“No fish farmer get the margins wellboat owners do”

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That was one of the reasons why Gerhard Alsaker went to purchase his own wellboat.

“I name you ‘Kristoffer Tronds’. May good luck follow you and your crew,” said the sponsor, Malene Kristine Alsaker, as she smashed a bottle of Cremant de Bourgogne onto the ship’s side. As the precious drops flowed down the blue-painted ship’s side, a hired horn orchestra sang the Norwegian national anthem, “Ja, vi elsker.”

With that, “Kristoffer Tronds”, the 90 meter long wellboat – named after a Norwegian admiral and pirate – was finally christened. However, the Alsaker Group’s first self-owned wellboat has been in operation for several months already after the shipowner himself picked it up from the yard in Spain in the late winter.

Favorable financing
On board, Gerhard Alsaker had not just one ham, but a whole pallet of Bellota Iberico hams, one of which was served to the baptismal guests. Then he and his family had walked from their 249 square meter apartment (or “cabin”, as he calls it) on Bryggen, a stone’s throw from the quay where the well boat is moored.

The investment in what, so far, is Norway’s largest wellboat, is significant for the Tysnes fish farmer. But it is made possible with favorable Spanish funding. The Alsaker Group has in fact received NOK 130 million (€12.6 million) from the boat purchase through an EU-approved Spanish ‘tax lease’, which meant that Norwegian shipyards were not competitive on price.

“This means that Spanish shipyards can compete with Turkish shipyards, and means that you pay a lower price than what the Spanish shipyard receives in settlement,” explains Alsaker’s lawyer Arthur Duus.

The solution entails tax benefits for Spanish private investors, such as doctors and dentists, not unlike the previous Norwegian variant with limited partnerships.

“20-25 per cent of the total price is ‘tax lease’,” Duus told SalmonBusiness.

Read more: Alsaker orders new wellboat

Gerhard Alsaker. Photo: Aslak Berge

Fish farmer and shipowner Gerhard Alsaker is clear on why he has purchased his own wellboat:

Investing in your own wallet
“We have basically used Bømlo Brønnbåtservice as a provider of wellboat services since we started in the mid 80’s. Now they have been acquired by Sølvtrans. Some years ago we paid per kilo of salmon when we rented the boats, but now we have to rent a boat on time.” This is how it has become, he said, and pointed out that a well boat today is used for significantly more than just transporting fish.

“If you rent a well boat on TC (time charter – editor’s note), then it is the case that when the TC has expired, the boat is paid off. We will at least now own the boat even when we have reached the end. We also get the boat we want, even if we want to rebuild it along the way. And then it is the case that one invests in one’s own wallet rather than in someone else’s,” he explained.

“Look at ‘Johnny Fishfarmer’ and the margins he gets, it is not so much. There are no fish farmers who get the margins the wellboat owners do. If you look at the fish farm accounts for 2020 – it is sad reading,” said Alsaker.