The recent itinerary of the Norwegian fish farm ‘well boat’ Viktoria Viking seen here at Oban is a long list of Scottish islands, lochs and anchorages that would suit the most adventurous yachtsman in Scottish waters; Kirkwall, Ardyne, Carradale, Kyle, Shapinsay, Unst, and as I write she is due back in Kirkwall.
Viktoria Viking 1,214,’09 was built like almost all of her type in North European waters at the small north Norwegian town of Vestnes which also delivered an earlier and perhaps more elegant design also seen here at Oban, Gripfisk 475,’97, which is also serving Scottish waters and is currently in Lerwick. So Norwegian owners have cornered a lucrative business in building specialist fishfarming vessels and also manning and operating them as there no doubt is considerable expertise that goes with transporting around hundreds of tons of valuable live fish at various stages of their growth.
Tom Roberston pointed out Gripfisk was Mediterranean moored at Oban, probably not, as he suggested, a side effect of global warming - but apparently it was more convenient to her for taking on bunker oil.
As far as I am aware only two such live fish carrying vessels have been attempted by UK builders and both by the now closed Campbeltown Shipyard. The most successful was the Solea 235,’89 pictured here at Kyle of Lochalsh but I see she has recently headed off deep sea to more exotic and sunnier climes in Africa, under the same name and registered in Sierra Leone.
Yes, I know, that flag is seen now on several UK coastal service vessels but this time she really has gone to Africa. She has also been converted to a dry cargo vessel with a hydraulic crane and is advertised as offering a monthly cargo service into the Indian Ocean from Majunga, Madagascar to several ports in the Comoro Islands. Quite a stretch from serving the environs of the Kyle of Lochalsh to supplying islands in the Indian Ocean.
The second well boat from Campbeltown was the Crear 499,’97 but by 2007 she was snapped up, ironically, by Norwegian owners who converted her to a coastal and bunkering tanker and she is working hard in Western Norwegian waters rejoicing under the descriptive name of Kystbunker registered at Kristiansund. There is surely evidence here again for my long held belief that there is a need for small versatile hulls for all kinds of freights. That the little Solea is worth taking all the way to Africa and Crear has a second career as a handy sized tanker delivering to small and awkward Norwegian island and fjord locations surely backs this up.