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Maintenance and operation of a vessel

Introduction

Under the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations (SFCR), a person who handles fish in a conveyance and a person who prepares (manufactures , processes, treats, preserves, packages, and/or labels fish for inter-provincial trade or for export, must maintain and operate the establishment, where these activities are conducted in accordance to sections 50 to 81 of the SFCR.

What is an establishment?

An establishment, as defined in the Safe Food for Canadians Act (SFCA), means any place, including a conveyance, where a food commodity is manufactured, prepared, stored, packaged or labelled.

What is a conveyance?

A conveyance, as defined in the SFCA, means a vessel, aircraft, train, motor vehicle, trailer or other means of transportation, including a cargo container.

Keep in mind!

The SFCR specifies the outcome that must be met without prescribing how to achieve the outcome. Consult the guidance available on the preventive controls for food businesses webpage for more information on preventive controls.

Purpose

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) created this document as guidance to help food businesses comply with the requirements set out in the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations.

Maintenance and operation of a vessel

The following sections provide information on control measures that can help a fisher maintain and operate a vessel in accordance to the SFCR preventive control requirements on the maintenance and operation of an establishment:

Design, construction and maintenance of the vessel (section 57 of the SFCR)

Surfaces that are made of absorbent or porous materials (such as wood) and that have joints or crevices can become saturated with sludge, slime and blood that can harbour spoilage bacteria and food pathogens. Surfaces that are made of corrodible materials and/or coated with a substance can also peel or shed particles (such as metal flakes, paint or epoxy chips). These types of surfaces are hard to clean and present a risk of contamination to your fish and the water, ice, ingredients and other materials that you use.

The layout and design of a vessel, such as the location of the doors, windows, lighting, drains, equipment, sanitary stations, the areas where fish is held, prepared, and stored, and how they are built, is also important in protecting the fish from sources of contamination such as bilge water, pests and fuel.

The vessel where you prepare, package, label and store fish has to be suitable for your operation, can be cleaned, sanitized and maintained in good repair. For example:

  • The walls and floors in the areas where you handle, prepare, package, label and store fish are:
    • smooth
    • non-absorbent
    • impervious to moisture
    • cleanable
    • free of noxious constituents
    • durable
    • resistant to deterioration
  • walls, floors and ceiling joints are sealed to prevent the accumulation of contaminants and conduct cleaning and sanitizing activities effectively
    • holds, pens, shelving, boxes and chilled water tanks are made of stainless steel, corrosion resistant aluminium, high density plastic, fibreglass reinforced plastic or coated smooth wood
  • bilge wells have a drainage system that prevents the overflow of the bilge water (a mixture of fresh water, sea water, oil, sludge, chemicals and various other fluids)
  • storage areas have a drainage system that removes the ice melt, blood and slime that can accumulate and harbour spoilage bacteria and food pathogens
  • the joints in the storage area are watertight and prevent contaminants such as fuel and grease from coming into contact with the storage area
  • the edge of the opening to the hold ("coleman" opening) has a raised edge that prevents the entry of materials from the deck

Vessels constructed prior to 1982:

  • wood surfaces are used only if they are coated with a durable, light coloured paint or coating and free from cracks and crevices
  • wooden and steel holds, fish kids, checkers and large-holding containers or pens are lined to cover cracks, crevices and gouges

Conveyances and equipment (sections 53 and 54 of the SFCR)

As with the vessel, the materials and design of the equipment you use to prepare and handle fish, ice, water and ingredients can be a source of contamination. Equipment that’s not suitable for use, or that’s used improperly, can damage the fish and expose it to sources of contamination. Damage to the fish can also cause bruising and discoloration of the flesh, and damage to the spine can cause the muscle to separate. This damage can deteriorate the quality of the fish and reduce its shelf life.

The equipment you use to handle, prepare, package and/or label fish is suitable for the intended use, functions as intended, can be cleaned, sanitized and maintained in good repair. For example:

  • the equipment and conveyances:
    • are properly installed and maintained so that they function as intended
    • are accessible for maintenance, cleaning, sanitizing, inspection and disassembly for that purpose
    • are constructed of smooth, durable, cleanable, non-corrosive, non-absorbent materials free of noxious substances
    • do not have pits, cracks and crevices where contaminants may accumulate and microorganisms can grow
    • are made of materials that are not affected by salt or water
      • equipment made of galvanized metal or epoxy coated wood is never used in direct contact with the fish
    • are inspected regularly and the equipment that is in poor condition are repaired or replaced
  • chutes, conveyors, fish washers, tables and utensils (including knives) are constructed of stainless steel, salt and water-resistant aluminium alloys, high density plastic or fibreglass reinforced plastic
  • chain drives, drive-shafts and bearings, fuel lines, fuelling ports, waste disposal lines and fuel storage tanks that remain in the storage areas are enclosed in a manner that prevents them from contaminating the fish
  • gaffs are only used to handle fish by the gills during landing operations such as long lining
  • forks are never used to handle fish
  • cooling systems are designed to facilitate the introduction and circulation of the cleaning and disinfecting solutions throughout the system
  • cooling systems:
    • are made of stainless steel, high-density plastics, seawater-resistant aluminum or copper-based alloys
    • are equipped with a compressor that is capable of preventing a significant rise in the temperature of the chilled sea water, or brine solution, when the holding tanks are loaded with fish
    • are calibrated regularly to ensure they function properly and maintain the fish at a temperature between −1°C and +2°C
    • allow slush ice or cold water to circulate effectively around the fish
  • the freezing system can freeze fish rapidly:

    • it is capable of freezing the fish to -20°C (thermal core temperature) within 36 hours at a rate of 25mm per 2 hours
    • the air current in blast freezers is at -30°C and has a velocity of 125 meters per minute
    • brine freezers are capable of freezing fish, in a well-agitated brine solution, to a temperature of −15°C or colder

    Note: Freezing is an effective control measure to inactivate parasites in raw fish. Its effectiveness varies with the:

    • type of fish
    • fish size
    • type of parasite
    • freezing temperature achieved at the core of the fish
    • length of time the fish is held at the freezing temperature
  • cold storages are equipped with a thermometer or other temperature measuring device that is accurate and located in an area where the average air temperature in the room can be measured

Cleaning and sanitation (sections 50 SFCR)

Surfaces and equipment that are filthy with substances such as dirt, slime, viscera, blood, debris, waste water and used ice can be contaminated with food pathogens, foreign matter and can attract pests. Unsanitary conditions present a risk of contamination to the fish, water, ice, ingredients and packaging materials.

You maintain the areas and surfaces where fish is unloaded, handled, held, prepared and stored, as well as the areas where the equipment, packaging and ingredients are stored, in a sanitary condition. For example:

  • the receiving areas, equipment, containers and utensils are cleaned and disinfected at least once a day during operation
  • slime, blood and scales that accumulate are cleaned off before they dry up and are difficult to remove
  • containers, utensils, penboards and shelfboards are air dried before they are stacked or stored
  • fish holding facilities, equipment such as penboards and shelfboards and utensils that come in contact with the fish are washed while they are still wet, promptly after the fish are unloaded
  • surfaces and equipment are thoroughly scrubbed and cleaned using a stiff brush or high pressure cleaning equipment, rinsed, disinfected and rinsed again
  • chilled water systems, pipes and heat exchangers are flushed, cleaned, rinsed before they are refilled with water
  • water used for cleaning and rinsing is suitable for use (quantity, temperature, pH) and does not pose a risk of contamination
    • you do not use sea water from around harbours or docks and in close vicinity to towns, villages, industrial plants, fish processing plants and freezer factory ships
      • seawater in these areas can be contaminated with human and animal faeces, gas and debris

Find out which cleaners and sanitizers were assessed as suitable for use by Health Canada in the Reference Listing of Accepted Construction Materials, Packaging Materials and Non-Food Chemical Products Database.

  • you apply a cleaning method known to be effective, for example:
    • you rinse the surfaces and equipment with a high pressure jet of cold water to remove excess slime, blood and scales
    • you scrub the surfaces and equipment using a stiff brush or a high pressure cleaner in combination with an acceptable detergent
    • you rinse with cold water
    • you sanitize using cold water mixed with a hypochlorite solution or other acceptable disinfectant
    • you rinse once again to remove the disinfectant

Learn more by reading the Cleaning and sanitation program document.

Pest Control (sections 51 SFCR)

Pests are a risk of contamination to the fish, water, ice, ingredients and packaging materials. You prevent pests by:

  • maintaining the vessel in a condition that prevents the entry of pests
  • keeping your vessel in a clean condition to discourage pests from harbouring
  • having a pest control program
    • you have traps to control and remove pests that manage to enter
    • you monitor regularly for the presence of pests and dispose of pests that are caugh

Learn more by reading the pest control document.

Sanitizers and nonfood chemical agents (sections 52 SFCR)

Cleaning and sanitizing solutions and other nonfood chemical agents can present a risk of contamination if they are not suitable for use or come in contact with the fish. You ensure that cleaning detergents, disinfection agents and other nonfood chemical agents are:

  • suitable for their intended use
  • identified properly
  • handled and used in accordance to the manufacturer's instructions
  • stored separately from the fish away from the areas where fish is handled, prepared, packaged and labelled

Movement of persons and things (section 59 of the SFCR)

The movement of persons, equipment and materials such as lubricants, gasoline, cleaning and sanitation supplies in a vessel can be a source of contamination to the fish, water and ice. You protect the fish from contamination by:

  • unloading and holding the fish in areas protected from foot traffic
  • loading and unloading the materials, and moving them from storage to where they are used, in a manner that prevents them from coming into contact with the fish, water and ice and from contaminating the areas where fish is handled, held and stored.

Lighting (section 63, 64 and 65 of the SFCR)

Adequate lighting helps ensure that you conduct your activities properly and effectively. The placement and intensity of the lighting available, in the areas where you conduct your activities, is suitable for your operation. For example, the lighting available allows you to:

  • operate the equipment safely and properly
  • identify defects in the fish
  • conduct inspections effectively
  • examine the condition of the vessel and fish for evidence of visible contamination, unsanitary conditions and pests
  • clean and sanitize your vessel and equipment effectively

Light fixtures can be made of materials that present a risk of contamination to your fish if broken. You make sure that the light fixtures in the vessel are suitable for your operation. For example, the light fixtures:

  • are constructed from shatter-resistant materials
  • are shielded with safety covers when they have materials like glass that could break

Removal and disposal of contaminated materials and waste (section 66 of the SFCR)

Waste, such as garbage, discarded packaging, broken pallets, discarded construction materials, and inedible products or food waste are a source of contamination. You handle, store and dispose of waste in a manner that prevents the contamination of the fish. For example:

  • you label utensils and containers used to collect, hold and dispose of waste as for waste use only
  • the drainage and sewage system on the vessel is located as far away from the water intakes as possible, closer to the stern
    • you do not dispose of fish waste in the areas where you source seawater for your operation
    • you do not dispose of raw sewage such as human waste within three nautical miles of shore (Vessel Pollution and Dangerous Goods Regulations, Section 96, sub-section 1, sub-sub-section (e) (ii)) or near the areas where you source seawater for your operation
  • waste receptacles are emptied into an approved sewage disposal system after returning to shore and then cleaned
  • you remove and dispose of used and contaminated ice as soon as your catch is unloaded

Hand cleaning, sanitizing stations and lavatories (section 67 of the SFCR)

Poor hygienic practices can result in the contamination of the fish. The vessel has the necessary sanitary facilities for employees to maintain personal cleanliness. For example:

  • hand washing facilities:
    • are readily accessible and close to the fish handling areas
    • are equipped with clean running water, liquid or powdered soap, single service towels
    • are maintained in a clean and sanitary condition
    • can accommodate the number of employees on the vessel, for example, one marine-type flush toilet and one washbasin is available for every ten crew members
  • you have dedicated human waste containment receptacles that are:
    • made of impervious and cleanable materials designed to prevent spillage
    • have tight-fitting lids
    • used only for the purpose intended
    • secured and in an appropriate location to prevent contamination of the fish due to spillage or leakage
    • emptied into an approved sewage disposal system
    • cleaned after they are emptied

Supply of water, steam and ice (sections 70 and 71 of the SFCR)

The ice used to protect fish from spoilage and the water used to wash the fish or clean and sanitize surfaces and equipment can present a source of contamination. You ensure that:

  • the supply of ice and water is available in a quantity sufficient to meet the needs of your operation
  • you only use clean water that does not present a risk of contamination to make the ice, wash or bleed the fish and to clean and sanitize the surfaces and equipment
    • if necessary, you apply a treatment such as filtration or ultraviolet lights to the water
      • the treatment does not pose a risk of contamination and is maintained to ensure its effectiveness
    • you do not use sea water from around harbours or docks and in close vicinity to towns, villages, industrial plants, fish processing plants and freezer factory ships
      • seawater in these areas can be contaminated with human and animal faeces, gas and debris
  • you handle the ice with clean utensils

For information on the suitability of water for use consult the document Water for use in the preparation of food.

Storing (section 74 of the SFCR)

The surrounding temperature has a significant effect on the safety, quality and shelf life of fish. It can increase the rate of growth of spoilage bacteria commonly present on the surface and in the gut of fish. These spoilage bacteria can produce high levels of histamine in susceptible fish species. The following are examples of storage temperatures and the number of days fish can be stored at those temperatures before spoilage becomes noticeable:

  • 10°C (50°F) - 1.5 days
  • 6°C (41°F) - 3.5 days
  • 4°C (38°F) - 5 days
  • 0°C (32°F) - 8 days

Pathogens can also increase to unsafe levels during storage. For example, Vibrio parahaemolyticus (Vp) when present in shellfish, such as live oysters, can grow at a temperature of 5°C or higher and double in numbers in less than 2 hours at a temperature of 25°C.

You protect the fish from damage, spoilage and contamination during storage by:

  • placing the fish on ice to prevent direct contact with the warmer surfaces of the vessel
    • this prevents the rapid growth of anaerobic bacteria that result in bilgy fish
  • covering the fish with sufficient ice to cool and maintain it at 4°C or lower but not below −1°C because a partial freeze could damage the texture of fresh fish

    • the temperature is read and recorded at least once per day or continually with an automatic temperature recorder
    • close fitted and insulated non-absorbent plastic or rubberized covers are used to reduce air circulation which speeds up the melting of ice

    Note: Spoilage of fresh fish is delayed by holding the fish at −1°C.

  • maintaining the temperature of frozen fish at -18 °C or lower
    • fish are moved to the freezers only after the freezing process is fully completed
    • fluctuations in temperature are prevented because they can adversely affect the quality of frozen fish
    • the temperature is read and recorded at least once per day or continually with an automatic temperature recorder
  • using shelving to prevent fish from getting crushed when stored in holds with a depth greater than 90 cm
    • species of fish that are highly susceptible to crushing, such as crustaceans, mackerel, herring, and crab, should be stored at a maximum depth of 60 cm to protect them from damage which can cause spoilage and can expose them to contamination
  • using chutes, flumes or other devices to slide the fresh fish down into the hold rather than throwing or dropping the fish into the hold
  • storing the catch from different fishing days separately

The equipment, sanitizers, non-food chemical agents, ingredients, packaging material and labels you use and the products needed to maintain and run the vessel such as oil, gasoline and lubricants also have to be stored in a manner that does not present a risk of contamination of the food. For example, you store:

  • nonfood chemicals, sanitizers and chemical agents:
    • in accordance to the manufacturer's instructions
    • in a designated, dry, ventilated area that prevents the risk of cross-contamination of your food, packaging material or food contact surfaces, from spillage or leakage that may occur
    • you follow the "first in, first out" stock rotation principle to minimize deterioration which may make them ineffective for use
  • equipment:
    • in accordance to the manufacturer's instructions
    • in designated locations that are clean and away from employee traffic and food production areas
  • products needed to maintain and run the vessel and equipment:
    • separately from the fish and away from the areas where fish is handled, prepared, packaged and labelled
  • packaging materials:
    • off the ground in a clean and dry area
    • following the "first in", "first out" stock rotation principle to prevent their deterioration that may occur over time and make them a risk of contamination to the food

Note: The materials used to package your fish such as boxes, plastic films, nettings, trays and pouches have to be suitable for the intended use. For example, boxes are made of smooth, non-absorbent, non-corrodible material, free from cracks and crevices, provide drainage and protect the fish from damage by crushing.

Personnel competencies (section 75 of the SFCR)

Your personnel have the competencies and qualifications necessary to carry out the tasks and duties assigned to them.

  • Your employees are trained on food hazards, food hygiene, clean and sanitary conditions and the hygienic practices to follow to prevent the contamination of food. For example, they are trained on:
    • good hygienic practices (GHP)
    • HACCP principles
      • identifying food safety hazards and control measures
    • sanitation processes for the facility and equipment
    • maintenance of the facility and equipment
    • flow of your operation
    • equipment calibration, service and repair
    • workplace hazardous materials
    • handling non-food chemical agents

You ensure your personnel are trained by:

  • identifying the training and knowledge required for each position/employee based on the tasks and duties they perform
  • providing training when changes to your food business occur
  • maintaining the competencies and qualifications of your employees by providing them refresher training as needed

Hygiene (section 75 to 81 of the SFCR)

Personnel on the vessel can present a risk of contamination to the fish if they do not apply good hygiene practices. You ensure that the employees:

  • wash and sanitize their hands after using sanitary facilities and before handling the fish
  • wear clean protective clothing, gloves, footwear and hair coverings as needed
  • do not wear objects that can contaminate the fish such as jewellery, hand cream or topical medicinal creams
  • do not spit on the vessel, chew gum, use tobacco products or eat in the areas where fish is handled, prepared, packaged or stored
  • inform you, or someone designated by you, when they have a disease or illness, symptoms of a disease or illness or an open or infected lesion
    • you do not allow a person who is suffering from, or is a known carrier of, a communicable disease or who has an open or infected lesion to enter or be in an area where the fish is prepared, stored, packaged or labelled

Tell me more! Further reading

The following references contain information that helps explain food safety controls, demonstrates how to develop them, and provides examples. The CFIA is not responsible for the content of documents that are created by other government agencies or international sources.

CFIA references

Other references