Alternative source of short-terms loans to bridge FaSS grant waiting period

The Fisheries and Seafood Fund (FaSS) has provided huge benefits for many small-scale fishermen, providing significant grant aid towards a host of vessel and safety improvements. For many boat owners, however, the time lag between ordering and installing a vessel upgrade, paying for it, and waiting for the FaSS grant to come through can create real cashflow difficulties.

Banks, faced with requests for short-term loans secured against FaSS grants, can be hard to persuade and slow to understand the situation, and often compensate by increasing charges substantially, all making life harder for a sector of the fleet that is already working on narrow margins.

A new initiative from The Seafarers’ Charity and Commsave Credit Union has greatly improved this situation for more than 60 fishing families over the last two years, providing a bespoke service that understands the difficulties many small boat owners are facing.

This partnership follows on from the ‘Fishing Without a Safety Net’ research published in 2020 by The Seafarers’ Charity, which talked to 431 fishermen facing financial difficulties and explored how best to provide practical help and support. The research concluded that it was essential to create a ‘safety net’ to support the personal finance and financial resilience of fishing families.

The Seafarers’ Charity then approached Commsave Credit Union, and since the partnership was forged, Commsave has provided over £854,000 in low-interest loans to help 64 fishing families, including loans for match-funded government grants.

Dominic Masterson, CEO of Commsave, said: “Not only are we providing loans, we are also supporting fishing families with regular saving accounts, helping them save for the future and for as yet unforeseen challenges.”

Deborah Layde, chief executive of The Seafarers’ Charity, said: “Our partnership with Commsave shows how
we have been tackling need at source and preventing potential problems. Working with our funded Fishing Animateurs project, Commsave has helped fishers to obtain financial support to access government grants from the Fisheries and Seafood Scheme.

“It is also encouraging to see that all the fishers who joined Commsave are also investing in regular saving plans – this will help build future resilience for fishing families reliant on their fishing business.”

The next round of the FaSS is expected to open for applications in 2024. The Fishing Animateurs volunteers, who already have experience in working with Commsave, are available to fishermen across the UK, to provide help and advice about making applications to the scheme.

Fishing Animateurs explained: “The funding for vessel safety, improvements and crew welfare is available with
an application to the MMO. You get a quote from a chandlers or boatyard for the work needed, and we help you to make your application.

“Once you have an offer letter, the Commsave credit union will loan you the funds to enable you to do the work
and make your claim. As all funding is claimed after you have completed the work on your boat, the credit union fills the gap in funding support. With grant rates between 50% to 80%, it’s a good time to make those improvements.”

To find out more about the Fishing Animateurs and the grant funding available in 2024, call: 01736 362782 or visit the website.

To contact Commsave Credit Union for savings, loans and support, click here.

Why join Commsave?

Adrian Blamey, who works out of the Cornish port of Mevagissey, is typical of the many fishermen who have joined Commsave.

Adrian said: “I found applying to Commsave so much easier than going through my bank. My bank either didn’t know about the grant from the government, or perhaps didn’t believe it to be true. I applied for the loan to update health and safety on my fishing boat and to improve fish storage, and I would 100% recommend to anyone in the fishing industry to become a Commsave member and apply for a loan.”

The credit union is a mutual organisation, owned by members rather than shareholders, and is run on a not-for-profit basis. It returns annual profits to members in the form of annual dividend on members’ savings, which has exceeded bank interest rates in recent years. It also provides a free Bereavement Fund for all members. On death from any cause, this fund writes off any outstanding debt to the credit union.

In addition, the Bereavement Fund can make a payment to a nominated beneficiary ranging from £500 to £5,000 (subject to individual savings limits).

For those who do not have life assurance, this will provide a welcome and free benefit with an expedited payment at the time it is most needed.

Applications are welcome from fishermen, both boat owners and share fishermen, from across the whole of the UK. Loans and support are not restricted to FaSS, or indeed to fishing, but are there to support any short-term needs.

Saving can be by regular standing order, from as little as £10 a month, and there is no introductory period after joining before a loan can be applied for.

This story was taken from the latest issue of Fishing News. For more up-to-date and in-depth reports on the UK and Irish commercial fishing sector, subscribe to Fishing News here or buy the latest single issue for just £3.30 here

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