On the Water

Block Pan for Freezing Fish

This shallow, metal pan was used for freezing processed fish aboard the factory trawler Alaska Ocean. Operating in the North Pacific and the Bering Sea, the Alaska Ocean is one vessel in the fleet that catches and processes pollock, hake, and whiting.

In the factory the fish are gutted and filleted by German-made filleting machines, which can be calibrated to remove the bones and skin according to a customer’s preference. Onboard engineers adjust the angles of the knives within a quarter of a millimeter to provide a product with a small amount of fat, or no fat at all, depending on the customer’s specifications.

After the initial filleting, workers in the factory load pans like this with fish fillets, fish roe, or minced fish. A conveyor belt carries the filled pans to other workers who load them into plate freezers. After about two hours, when the freezing is complete, the pans are unloaded from the freezer, and the blocks of frozen fish are removed and packed for shipment. The packed blocks of product are stacked in the ship’s large freezer hold until they can be offloaded ashore.

The Alaska Ocean carries two sizes of pans, a block pan like this and a slightly larger size for surimi, a type of fish paste used in making imitation crabmeat. The vessel carries a total of 2800 pans, 1400 of each size. The factory has 16 plate freezers aboard, 8 for single pans and 8 for doubles. A single-pan plate freezer can hold 102 surimi pans and 119 block pans at a time.

The wax lining in this pan facilitates removing the frozen product. This one is marked “M” for mince, a ground fish product used in making fish sticks and fish fingers.

ID Number:
2 3/8 x 20 3/4 x 11 3/4 in.; 6.0325 x 52.705 x 29.845 cm
Alaska Ocean thru Jeff Hendricks