Ardglass Port In Line For Major Infrastructure Works

Meeting of key stakeholders signifies the beginning of the strategic process to improve Ardglass harbour for its fishing fleet.

Meeting of key stakeholders signifies the beginning of the strategic process to improve Ardglass harbour for its fishing fleet.

A top DAERA fisheries official has met Ardglass Harbour Developments (Ltd) board members and other key agencies to set out the way forward for major infrastructure developments at Ardglass fishing port.

Ardglass is in line for up to a possible £40million infrastructural improvement plan which includes:

  • Deeping of harbour for pelagic vessels and deeper draughted prawn boats.
  • Installation of a pontoon for the crabber sector.
  • Onshore improvements to properties to facilitate business development for the local fishing industry.
(l-r). Owen Lyttle, DAERA Head of Fisheries and Marine; Stephen Craig, DAERA Fisheries Officer; Jonathan McGilly, Newry Mourne and Down District Council Economic Development Assistant Director; Ardglass Harbour Development Board members Dick James and Basil Wills; Harry Wick, NIFPO Chief Executive; and NIFHA Chief Executive, Kevin Quigley and Ardglass Harbour Master James Lenaghan pictured after a meeting in Ardglass to discuss plans to progress with a major port development. (Photo by Jim Masson.)

LOcal fishermen in Ardglass were encouraged as plans for a major improvement to the harbour took one step closer.

The meeting took place of the key agencies involved to clarify the strategic process that lies ahead. Present at the meeting was Owen Lyttle, DAERA Head of Fishing and Marine Development with DAERA fisheries officer, Stephen Craig, representatives from the Northern Ireland Fisheries and Harbour Authority, Newry Mourne and Down District Council, the Northern Ireland Fish Producers Organisation and the Ardglass Harbour Developments (Ltd) group (AHD).

The AHD group set up four years ago when fish producers, boat owners, skippers, fish sales businesses and community members came together and form a limited company by guarantee to help initiate vital improvements needed for the harbour.

Brexit and the Protocol have been a backdrop to this process causing all sorts of issues for the fishing industry, but AHD chaired by pelagic fish processor Comgall Milligan explained that it was determined to push ahead to get the harbour deepened and the berthing improved, to see the installation of a pontoon for the smaller crabber vessels, and to see onshore improvements to the service sector to the fishing industry.

Owen Lyttle, DAERA Head of Fishing and Marine Development said: “I welcomed the opportunity to meet with Ardglass Harbour Developments, the NI Fisheries and Harbour Authority, the NI Fish Producers Organisation, and fishermen’s representatives to discuss their plans for developing Ardglass harbour. 

“Following publication of the Fishing and Seafood Development Programme report,  we have started a process within DAERA that we hope will secure the investment needed to modernise the three fishery harbours of Kilkeel,  Portavogie including Ardglass.

“There will be quite a number of small steps to take and initially it might appear slow, but once the project boards and teams are operating it should speed up. We hope to be in action by 2023 when the programme delivery team will hand over.

“There will no doubt be a lot of challenges but I will be pressing forward to form the boards to work on these technical issues very soon.

“Once we understand the basic costs of the project we can refine it to a business plan and then factor in the environmental and technical costs to ensure it is all sustainable and within budget.”

Upwards of £40million may be spent on the Ardglass harbour improvements.

Fisheries Minister Edwin Poots, centre, pictured during a visit in 2020 at Ardglass harbour with local fishing representatives : l-r Basil Wills, boat owner and fish sales: Dick James, Director, Ardglass Harbour Developments; Harry Wick, CEO, NIFPO; and Comgall Milligan, Director, C&O Milligan (pelagic processor).

Comgall Milligan, AHD chairman said: “I am delighted that the progress being made so far. Our local group is keen to work with the projects boards and everyone including our Council to help further improvements to the harbour.

“The herring and mackerel processors in Ardglass will benefit as the larger vessels will then be able to dock and unload in Ardglass fishing port and it will hopefully cut down haulage costs and be of an environmental benefit.

“These infrastructural improvements will support jobs in the future and help keep Ardglass to the forefront of the fishing industry where it has been for the past 200+ years.”

Dick James, project managing for the AHD group, said: “We are in a good position now. Our project in Ardglass is relatively straight forward. With the deepening there will be a number of unknowns such as how much piling will be required and how much hard rock will need to be extracted below the seabed under the sand and till.

“We commissioned a study completed by RPS Engineering which provided and useful document to base our proposals. Then we pressed DAERA through the NIFHA for a second geophys study which refined this information further.

“Our group is comprised of stakeholders from the different sectors of the fishing industry – pelagic, fish and nephrops, and crabbing sector. It is our aim to make Ardglass port fit for purpose for the fleet.

“Vessels have become much more deeper draughted in recent years and therefore once again, Ardglass is at that historic point where it needs to adjust to the needs of the market. And one of the key elements in this is creating a safe harbour for all its users.

“We look forward to working with Owen Lyttle and his teams and we will keep the local fishing sector briefed on works as they progress.”