Fishing vessel arrives
July 3, 2009
Fishing vessel arrives

If the fishing explosion that government and fishing authorities are hoping for materializes – a Union Island man is happy that he is at the forefront of this development.{{more}}

On Monday, June 29th, Peter Regis brought his brand new EC$800,000 long-line fishing boat into Kingstown from Mexico – part of the fishing fleet expansion programme undertaken by government.

The vessel was built by the Tajoma Construction Company in Mexico, and KP Marine is the local agent.

It was captained to St Vincent by former Coast Guard officer Brinsley May, who expressed his pleasure with the vessel. Regis will, however, be captaining his vessel when it goes to work in about two week’s time.

“This project is a good project…fishermen can step higher. I am proud to be the first – a man from the Grenadines,” the father of five said, when he spoke to reporters during a short ceremony to celebrate the arrival of his vessel, the S-Marie-R.

Officials from the National Development Foundation (NDF), the National Investment Promotion Incorporated (NIPI), and the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries were on hand to welcome Regis.

The vessel is the first in a project that began with the announcement by Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves in the 2007 budget speech that $6 million will be put up by the National Insurance Services (NIS) to be used to fund a special loan facility for fishermen to purchase long-line vessels.

In an earlier interview with SEARCHLIGHT, Chief Fisheries Officer Raymond Ryan indicated that this thrust could see the fishing industry contribute $16 million more than the average $8 million it currently adds to the economy each year.

During the ceremony at the Kingstown Fishing Complex wharf, Ryan congratulated Regis on his bold step while others in the fishing industry have been shying away.

Calling the purchase of the vessel a significant investment, Ryan said that the “returns and benefits will be significant.”

Regis told reporters that while he has a ten year repayment plan for the vessel, he is confident that he will be able to repay the debt for the vessel in five years.

He anticipates that when all the modifications are put in place, the vessel will eventually cost him $1 million.

Regis, who said that owning a vessel like this one has been his dream for over 20 years, said that he has already lined up markets for his fish in the United States(US) and other Caribbean territories.

During his remarks, Ryan had said that there is a lucrative market in the US for species like the yellow fin tuna and sword fish – “species not regularly landed in St Vincent.”

Regis thanked his parents and brother who helped him to realize his dream, and did not forget to offer a word of prayer for his blessing.

The Ashton, Union Island, resident said that this is the type of step that is needed to make the fishing industry more viable.

He spoke of the perils attached to fishing in the traditional pirogues, noting that the returns often don’t justify the effort put in.

“It is dangerous for us to go out on mornings, burn a set a gas, sometimes don’t catch fish and when you come back the evening, you can’t even pay for the gas,” he said.

The long-line vessels, like the one now owned by Regis, can stay out at sea for up to seven days, can carry a crew of six persons and hold up to 10,000 pounds of fish.

When he addressed the small ceremony, Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Montgomery Daniel said that his government is serious about the development of the fishing industry.

He said that the fishing industry is one of the areas that government has targeted for the Poverty Alleviation Programme (PAP)”and to increase job opportunities here in St Vincent and the Grenadines.”

Meanwhile, the NIPI will be hosting an investment forum on July 09th, with the expectation that people’s eyes will be opened to the investment opportunities that the fishing industry presents in this economic climate.

Executive Director of NIPI, Cleo Jones Huggins, was on hand when Regis’ vessel docked and said that government, with organizations like NIPI is giving the necessary support to the fishing industry.

Hermia Neehall of NDF said that her organization was pleased that they were able to assist Regis, echoing the sentiment that the vessel “will greatly enhance the fishing operation in St Vincent and the Grenadines.”

Currently, another vessel, designed for another local fisherman, is being built.(KJ)