Kilkeel Harbour should be extended to capitalise on growth potential
AN extension to Kilkeel Harbour could lead to millions of private investment being pumped into the area.
That is according to fish and seafood co-operative Sea-Source based in the Co Down village which said the area is experiencing a resurgence.
The group was set up last year by a network of fisherman and onshore marine-related business owners.
It now wants to extend its reach beyond fishing to offshore marine developments including the provision of survey vessels and crews, guard ships and other support services to the renewables sector developing sites in the Irish Sea and beyond.
Sea-Source chairman Trevor Annett said: "As one of the top three landing locations for langoustines in the UK and Ireland, the County Down port has developed international export markets and has diversified into other areas of the marine economy including commercial offshore developments.
“Kilkeel is seeing a resurgence in the fishing sector with the industry securing more than 800 jobs on shore as well as on the boats."
Sea-Source has already been branding seafood and fish products available in supermarkets and aims to expand its market throughout the UK and Ireland.
The body's chief executive Alan McCulla said it was time Kilkeel Harbour was extended to capitalise on its growth potential.
“Investment in the fishing industry has been very healthy in the last two years,” he said.
“One example is the multi-million pound investment in a new fishing vessel which is too big to dock in Kilkeel Harbour.
“Unless we grow our port, we will miss out on the future investment which is about to take place here.
"Already we are seeing a strong and sustainable renaissance in fishing. In addition to this there now exists a fleet of specialist vessels and crews who can undertake all sorts of work on behalf of offshore developers, particularly those in cable-laying and renewable energy.
"The risk is that other ports in the Irish Sea basin could benefit from our success if we don't expand.”
“In the mean time we are fishing locally and shipping globally, supplying the freshest and most sustainable high quality seafood to markets across Europe. But we need to protect this through a concerted, government backed growth strategy.”