A company that supplies non-fishing work to fishing boats has passed the milestone of engaging 500 separate vessels since 2001.
Scottish Fishermen’s Federation Services Limited (SFFSL), a commercial division of the SFF, has “helped secure the future of Scottish fishing”, including several Shetland white fish boats, by providing work when restructuring of fisheries management dramatically reduced fishing opportunities while fish stocks steadily rebuild.
Although SFFSL was established in 1986, opportunities for the Scottish fleet has proved particularly invaluable since 2001 – the year when tight restrictions on the number of days that fishing vessels could put to sea were introduced under the EU’s Cod Recovery Plan.
Fishing vessels have been used by the offshore oil and gas sector as guard vessels to provide protection for vulnerable subsea infrastructure such as under construction pipelines, wellheads awaiting full protection, power, telecommunication and umbilical cables. SFFSL also provides vessels for environmental surveys including passive acoustic monitoring and seismic support.
In the past two years, SFF Services has facilitated more than 16,000 working days at sea for fishing vessels. This is equivalent to the average annual allocated fishing effort of 114 vessels. The work keeps fishing vessels viable without extending effort on fish stocks.
SFFSL director of business development Steven Alexander said: “The company is very much unique with regard to its vessel provision.
There is no doubt that from both an operational and overall management point of view, it would be much easier to operate with a smaller, full-time support vessel fleet, not engaged in fishing.
“However, the SFF’s ethos has always been and is more pertinent than ever in the current climate, to try to spread these offshore work opportunities amongst the fleet; subject of course to our member vessels meeting the required standards and specific stipulations laid out by our clients.”
He added: “We believe that the policy of spreading work opportunities amongst the fleet brings multiple associated benefits. Over the years it has made a major contribution to minimising conflict by establishing and nurturing an excellent long term working relationship between the Scots fishing industry and the offshore oil and gas sector.
“The additional vessel assurance processes developed for such work have all been seen as positive for fishermen’s safety. The vessel project briefing sessions provide SFF Services representatives with the ideal opportunity to provide vessel crews with an overview as to the scale and variety of the oil and gas infrastructure contained within the UK continental shelf.”