A new purpose-built mussel harvesting vessel destined for Yell arrived in Lerwick Harbour yesterday.
Built for C & A Thomason by Alumarine in Brittany, the Pro-Cat 14 aluminium catamaran, named Reliance, measures 14 metres long and 6.5 metres wide. Managing director of C & A Thomason, Christopher Thomason, said the firm’s existing vessel had limited deck space which meant all cleaning and grading of mussels had to be done on shore.
The Reliance will be fitted out with cleaning and grading equipment over the next 10 days, which will make the harvesting operation much more efficient and allow the company to process greater volumes of mussels.
Mr Thomason said: “We selected Alumarine in Brittany to build the vessel because we were impressed with their workmanship and they were already familiar and experienced in building our chosen Pro Cat 14 design. We are very pleased with the result, which will make a significant difference to our business.”
Arriving in Lerwick, skipper of the boat Marvin Thomason said: “We have covered 1,200 miles since we left the shipyard in Brittany. We encountered some poor conditions in the Irish Sea but the boat handled it very well. We were pleased with the good overall speed of the vessel, averaging 11 to 12 knots.”
The introduction of this new harvesting vessel is part of a gradual expansion of the company, which supplies retail and wholesale markets across the UK including many high end restaurants in London via Billingsgate Market.
C & A Thomason was established by Christopher Thomason in Spring 1999. His brother Marvin is now a partner in the business. As well as being skipper of the boat, Marvin looks after the sea sites, while Christopher manages the packing and shore side of the operation. The company employs 14 people.
Christopher added: “We chose the name Reliance in respect of a fishing boat that was very successful for a long time in Cullivoe, as we were growing up.
“We are very grateful to Ruth Henderson and Seafood Shetland for assistance with this project, and also to Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the European Fisheries Fund.”
According to Seafood Shetland the Shetland mussel industry is worth £5.1 million to the local economy and has been built on its outstanding reputation for quality, with 4,340 tonnes produced in 2013, representing 69 per cent of Scottish production. The industry employs 132 people locally.