HRH Prince Charles, Duke of Rothesay, declared the new Peterhead fishmarket, inner harbour deepening and reclamation development formally open, in front of 500 invited guests, on Saturday, 29 September, reports David Linkie
The state-of-the-art market, which began operating in June, since when nearly 500,000 boxes of whitefish have been traded, is part of the multifaceted North Harbour Development, which at £53m has the distinction of being the biggest project undertaken by Peterhead Port Authority.
The large-scale investment also includes a deeper inner basin (from which dredged material was recycled in an extensive land reclamation project in Peterhead Bay), wider entrances and more than 800m of new quayside.
The prince said he was ‘very glad’ to be able to join everyone in the opening of ‘this very important new fishmarket facility’.
“If I may just add my warmest congratulations to all those who played such an important part in building this new development, and above all, in delivering it on time and on budget. That, I think, is a great achievement,” he said.
“This new market, I’m sure, will make a huge difference, not only to the local economy here in Peterhead, but also more widely in this part of Scotland.”
At the start of his two-hour visit, the prince was greeted by Lord Aberdeen, James Ingleby and Mrs Ingleby, before being introduced to PPA board convener Gavin Thain, chief executive Simon Brebner, harbour master Captain John Forman, chief accountant/deputy CE Stephen Paterson, superintendent engineer David Buchan, and recently retired CE John Wallace.
The Duke of Rothesay was then escorted to the training room, where Jimmy Buchan from the Scottish Seafood Association and Gordon Gibb of Polaris Learning had arranged fish-filleting and processing demonstrations. Fifth-generation filleter Conrad Jack, 18, of local firm Jack Fish, showcased his cutting technique on a monkfish in an interactive display, while hygiene trainee Daryl Innes, 27, who works for Seafood Ecosse, explained the importance of his role and the training scheme run by the Scottish Seafood Training Network.
“If I may just add my warmest congratulations to all those who played such an important part in building this new development”
After meeting PPA board members in the market café, the prince viewed a range of exhibition stands on the fishmarket, hosted by local companies and associations, together with project contractors and heritage organisations. These included Denholm Fishselling, Fishermen’s Mission, Lunar Fishing, RNLI, Scottish White Fish Producers’ Association, Seafood Scotland, Sunderland Marine, JC Hydraulics, Scottish Seafood Training Network, Scottish Maritime Academy, Santander Corporate & Commercial, Boskalis Westminster Ltd, Arch Henderson LLP, McLaughlin & Harvey, RPS Group, Chap Construction (Aberdeen) Ltd, Scottish Fisheries Museum, Peterhead Fishing Heritage and John Coull Model Boats.
While HRH was talking to exhibitors, Fiona Kennedy, the well-known Scottish singer, actress and broadcaster, entertained the 500 invited guests sitting comfortably in the fishmarket, which just 24 hours after Friday morning’s sale, had been rapidly transformed in a well-planned process.
The formal opening ceremony began with PPA CE Simon Brebner welcoming everyone. Before handing over to convenor Gavin Thain, Simon Brebner said: “We were delighted and honoured to have His Royal Highness here today to open the fishmarket.
“This is a historic time for the port. The new fishmarket, quayside improvements, deepening of the harbour, and widening and replacement of the Queenie Bridge represent a major investment by the board that will significantly improve operating conditions for users of the harbour, and create a legacy for the town as a whole.
“It is extremely fitting that HRH Duke of Rothesay could be here to celebrate the opening of our new development, as he has always put sustainability at the very heart of his interests, and without sustainability, there would be no fishing industry.”
Following speeches by Gavin Thain and John Wallace, Peterhead Fishermen’s Mission superintendent Steve Murray gave the dedication blessing, before HRH unveiled a commemorative plaque, and received a gift from 2018 Buchan Queen Natasha Clueit on behalf of Peterhead Port Authority.
Accompanied by convenor Gavin Thain, HRH Prince Charles then walked onto the quayside, where three local fishing vessels, Budding Rose PD 418, Forever Faithful PD 287 and Tranquility PD 35, were moored, together with Peterhead lifeboat, Marine Scotland’s FPV Jura.
The prince also met PPA fishmarket operatives on the quayside, before guests were invited to help themselves to an extensive buffet lunch, which, like the official ceremony itself, subsequently generated extremely positive feedback.
In his address, convener Gavin Thain said: “To the Duke of Rothesay, may I, on behalf of my board, extend a very warm, appreciative and sincere welcome, from all of us at Peterhead, for taking the time out of a schedule we all know to be demanding, to join and honour us by formally opening this outstanding development.
“Guests should be reminded of your previous visit on 7 April, 1998, some 20 years ago, to open the Merchant’s Quay. In the intervening years – through some very challenging times for fishermen, processors, and the industry as a whole – over 16 million boxes of fish were landed and sold at the fishmarket constructed at the Merchant’s Quay site. That is equivalent to 800,000t of fish, with a value of around £1.6bn – remarkable figures in anyone’s book, and figures that have helped to underpin Peterhead’s historical significance, present position and future prospects as Europe’s leading fishing port.
“Today I am going to focus on the positives that have been achieved, but it would be remiss of me not to mention, just briefly, the many sacrifices, both personal and financial, that have been encountered over the years – the stories of hardship, hard times, and sometimes hard luck that were all some fishermen had to show for a lifetime spent in harvesting our seas. So I salute my fellow fishermen, who before my time laid the groundwork of this great harbour. To those who have served on the board, in staying with their vision that Peterhead would always, and should always, be synonymous with the very highest standards and qualities in fishing and processing. To those who will follow in our footsteps, let the development you see today be an example of what can be achieved with hard work, vision, and a dogged determination to prevail in whatever field you choose to call your profession.
“We at the Port Authority are a Trust Port – as are Fraserburgh, Lerwick, Aberdeen, and many others. We have stakeholders, not shareholders, and all of you here today are our stakeholders, who will share in this model that is the basis of our existence – that we reinvest all of our profit, to manage, maintain and develop the port as best serves the needs of you, our stakeholders.
“This development is, however, so much more than you see before you today. In fact, around half of the £53m cost can’t be seen, because it is underwater. But as a fisherman, I can see where that value is. We can now access these inner harbours at any state of tide, without fear of grounding. The rock that was removed has all been used to reclaim over 30,000m² of land at the Smith Embankment. This land has already been leased, as has the site of the old fishmarket at Merchant’s Quay, which in conjunction with Smith Quay spreads to over 60,000m², and will help both fund our borrowings and futureproof Peterhead’s role in the renewables and decommissioning sectors.
“This would be a suitable time to thank Jamie Ritchie, senior relationship director at Santander, our funding partner, who saw our vision and identified with our values, which has enabled Peterhead to maintain its position and reputation as the premier fishing port in Europe. So, we thank you, Jamie and Santander, for your partnership and assistance.
“The project also received a grant of £5m from the EU and Scottish government, which enabled us to proceed and was very much the ‘icing on the cake’. Let me be quite clear that without this grant, the project could not have progressed to the extent that it has today. Again, Mark Nicoll, [Marine Scotland] you and your team understood what we were trying to achieve, and effectively articulated this to the powers that be, and together we secured this grant. To you and the Scottish government, please accept our warmest appreciation for all your assistance, not just with this development, but with your advice and involvement over all the years.
“It is important to highlight that, as the project progressed and our exposure to the known and unknown risks was reduced, we were able to undertake additional tasks, which previously were unaffordable but highly desirable. We refurbished and restored the iconic Queenie Bridge, which now has a life expectancy of another 100 years. This cost of £3m could not be afforded at the outset, but now stands as a testament to the skills of our contractors, engineers and board, and to what can be achieved when a project is collaboratively managed as effectively as this. We deepened an additional 100m of quayside, fully chilled the existing section of fishmarket, and reclaimed additional ground. Doing all of this at a later date would have been prohibitively expensive, due to mobilisation costs and pressures from other much-needed developments. The really impressive thing is that while the additional works required additional time and financing, the project has been completed both on time and within budget.
“Of course, there was a third element in our funding, and that was our own financial resources – the funds that we have saved and accumulated from all sectors of harbour operations and affairs.
“Nothing, apart from health and safety, is ‘ring-fenced’ at Peterhead port, and every sector plays its part in supporting the needs of its partner operations. However, around 65% of our revenue comes directly from fishing-related activities, and it is more than appropriate that this bespoke fishing ‘hub’ has been created to underpin their future. Not only has the fishmarket been doubled in size and fully chilled, with two private landing sites added, but the harbours and approaches have been more than doubled in depth. In this hub, vessels have a one-stop shopping list of services to use, from landing, boxing, fuelling, icing and ship repairs, to deep-water berthing. With double the space to display catches, the product is that much more easily inspected, and presentation is a benchmark of quality for the whole of Europe to admire.
“I wish to thank specifically, however, two individuals who have been central to the management process at the port. Firstly, my predecessor as convenor, Bill Mackie, who has created a blueprint for success all over this harbour, and I thank him for his leadership and guidance.
“I would also like to thank John Wallace. John was appointed as chief executive of Peterhead Bay Authority in 2001, and was the first chief executive of the merged authority in 2006. John was the driving force behind the previous Smith Quay development, and has excelled himself in the delivery of the outstanding development which we are here to celebrate today. In doing so, John has secured his legacy for the port of Peterhead, and I thank him for that on behalf of my board and all stakeholders.”