An Isle of Harris based cruise operator is investing in a new catamaran which will be used all year round when recreational sea angling is introduced to their range of trips.
Kilda Cruises currently operate day trips to St Kilda and other Hebridean islands using their existing vessel, Orca II which will be replaced later this year with a new catamaran, doubling the available capacity to 12 people.
HIE has been working with the owner, Angus Campbell on his plans to expand the Tarbert based business and has provided financial support of £109,500 towards the new vessel and equipment as well as assisting with marketing advice and guidance for the new service.
The new catamaran, which will be ready at the end of this year is a 16m long Wildcat 53 and will be the first of its kind in Scotland. The manufacturer, Safehaven Marine in Ireland developed the design as a support vessel for servicing offshore wind, and is expected to create opportunities for Angus in this sector, allowing for easier disembarkation on platforms. The catamaran design also creates both greater stability and increased comfort and is 20 percent more fuel efficient than similar sized mono-hull vessels.
The current local tourist season for cruises runs from April to September and the gap in the working year has traditionally been filled by commercial fishing activity. However, with a gradual decline in this sector, Angus recognised that he had to look at other ways of retaining his experienced and loyal crew throughout the year, whilst creating a sustainable year round business.
Research undertaken identified that a growing number of enthusiasts take part in recreational sea angling breaks around the UK, drawn by the guarantee of large and unusual species. The waters around the Outer Hebrides are ideally suited to this market and felt to be a hidden gem amongst some experts, with outstanding fishing locations that are perfectly suited to recreational sea angling.
The successful launch of this service is expected to have added benefits, including retention of staff and extending the tourist season for accommodation providers, restaurants and retailers in Harris.
Alasdair Maclean from HIE's Outer Hebrides area team has been working closely with Angus. He said: "HIE recognises the importance of this investment which has the potential to extend the tourism season in our fragile areas in addition to having a positive economic contribution to the communities in the Outer Hebrides. We have also provided Angus with marketing strategy support for this additional business activity from which he intends to target appropriate sea angling visitors and marine renewable projects."
Angus said: "We are delighted with the assistance we have received from HIE towards the purchase of the new vessel and look forward to its delivery in time for the 2012 season. We have made some huge steps forward with the purchase of this vessel and some visitors are interested in reaching Rockall, as the new build will be coded for these waters.
"With the potential growth in the UK offshore renewable sector, we are also keen to be in a position to service the industry, especially survey or vessel and turbine transfer work through the new vessel.
"Sea angling in some of the most rugged and beautiful spots in the UK is also on our list of activities for 2012 and will be a must do on some anglers' lists. With some effective marketing strategies we hope to attract them to the Outer Hebrides."