Northern Ireland

New £30m trawler for fishing fleet

The Voyager in a Danish boatyard Image copyright ANIFPO
Image caption The Voyager in a Danish boatyard

A new £30m trawler bought by a Kilkeel family is an expression of confidence in the future of fishing, according to industry leaders.

However they say it will not be seen in Northern Ireland waters because of a lack of investment in harbour infrastructure.

The 86m-long Voyager is too big to land its catch at Kilkeel Harbour.

A proposed expansion of facilities there has not materialised despite extensive lobbying.

Image copyright ANIFPO
Image caption The high tech wheelhouse of the Voyager

The boat was built in Denmark for the McCullough family who are from the County Down town.

It is likely to operate out of Killybegs in County Donegal, fishing for herring and mackerel.

The fishing industry has been lobbying for the building of an outer harbour at Kilkeel for a number of years.

The projected cost is about £35m.

A business case was commissioned by the Strategic Investment Board and part paid for by Northern Ireland Executive departments.

However, Alan McCulla of the Anglo North Irish Fish Producers Organisation said progress had "stalled".

Image copyright ANIFPO
Image caption Artist's impression of the new outer harbour development

Mr McCulla said the project was a victim of "political limbo", and a lack of commitment to the fishing industry.

He claimed fishing was being treated as a "Cinderella by people in positions of influence pretending it is, at best, unimportant or, at worst, doesn't exist".

Investment decisions by processing companies in Kilkeel were being postponed due to uncertainty over the harbour expansion, he said.

The Voyager is expected to leave Denmark in the coming days on its maiden fishing trip to the north-east Atlantic.

Image copyright ANIFPO
Image caption McCulla family members joined by boatyard representatives at the launch

Its crew of 13 is from the Kilkeel area.

Mr McCulla claimed its inability to land its catch in Kilkeel was denying the town valuable spin-off work in processing, maintenance and engineering contracts.