As we head into the uncertainty of BREXIT it was reassuring to see a ‘Business as usual’ approach to the future of the Northern Ireland fishing industry coming out of Kilkeel with the launch of Voyager in the Karstensens Shipyard, Skagen, Denmark. Designed in Norway by naval architect Salt Ship Design for the McCullough family of Kilkeel, this giant leap forwards is surely a nod to the future growth expected in the region, no matter what BREXIT delivers.
The only problem now is that Kilkeel Harbour, the Fishing Capital of Northern Ireland, is too small to house her. A whopping 86.4 meters in length, she dwarfs everything else in the Northern Ireland fleet, including the harbour itself.
The Kilkeel Harbour Development project, to deliver a bigger harbour for boats like Voyager as well as a world class facility to support fishing sector growth, has been rumbling on for years, not quite finding its feet and often lost within documents and policies attached to the various changes in Government and upheavals at Stormont. With the arrival of such an incredible asset for the Northern Ireland fishing fleet, but the embarrassment of not having a usable infrastructure to house her, let alone the world class facility Northern Ireland desperately needs to ensure our fishing capital can compete with our UK and European neighbours, the spotlight has now shone upon the Kilkeel Harbour Development project again. Maybe this time, with such an urgent and obvious need, Ministers will understand the need to push this over the finish line.
“Kilkeel is on the brink of a new era in which fishing and offshore work combine to create a wealth of industrial activity which will re-ignite the marine economy,” said Alan McCulla, chief executive officer of Sea Source, the Kilkeel based consortium.
“Coastal communities around Europe area beginning to see the benefits of offshore energy developments and more efficient and ecologically sensitive fishing methods and Kilkeel is no exception. In the Irish Sea basin, there are many competitor ports along the south west coast of Scotland, the west coasts of England and Wales and the Republic of Ireland yet Kilkeel stands out as the most forward-thinking and ambitious of them all. This position needs to be consolidated and Kilkeel must be upgraded to make it for purpose for the challenges and opportunities which lie ahead,” he says.
Watch this space.