Naming ceremony celebrates launch of new trawler built in Whitby

Summer Rose, the latest trawler manufactured by Parkol Marine Engineering, has now left the esteemed Whitby shipbuilding yard after a traditional naming ceremony led by a minister from the Mission to Seafarers.

Accompanied by a piper, a crowd gathered at the Parkol site in the sunshine on Saturday, April 21 to christen the vessel before she was due to sail to Oban in the West of Scotland. From there, she will fish for scallops off the coast of the UK.

The commissioning of a new trawler is always symbolic of much more than its physical presence on the water. Nine times out of 10, a boat encapsulates a family’s, and even a community’s, hopes and dreams.

John MacAlister, her new owner, travelled down from Scotland for the ceremony with an array of family and friends for a full day and night of celebrations.

He explained that, although it is not yet clear what the outcome of the ongoing negotiations about the UK’s exit from the European Union will mean for the nation’s fishermen, the new vessel is an example of how owners like him are trying to be pragmatic.

“We’re working in an industry which is facing great uncertainty but we can’t stand still,” said John.

“With the Brexit negotiations about our fisheries now expected to continue until 2020, we have no clear strategy for the next four to five years, but we are trying to keep moving ahead, and investing, hence why we have commissioned this boat.”

The Summer Rose shares its name with the first boat John bought 41 years ago, when he joined the fishing industry straight from leaving school.

Since then, he has expanded his fleet to 10 boats, and now works onshore, as CEO of three sister fishing companies: John MacAlister (Oban) Ltd, the Star Fishing Company and the Q VARL Fishing company, all of which specialise in catching scallops around the coast of the UK, mainly for the European market.

And it’s become very much a family affair over the past 40 years. John’s son Ian is following in his father’s footsteps and will be skippering the Summer Rose, accompanied by Ian Fletcher as relief skipper.

The Summer Rose is the third trawler John has commissioned from Parkol, with Hull marine electrical engineering experts Pearson Electrical taking care of the vessel’s wiring to the very latest specs for both efficiency and safety.

“This boat is a new design by Ian Paton, of S C McAllister & Co Limited,” added John.

“It features the first full Mitsubishi engine package to be supplied in the UK by Padmos of Holland. It’s built to the very top spec for both power and safety.”

As a result of the optimistic approach of trawler owners like John, Parkol is experiencing one of its busiest times ever, with demand for its boats doubling in the past 12 months – so much so that they have opened a second yard in Middlesbrough.

Pearson Electrical will be helping Parkol wire and maintain this string of new vessels, which has had a similarly positive impact on its own business levels.

Mark Pearson, Owner and MD of Pearson Electrical, said: “I’ve never seen anything quite like it in the whole of my career in the marine industry. The demand for new boats just keeps coming and coming, and is representing an increasing chunk of our overall work.

“While there is uncertainty over the specifics of what the Brexit agreement will mean, I think the prospect of regaining some control over UK waters – coupled with unusually healthy and well-priced fish stocks and the state of the pound against other currencies – is leading to a view among the fishermen that they may as well make the most of it while it lasts.”

Parkol services UK coastal fishing fleets from the North and Scotland, including Shetland and Orkney, right down as far as Penzance and Cornwall. The company both builds and maintains the boats that make up these fleets. Such is Parkol’s reputation that trawler owners will travel 36 hours from the North and 60 hours up from the South, to have their vessels serviced.

As well as new boat builds and maintenance, Parkol fits custom-designed equipment that can reduce fuel costs by up to 20 per cent, and it is innovations like this that have also fuelled the company’s rapid recent growth.

Sally Atkinson for Parkol said: “The Summer Rose is the third vessel that Parkol has built for John MacAlister, we have a long standing relationship which continues to go from strength to strength.

“The confidence in the fishing industry and the amount of new vessels on order is unprecedented. During the Brexit negotiations and the impending transition period it is vitally important that the Government provides a clear and coherent strategy inclusive of all stakeholders, that will protect and foster the fishing industry for future generations.”

Parkol has been repeatedly recognised in the industry – winning ‘Fishing Vessel of the Year’ in the annual Fishing News awards for the past two years running, and the company has three vessels nominated in this year’s awards.

Similarly, Pearson Electrical has built up 30 years of specialist experience in the marine, industrial and hazardous area sectors, including leading ISO accreditations which put it at the forefront of the industry for expertise and safety.