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As Captains Johnathan and Andy Hillstrand of the Homer-based F/V Time Bandit finish up the king crab season, they embark on a new adventure - and not just for opilio crab as the season opens.
Under a project by SeaLand Environmental Inc., a Bradenton, Fla., company, the Time Bandit will be going green.
Don't expect to see the Time Bandit's skull-and-crossbones logo painted fluorescent green, though. This week, SeaLand Environmental owner Jeff Steele meets with the Hillstrands in King Cove to start a retrofit of the 113-foot crabber that will incorporate environmentally friendly products and technologies.
The Time Bandit and its captains have earned international fame on the Discovery Channel TV series "Deadliest Catch," which chronicles Alaska's opilio and king crab seasons. The show is entering its sixth season and airs in more than 150 countries.
Steele founded SeaLand Environmental in 2001 after a career in commercial fishing. The company's green retrofit of the Time Bandit is its first venture on a large commercial fishing vessel in Alaska. Some changes, such as putting on copper-free, anti-fouling bottom paint will be done next spring in dry dock. Other changes can be done during the break between king and opilio crab seasons.
Steele said changes will include:
Changing the hydraulic fluid to a vegetable-based, fire-resistant and nontoxic product.
Installing an on-demand hydrogen assist fuel system to increase efficiency and reduce omissions.
Installing new oil filters and an oil monitoring system that will delay oil changes while keeping it clean.
Supplying nontoxic, soy-based cleaners and degreasers.
"This change is very exciting," Johnathan Hillstrand said in a statement, "We look forward to setting the standard on the Bering Sea for crabbing vessels."
Already installed and being tested on the Time Bandit is a product called "No Ice," a clear coat that keeps freezing spray and rain from icing up on the ship.
Used in the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard, No Ice actually releases heat right before water freezes and stops large amounts of ice from building up. On the show, crab fisherman are often seen breaking up chunks of ice with baseball bats during the opilio crab season.
"This would be a breakthrough for guys fishing in Alaska," Steele said.
To make sure everything works and to teach the Time Bandit crew how to use the new products and technologies, Steele also will accompany them from King Cove to Dutch Harbor and then St. Paul.
"We'll give it a trip, make sure everything works as it's supposed to," he said.
Although he's lived 16 years in Florida, Steele is no stranger to northern seas or the marine industry. He was born and raised in Brooklin, Maine. He commercially fished in Maine for 12 years. His father was a boat builder and his grandfather a lobsterman.
SeaLand Environmental's approach is to survey vessels and other industries and provide businesses with an analytic report recommending environmentally friendly products and technologies.
For the Time Bandit, Steele met with the Hillstrands last October, and then through SeaLand's Green Source Analytics Group prepared a 15-point plan for them.
The analysis shows "you can go green, save money and it's cost effective," said Bryan Jennings, a spokesman for SeaLand.
"Going green" is more than being environmentally responsible. It also saves fishermen money. According to the Time Bandit's green analytic report, new fuel and oil filtering systems will save the crabbers about $14,000 a year. The more efficient fuel system can increase efficiency by about 20 percent.
"The Hillstrands are ecstatic about this," Steele said. "They feel they're making a statement, particularly in an industry that has gotten some bad knocks."