World’s first ocean based fish farm unit

The first ocean based fish farm unit ever constructed was delivered in September 2017 by a Chinese shipyard to a Norwegian company and offloaded for operation in the open ocean off the Norwegian coast. The fish farm unit is semi-submersible; without engines or other means of propulsion. Nevertheless, when it comes to construction costs, size and volume this ocean based fish farm unit is more similar to ships and other offshore units than traditional fish farm units.

Authors: Partner Frode Henning Anthonsen and Partner Marit E. Kirkhusmo

However, and even though the ocean based fish farm unit have many similarities with ships and offshore units, there is no legal basis in the Maritime Code for registration of the unit in the Norwegian Ship Registry – neither during its construction, nor after its delivery. Although it follows from section 33 of the Maritime Code that “floating units” (No: flytende innretning) which are not registerable after section 11 of the Maritime Code can be registered, it follows from government regulations that fish farm units are not comprised by this section. Neither may such units be registered as a “fixed installation” pursuant to the Maritime Code section 39.

As the ocean based fish farm unit is not registerable pursuant to the Maritime Code, no mortgage can be registered over the unit with the Ship Registry as is normally done when mortgaging ships and other offshore units. Instead it must be pledged pursuant to the Mortgage Act section 3-9 concerning charges over fish farms and other similar machinery used, or intended for use, in aquaculture. As opposed to construction of ships and other “floating units” however (where a mortgage can be registered during construction of the unit), charges pursuant to the Mortgage Act section 3-9 cannot be registered during the construction phase of the unit.

An ocean based fish farm unit may have the same cost as a ship and due to its size and construction be built by a shipyard. Hence, most builders and owners of such a unit will require outside financing. The lack of ability to register a mortgage over an ocean based fish farm unit with the Ship Registry may render it more challenging to obtain such financing, especially during the construction phase. Although various arrangements can be made to adhere to the needs of financiers, the question is whether it would be more practical to open up for registration of ocean based fish farm units within the same or similar systems as for ships and other offshore units. These questions are currently under consideration by the Norwegian Ministry of Fisheries and the Norwegian Maritime Directorate.

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Frode Henning Antonsen
Partner
T: +47 73 99 27 08
M: +47 480 16 508
Marit E. Kirkhusmo
Partner
T: +47 22 81 45 44
M: +47 995 23 534
Oddbjørn Slinning
Partner
T: +47 22 81 45 54
M: +47 481 21 650
Guy Leonard
Partner
T: +47 22 81 45 41
M: +47 977 35 003