Business

Portavogie fishing family in £500,000 boost to business

Keith Thompson, left, of Ulster Bank and Bill Coffey in Portavogie with The Opportune

A PORTAVOGIE fisherman is investing half-a-million pounds in a bid to boost his business by a third.

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, Mr Coffey expects to be able to increase the amount of fish brought in per year by 33 per cent.

It is the fourth boat the bank has financed for the Coffey family over the years.

Mr Coffey said the latest investment was "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," he said.

Ulster Bank business manager Keith Thompson said the bank was happy to support an industry which is critical to the economy of towns in the southern part of the Ards Peninsula.

“Northern Ireland has some 280 active fishing vessels, according to research by Seafish, which land around 58,000 tonnes of fish per annum," he said.

"These vessels employ around 800 people and account for some £28 million 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."

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