska and just south of the Arctic Circle. “It can be flat calm one minute and then blowing 50 or 60 knots the next. I’ve seen waves up to 21m (70 feet) and that can be terrifying,” says Sig. “If you have a great distance to travel to get to safety in that kind of weather every second counts, so you need to know the weather forecast as soon as possible.”
The Fleetbroadband 500 has given Sig a unique and valuable advantage over competitors too – the ability to constantly keep in touch with buyers. In the old days (prior to the FBB500) Captain Sig would head for whichever port was offering the best price. Some processors have now started accepting deliveries “at sea” so Sig uses the satellite service to keep tabs on these buyers to ensure he reaches them before his competitors do.
Crab fishing is incredibly dangerous and it’s not unusual for seafarers to get injured as they wrestle with 363kg (800lb) steel crab pots or cut themselves on the knives they use. He’s glad to have the satellite technology aboard as a reliable channel for medical advice when there’s an emergency too. “If necessary, I can do a videoconference and show the doctor the injury. He can actually see the wound and tell us what to do,” says Sig.
When members of the crew are off-duty, Fleetbroadband performs another vital role. It helps lift the morale of the six-man crew by enabling them to phone home, or interface their laptops to the vessel’s wi-fi network to send emails or use the internet.