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Shetland firm researches a plain sailing future for commercial fishing industry

25 February 2014

An innovative Shetland business with plans to revolutionise the fishing industry is one step closer with the award of a research and development grant.

Sail Line Fish Ltd, based at Sullom, is developing a new collapsible sailing mast system which will allow commercial fishing vessels to benefit from wind power. The `Balpha Mast’ system will reduce running costs and reliance on oil, while also being an environmentally friendly power option. Its benefit is that vessels can make use of a mast without restricting their ability to operate or requiring additional crew.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) is supporting the venture through a £6,501 research and development grant towards the £20,000 development costs of the mast system for small commercial fishing and leisure craft. The grant will also support the business to secure international property rights.

Stuart Balfour from Sail Line Fish Ltd, said: “We have been working on the development of the Balpha Mast for a number of years now and we’re really pleased that this support from HIE will enable us to take it from a proof of concept through to an investable proposition.

“This design work is progressing well, with involvement from Naval Architects Dick Koopmans in the Netherlands and Eric Sponberg based in the USA. This international collaboration also includes local Engineer Alan Jamieson and Ocean Kinetics Ltd. We’ve had a significant amount of market interest from across the world including Malaysia, Dubai, Maldives and Nova Scotia in addition to fishermen and sailors nearer to home.

“We are now looking to design and build a purpose built sail-assisted fishing vessel which will provide a working platform to test and trial the Balpha Mast system. The aim of this project will be to take our products of high quality line caught fish and the Balpha Mast system from prototype to production.”

Sail Line Fish currently sells its own line-caught fish, using the proceeds to invest in the development of sail assisted fishing.

David Priest, Development Manager at HIE, said: “We’re delighted to be able to support Stuart and the team at Sail Line Fish towards further development of the Balpha Mast. This ambitious and far sighted project may provide a low carbon alternative to commercial for fishing vessels and hopefully lead to a significant business opportunity for the company.”

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