The Marsali alongside a cage at Cooke's Vatsetter site last week. Photos: Cooke Aquaculture Scotland.
The Marsali alongside a cage at Cooke's Vatsetter site last week. Photos: Cooke Aquaculture Scotland.

The wellboat that saves time and improves fish health

A state-of-the-art wellboat that began work for Cooke Aquaculture Scotland last week comes with many advantages, not least the ability to produce its own fresh water.


That removes the need for the vessel’s owner and operator, Migdale Transport, to spend a long time travelling to and from areas with access to fresh water to fill the wells.

“Believe it or not, in Scotland you can’t just access fresh water easily. Places where you can actually access fresh water are very few and far between,” explained Migdale managing director Hugh Murray.

“In some cases last year with our older vessel we were spending a whole day just going to pick up fresh water – good business for us but not so good for the farmer and not very efficient.”

Advanced technology

Migdale Transport, based at Bonar Bridge in Sutherland, has borrowed £13 million towards the undisclosed cost of the new boat, the Marsali, which was built by the Aas Mek shipyard in Norway.

The company already owns an Aas Mek-built wellboat, the Migdale, which it bought second-hand from Norwegian wellboat service provider Rostein.

“The older vessel is now 20 years old, and it’s still in very good condition, we’ve had lots of upgrades, but you can’t compare the old technology with the new technology, which is just so far advanced,” said Murray.

Designed for Scotland

“We were initially looking at buying a second-hand boat but we couldn’t find anything that was going to do the job, and that’s why we looked at if we could actually build a new vessel and it became very obvious after a while that that’s where we needed to go,” added the Migdale boss.

“The only way we can compete with the current operators over here is to have that level of service.”

The Marsali has been designed specifically for Scottish conditions, where the water is shallower, currents are stronger and there is less shelter from weather than in Norwegian fjords. The vessel has a bigger engine and more powerful thrusters to handle the currents, and has stronger windows.

Cooke Scotland managing director Colin Blair said: “We’ve worked closely with Migdale Transport to help design a ship that utilises cutting-edge technology to enhance fish health and welfare and benefit the environment.

“For example, the freshwater system can be completely filtered and topped up using the reverse osmosis system, giving us the ability to carry out multiple freshwater treatments. This will be of particular benefit in Orkney where we don’t have easy access to fresh water.

“The Marsali is probably one of the most sophisticated wellboats in the Scottish aquaculture sector. We were excited to welcome her to our Vatsetter site in Shetland last Tuesday and we look forward to her working alongside our fleet of vessels supporting our salmon farming operations in Orkney and Shetland.”

Read a more detailed article about the Marsali in the next issue of Fish Farming Expert online magazine, out in June.