Fishermen in Shetland are questioning the community spirit of electricity giant SSE after it awarded work to vessels masquerading as local fishing boats.
Shetland Fishermen’s Association said that SSE’s decision to grant the contract for guard boat work on the Shetland HVDC interconnector cable project to a private contractor flies in the face of the company’s own pledges to successfully “co-exist” at sea with commercial fishing crews.
Both Genesis (now LK 44) and Dauntless (now LK 20) are being employed as guard boats on the Shetland cable project, despite only recently being registered in Lerwick. Neither is now an active fishing vessel, and both were until recently registered in Banff - as the Genesis (BF 505) and Norlan (BF 362).
Steven Mair, from Lerwick, mate/engineer aboard the Shetland whitefish boat Sharyn Louise (LK 250), said: “Guard work is supposed to help compensate the fishing crews being inconvenienced by offshore developments. In this case it’s the interconnector cable, which is causing a lot of disruption for Shetland fishermen - with closed areas of up to hundreds of metres to either side of the cable route. This runs through the prime fishing grounds of the Burra haaf.
“In the past, guard vessel duty has helped our boat diversify and make ends meet when quotas are tight. Now, we see SSE handing off this work to boats that no longer fish, have never been based in Shetland, employ no Shetland crew and have no Shetland ownership. It’s not right, and it’s a real kick in the teeth to see them using LK registrations to secure the work that should have been offered to local crews like us in the first place.”
SFA executive officer Daniel Lawson said: “There is a guard boat operations company – successfully owned and operated by Scotland’s fishing fleet for decades - which should be the obvious go-to choice for any community minded energy companies that truly intend to compensate local fishermen facing disruption. However: it was not even given the chance to bid for the Shetland leg of the cable work.
“If the cable project had made use of this well-established industry process for employing active local fishing vessels, this regrettable situation could have been avoided – and SSE’s own community objectives easily met.”
Mr Lawson added: “This is a real let down: and one that does nothing to endear the Shetland community towards SSE’s already controversial project. Our members would like urgent re-assurance that this won’t be repeated, and to understand if SSE has been hoodwinked here – we certainly want to believe in their commitment towards our members, and to ensure that local fishing crews aren’t overlooked in future.”