On Monday, Omega Shipyard, a subsidiary of Omega Protein, christened the Southern Star, a newly retrofitted vessel that is now bound for Uruguay, where it will be used by Cooke Uruguay, a sister division of Omega Protein under Cooke Inc., to fish for red crab (Chaceon Notialis).

Glenn Cooke, CEO and co-founder of Cooke Inc., along with his father and co-founder, Gifford Cooke, attended the christening ceremony.

"This vessel is going to be a quantum leap into the future compared to what's currently available," said Tim Milligan, director of the Omega Protein shipyard.

"It's going to expand the capabilities of the fleet in a big way."

The Southern Star began its service in 1979 as a supply vessel for the offshore oil industry. It was purchased by Omega Protein in 2016, prior to its acquisition by Cooke. Originally its retrofit began at the Moss Point shipyard with plans to become a menhaden fishing vessel. However, the vessel was redesigned and will now serve as a red crab fishing vessel in the waters of the Southern Atlantic Ocean.

A $12 million refurbishment

Cooke invested $12 million (€10.7 million) into the retrofit. "The vessel has facilities to process, package, freeze and store red crab onboard, allowing it to sell directly to retailers and wholesalers, improving the quality and freshness of the product," the company said.

Other renovations include a completely rebuilt propulsion system, as well as digitally controlled equipment that will reduce the amount of manual labor necessary to catch and land red crab. With its new equipment, the Southern Star will be able to stay at sea for up to 30 days per each trip.

"With these new renovations, you can't get a fresher product," says Milligan. "They're going to allow us to provide seafood that comes straight from the ocean and goes directly to the customer."

After leaving Moss Point, the Southern Star will have a permanent homeport in Montevideo, Uruguay, where it will operate off the country's coast.

Omega Protein operates seven manufacturing facilities located in the United States, Canada and Europe. The company also has a long-term supply contract with Alpha VesselCo, which owns 30 vessels that harvest menhaden in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico.