A half million pound investment by a Portavogie fisherman is set to see him boost business by 33 per cent and support the development of the industry in one of Northern Ireland’s key fishing ports.
William Coffey is purchasing a new 70ft vessel, with the support of Ulster Bank, to enable him to become more efficient and productive.
The Opportune is three times the size of his original family trawler Girl Eileen, which was also bought with Ulster Bank support in 1979. It will enable him and his crew to fish in deeper waters, remain at sea for longer, and endure more difficult sailing conditions.
As a result, he expects to be able to increase the amount of fish brought in per annum by around a third.
The vessel has a gross tonnage of more than 176 tonnes. It is also much more efficient, meaning that it will use significantly less fuel.
Keith Thompson, Ulster Bank business manager, says that fishing is critical to the economy of towns in the southern part of the Ards Peninsula, and the bank is very pleased to support the investment.
He says: “Northern Ireland has some 280 active fishing vessels, according to research by Seafish, which land around 58,000 tonnes of fish per annum. These vessels employ around 800 people and account for some £28m of Gross Value Added. And that doesn’t include the wider employment and economic impact through the entire fishing supply chain.
“Places like Portavogie still rely heavily on fishing for employment; not just on the trawlers, but also the various companies involved in the likes of processing and retailing. William is a third generation trawlerman who understands the need to invest to make his business more productive and sustainable. After a significant amount of research, he identified the vessel that best suited his needs, and he put together a strong business plan, which we are very pleased to support.”
William Coffey says: “I worked very closely with Keith and the team at Ulster Bank to plan and secure support for the investment. It is critical for the future success of my business; enabling it to be more competitive. We can now fish in waters and weather that we couldn’t previously, and we will be spending a lot less on fuel. We are very grateful for the support we have received from the bank, without which we wouldn’t be able to make the investment.”
The Coffeys have been Ulster Bank customers since 1979, and this is the fourth boat the bank has financed for the family – the others being Ribhinn Donn in 1989 and Sagittarius in 2011.