THE ARRIVAL of a brand new state of the art whitefish trawler at the outlying community of Out Skerries has been described as a major boost to the small community by skipper Leslie Hughson.
Built at Mooney Boats yard in Killybegs the Ocean Challenge arrived in Lerwick at the weekend before heading to her home port of Skerries for the naming ceremony on Sunday.
Back in Lerwick on Monday to take on gear ahead of fishing trials later this week, Hughson said sailing the new vessel home to Skerries had been a “proud moment”.
And while making a living in Shetland’s outlying islands has become more and more difficult, Hughson says Skerries is very much home and he and his wife Diane were trying to spend at least most weekends on the small island group.
The Ocean Challenge joins the Renown and Sharyn Louise who are also both registered in Skerries.
Most of all, however, the new 28-metre trawler is a statement of confidence in the future of fishing beyond Brexit, and as such an investment into the next generation of local fishermen. Leslie’s son Steven is currently second skipper.
The new £5 million vessel was initially due for delivery in June this year but the coronavirus pandemic caused a delay of several months after the shipyard in Donegal was forced to close down temporarily.
Hughson said the trawler had been ordered after the previous vessel Ocean Way sunk in March 2017 and crews and quota were transferred to the company’s other vessel Fairway.
They soon realised that they required a new vessel, Hughson said, and placed an order with Mooney Boats “who we were introduced to during the fishing exhibition three years ago.”
The new Ocean Challenge is larger than the Ocean Way, offers significantly more safety at sea and while fishing, and also brings more comfort to the crew quarters.
Hughson said they had a crew of seven at the moment but were planning to introduce a two-shift system employing 11 people.
At 28.5 metre with a beam of 8.7 metre, the new vessel is powered by a 990 horsepower ABC 6DZC engine. Auxiliary and second auxiliary engines are both from Caterpillar, while gearbox and propellers have been supplied by Heimdal.
With the Fairway sold to a new partnership in January this year, Hughson and his men are ready to get going, particularly at a moment in history when big changes to fishing are just around the corner.
“There are far too many foreign boats fishing around here which after all are our own waters,” he said, adding that as much as 70 per cent of the local fleet’s traditional fishing grounds were taken up by gill nets set by French and Spanish vessels.
Hughson said that he and his crew also have had several encounters with those vessels over the years, including two memorable moments with the German registered Pesorsa Dos who has been in the headlines lately.
He said he was well aware that it would take some time for changes to be implemented once the UK had become an independent coastal state, but the direction of travel was clear in that the presence of EU-registered vessels in Shetland waters would be reduced.
And that, he said, “can only be a good thing for the fishing industry here in Shetland.”
The Ocean Challenge crew are crew are Leslie Hughson, second skipper Steven Hughson, Arthur Johnson, engineer Callum Nicol, Paul Moodie, second engineer David Wynn and Leonard Johnson.
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