Jobs saved as crab factory relocates to Northmavine

A double helping of good news has brought cheer to two rural communities thanks to separate business deals involving the long-running crab factory in Mid Yell.

Shellfish operation Blueshell Mussels is poised to relocate the processing outfit to the Ronas fish factory in Northmavine.

The news follows this week’s announcement by Meridian Salmon Group that it will breathe new life into the North Isles plant, which has been run by the Shetland Norse Preserving Company since the 1960s.

Eight new jobs will be created in Yell when Meridian expands its operation into the building.

A new business, Shetland Crab Ltd, is meanwhile set to emerge from the deal and operate in Heylor as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Blueshell.

The former Ronas Fish Factory is to re-open as a new processing unit. Photo: Dave Donaldson
The former Ronas Fish Factory is to re-open as a new processing unit. Photo: Dave Donaldson

Significantly, most of the “ experienced” and “highly-skilled” workers at the old Shetland Norse Preserving Company (SNPC) have secured their jobs and will work from the new plant.

Blueshell’s managing director, Michael Laurenson, said he was delighted a way had been found to protect the crab business and that Shetland’s crab-processing sector had been safeguarded.

His company aims to produce a “wider portfolio” of shellfish products, all of which will be recognised by the Marine Stewardship Council as having been caught using sustainable practices.

“We will be creating a number of efficiencies to develop the business – the most significant of which is moving to smaller, yet more efficient premises, at Heylor.

“The premises are currently being refurbished to a very high standard to allow high-care crab processing to meet the stringent quality stand­ards expected by our customers.

“It was vital to us that SNPC’s very experienced and highly-skilled crab processing staff moved to the new facility, so we are delighted that the majority of the current workforce will re-locate to the new premises.

“We are confident that we can develop the business through Blue­shell’s existing customer base by providing a wider portfolio of MSC accredited shellfish products.”

On Monday it emerged Meridian plans to fit out the Yell factory, which lies close to its existing base, with “ultra modern” and “highly-efficient equipment”, in time for a September opening.

North Isles councillor Robert Hen­der­son welcomed the news.

“Any job in the outlying communities, especially a place like Yell, is always welcome,” he said.

The good news marks a positive turn of events for Yell in recent weeks.

Earlier this month it emerged the island would be granted a grid connection by SSE which will pave the way for a community-owned windfarm gen-erating up to £1.3 million of electricity every year.

Mr Henderson added: “It’s basically too good to be true. We just hope that it continues. It is two very important plus stories for the outlying areas of Shetland.”

SNPC dates back to 1968 when it was established by businessman Henry Krantz, who sought to leave a legacy to the isles in light of the Shetland Bus war-time operation.

He wanted to provide a livelihood to as many local people as he could.

Anders Offerdal of SNPC said: “When Michael Laurenson approached the owners over a year ago, Blueshell Mussels was considered a tentative good fit as a potential pur­chaser.

“Blueshell already enjoys a good rep­utation, gained over 15 years of oper­ation, for fairness, consistency, strong local employ­ment values and with a proven track-record in shellfish catching, growing and processing. Michael also had a passion and a vision for the future of the industry.”

Mr Laurenson added: “We look forward to building on the legacy and foresight of Henry Krantz and the SNPC crab processing business, where product is value-added in Shet­land, and this allows the maximum returns possible to remain within the wider local economy.”

More in today’s Shetland Times.


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