An innovative new mast designed to help fishermen curb their fuel costs has been given its first public unveiling in Brae.
The Balpha Mast System heralds what could be a new era in sail power to augment commercially run, engine powered vessels.
Described as a revolutionary collapsible system, the new product can be lowered, raised and stowed simply and speedily.
It promises to allow fishermen the freedom to harness windpower without restricting their vessel’s ability to operate, or necessitating extra members of crew.
The product is seen as a way of helping fishermen save fuel and reduce their overheads, allowing them to rely on their fossil fuel powered engines only when they need them.
The idea was devised up by Stuart Balfour of Sullom, who started his business Sail Line Fish in 2009 after becoming increasingly frustrated by spiralling fuel costs.
Speaking at the launch, he said: “We are now coming to a point that … the cost of fuel relative to how a business can operate profitably, is such it’s discouraging for people to do things. We have to look at ways we can get round that.”
The company has also been looking at low carbon fishing – where the gear is stationary and fish move towards the gear after being attracted by bait.
The unique method has elicited a keen response from fish buyers and restaurants, not least because the image created is very clean.
A joint £30,000 feasibility study by Sail Line and Scottish Enterprise’s funding body Smart Scotland into the project has been running since May last year.
A website for the company, www.saillinefish.com, is also being launched. Partly funded by the SIC’s development department, it was produced by NB Communications.
Patents have been pending on the project, which meant Mr Balfour was forced to keep the innovative mast secret until this week.
Plans are now afoot to ready it for production.