“Called Aurora Quest, it will take over our existing net cleaning contract with Cooke Aquaculture here in Shetland, releasing our original, smaller vessel, the Aurora, to take on any spec work, carrying out net cleaning services for any farm requiring occasional or regular cleans throughout the year,” company founder, Colin Leask, told Fish Farming Expert.
Colin was the first operator in Scotland to adopt MPI’s Ronc net cleaning system, back in 2012, and the new vessel will be equipped with MPI’s largest ROV net cleaning system to date.
“It’s driven by a 500 Hp Powerpack, giving the potential of operating two independent Ronc robots at one time, or one with huge cleaning nozzles, giving a very efficient set-up,” Colin explains.
The former trawler skipper says he has ordered a larger vessel in order to keep up with the planned growth of his main client, Cooke Aquaculture, which is increasingly looking towards eco-friendly means of keeping their nets clean.
“We’ve steadily grown as they've expanded on the use of non-anti-fouled nets, moving more towards the consumers’ choice of Freedom Foods-grade fish, eliminating non anti-fouled use, and chemical cleaning of nets,” he explains.
“Cooke’s expansion here in Shetland towards more use of non-anti-fouled nets will increase by a further 25% in growing season 2017-18, and this larger purposely-built vessel has been ordered to cope with the extra demand, which we're confident will allow us to now take on the extra cleans and grow again in-line with Cooke’s requirements,” Colin continues.
And, although Cooke is his primary customer, he has been able to carry out a number of other contracts too.
“We also, where possible, carry out occasional net cleans for Scottish Sea Farms to help out when required,” he adds. “This is where releasing Aurora will come into its own, having a vessel outside a contract and ready to carry out any required spec works. There’s many occasions when we've regrettably had to turn down spec work due to our committed contract with Cooke, so hopefully now we'll have a vessel ready and available for any farm requiring ROV net cleaning.”
Like the original Aurora, the new vessel was built by the Norwegian firms Marin Design and Viknaslipen.
“We had no hesitation choosing the same partnership of Marin Design AS and Viknaslipen AS after the workmanship carried out on the Aurora. It’s certainly not a cheap option for a build of 15m, but we wanted the best tool for the job, ensuring we can supply Cooke with the best service available. Although the vessel ended up being fully built at Viknaslipen's partner yard Poltramp in Poland, where Viknaslipen have most of their hulls made before finishing in Norway. But, due to Viknaslipen having orders for 14 vessels, they've ended up building half the vessels as turn-keys finishes at Poltramp, with a few key Norwegian foremen being positioned in Poland throughout the builds.
"The workmanship carried out on Aurora Quest by the Poltramp yard is to a high spec, and it’s easy to see the tradesmen care about their work and reputation, from the welding to the final carpentry finishings, they've made a first class job from start to finish,” he enthuses.
And it’s also been designed with the comfort of the live-in crew in mind.
“Along with the extra net cleaning power we've also invested in a much larger 34tm HS Marine deck crane, to utilise the larger deck area in the case of extra service work in the future. The crew will operate two weeks on, two weeks off, therefore we've also incorporated a high spec interior finish and many home from home mod cons for the crew’s comfort, including individual cabins, so she really packs a punch for a 15m workboat,” he adds.
“We're just looking forward now to getting her home to Shetland, and getting working. All going well she'll be here cleaning nets for Cooke by mid-March, ready for a busy year,” Colin concludes.