It’s a case of ‘all hands on deck’ for the Stefanie M Fishing Company, following a recent multi-million pound investment in a new 51 metre fishing trawler, with the support of First Trust Bank. The high-tech vessel will improve yield quality through its innovative refrigeration and storage system, with the investment also expected to increase turnover at the firm.
Established in 2002 by Samuel McCullough, the family owned Stefanie M Fishing Company is based in Kilkeel, Co Down, but will dock its new boat in Belfast Harbour due to its size.
The vessel can also been seen making port at various harbours across NI and Europe, including Warrenpoint, during the fishing season.
Known as the Stefanie M, the boat is one of only three of its kind in Northern Ireland. Employing state-of-the-art technology, the ship pumps its catch into on-board sea water tanks, ensuring stock is fresh and of the highest quality. The boat also has a more powerful engine than the firm’s previous vessel, meaning it can travel quicker and steam in and out of ports more efficiently.
Employing 10 local people including three engineers, the Stefanie M is a pelagic fishing company catching mainly herring and mackerel. The majority of fish caught by the Stefanie M is sold to fish processers in Kilkeel and Ardglass, who supply the local food industry and export to a number of countries across Europe, Asia and North Africa.
The new boat has increased catch capacity by almost 200 tonnes and is capable of holding up to 650 tonnes. It also has 8 cabins, a kitchen and living room quarters, ensuring the crew have a comfortable home away from home when they are out at sea for long periods during the six month fishing season.
Speaking about the multi-million pound investment, Stefanie M Managing Director and Skipper, Stephen McCullough said: “The whole company is delighted with the investment in the new boat which is set to improve many aspects of our business including quality of produce, safety, fuel usage and efficiency, as we begin the new fishing season. We have been banking with First Trust Bank since the company was first established and enjoy very strong relationships with the team there. They understand the ins and outs of the fishing industry and have supported other fishing companies locally, so we knew they would make the investment process a smooth and simple one. We are looking forward to testing the Stefanie M out on the open water and we’re positive the vessel will help us expand our fishing operations for years to come.”
Welcoming news of the investment, Kevin Fitzpatrick, Kilkeel branch, First Trust Bank said: “As a long standing customer of the Bank, we have watched the Stefanie M Fishing Company, and the McCullough family support local people and local companies in Kilkeel over the last 40 years. They are an experienced company, and we are delighted to support their development with this significant investment as they continue to grow their business.”
Eoin Donnelly, Business Banking, First Trust Bank said: “The importance of the agri food sector to our overall economy is well known and the Stefanie M Fishing Company is the latest Northern Ireland company to benefit from the Bank’s dedicated Agri-Food Fund. We have a team of 16 agri-food specialists based throughout our branch network, each of whom have a close working knowledge and appreciation of the unique needs of agri and food customers. We’re delighted to support this great local fishing company as they modernise their operations.”