Parkol-built fishing trawler sets sail, as company says demand for vessels is doubling

Guiding Light.
Guiding Light.

The Parkol-built Guiding Light trawler became the latest symbol of marine industry optimism, as she set sail from Whitby on Wednesday.

And one of the factors in her success is a commitment to new, greener fishing methods.

The pair trawler, ordered by Guiding Light Limited and parent company, Hull-based Andrew Marr International Limited, is heading for Peterhead in Scotland , where she will fish for whitefish alongside sister ship Guiding Star, which was also manufactured by Parkol in 2014.

Skipper Gavin Thain explained that she is a product both of a burgeoning fishing industry, and of the innovative approach his company is taking to sustainable fishing practices, and greater environmental friendliness in general.

“The industry has been quite buoyant for four or five years now and looks set to remain that way,” said Gavin.

“A lot of this is down to the effort fishermen like ourselves have put into technical measures such as more selective fishing gear that protects juvenile stocks, to ensure greater sustainability.

“We have been working closely with the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) to get that right and adhere to their fishery landing obligations. For example, we have CCTV cameras installed to record what we are catching and exactly how we are doing it, reducing waste and, as a result, bringing back better catches.”

And Marr are also leading the way in environmentally friendly practices. Gavin added: “We retain all our waste onboard, such as plastic, and don’t discard anything into the sea other than biodegradable items.

“While this isn’t a legal requirement yet, we see it as a moral one, and through our ‘garbage plan’ we are aiming to lead industry practices.”

Parkol Marine pride themselves on building bespoke boats to owners’ specific requirements and Gavin has worked closely with them to play a strong role in the build process. With 20 years’ experience of both boat building and skippering, he knows what he wants the ship to achieve.

“She is very similar to her sister vessel, with some tweaks to things like her fish handling equipment, and more ice-making equipment for better catch storage,” added Gavin.

“She’s also fitted with an echo sounder which helps us to avoid discard by showing us the size of the fish before we trawl for it.

“Gavin was involved closely from the outset with the design of the boat, which was created by the naval architect, with the objectives of reducing discards, being green and achieving better catches.

“I’ve been visiting Parkol every couple of weeks since the ship’s keel was laid and spent the past few weeks on site, working alongside the team to get everything spot on. They’ve been fantastic and have really grasped everything I wanted, respected my fishing experience and really gone the extra mile to make it a reality.”

Gavin is also a key link in the chain for Guiding Light Ltd and Marr International, as an experienced skipper playing his part in passing on vital skills to the next generation.

“It’s all about investing in the industry and the young fishermen coming through, to ensure strong succession,” continued Gavin.

“So I’ll be heading up a crew of younger fishermen and aiming to train them to keep important skills alive.

“Having the opportunity to contribute to the plans for this boat and pass on my years of experience to others coming through, really is the fulfilment of a dream for me and I’m very much looking forward to fishing with the Guiding Light in the next few weeks.”

Gavin will skipper the Guiding Light alongside three relief skippers, alongside the Guiding Star which is skippered by Bobby Smith, backed by two other relief skippers.

He will lead her on fishing trials off Peterhead for a couple of weeks, before setting off to fish proper towards the end of June.

The Guiding Light was first lifted into the water at the Parkol yard in a dramatic crane operation at the end of April, and the weeks since have been spent making finishing touches to the vessel ready for her to set sail.

She was designed by Parkol’s dedicated marine architect, Ian Paton, of S C McAllister & Co. The boat’s electrical installations were completed by Parkol’s in-house electricians and Hull-based Pearson Electrical Ltd, which is also benefitting from the buoyancy in the industry. Other supporting contractors included Rapp Marine, Woodsons Marine Electronics, Furuno UK, Scanmar Ltd and RTS Joinery.

As a result of the optimistic approach of trawler owners like Guiding Light and Andrew Marr International, Parkol is experiencing one of its busiest times ever, with demand for its boats doubling in the past 12 months – so much so that they have opened a second yard in Middlesbrough last Autumn.

Parkol services UK coastal fishing fleets from the North and Scotland, including Shetland and Orkney, right down as far as Penzance and Cornwall. The company both builds and maintains the boats that make up these fleets. Such is Parkol’s reputation that trawler owners will travel 36 hours from the North and 60 hours up from the South, to have their vessels serviced.

As well as new boat builds and maintenance, Parkol fit custom-designed equipment that can reduce fuel costs by up to 20 per cent, and it is innovations like this that have also fuelled the company’s rapid recent growth.

Sally Atkinson for Parkol said: “The confidence in the fishing industry and the number of new vessels on order in the UK is unprecedented.

“This is creating an equally positive period of growth for us at Parkol, coupled with the new opportunities to diversify presented by the offshore wind developments springing up off the east coast of the UK in particular. Although we have specialised in trawlers, we also have the ability to build any other type of aluminium or steel hulled vessel – including workboats, wind farm supply vessels, small cargo vessels and tugs – either in Whitby or our new fabrication hall at Middlesbrough.

“There is an optimism in the industry at present and possible future further optimism that Brexit will deliver a better deal to UK fishermen, and they are making the most of the positive conditions that prevail at the moment.

“From our point of view, we are receiving enquiries from further afield, including into Europe, for new vessel commissions.”

Parkol has been repeatedly recognised in the industry – winning ‘Fishing Vessel of the Year’ in the annual Fishing News awards in 2015 and 2016, and the company had three vessels nominated in this year’s awards.