...and welcome to the British Stern Trawler website. This site includes information on these stern trawlers and their history as far as we can go. This site is a work in progress and will be continually updated. There is still a large amount of work to uncover, if anyone has information or photos of these trawlers we will only be too glad to put them on. Many thanks to Andy Hall for readily supplying information on the North Shields Ranger Fishing Co. Ltd. This site will cover stern trawlers 80ft and above. Additional information by Mark Stopper and Paul Denham and to everyone who has helped and submitted photos, credits are shown beneath the actual photo etc...
Introduction by Arthur G. Credland, Hull Town Docks Museum, October 1988 in Hull & Grimsby Stern Trawling Fleet (ISBN: 0 907033 73 3) by kind permission of Michael Thompson. Although this introduction is based around Hull and Grimsby - it's very indicative of what was happening around the UK at that time.
The technique of towing a trawl net over the side appeared in the Middle Ages and the same basic principle remained dominant in the European deep sea fishing fleets until the last two decades. Now the 'sidewinder' has been replaced by the stern fishing vessel, often with freezing facilities, for supplying the bulk fish market. The net is towed directly aft of the vessel using a gantry to guide the warps and the full net is winched up a stern ramp from where the catch is emptied down a chute into the fish hold for processing. This approach to fishing was directly inspired by the whale factory ships in which the carcases of the dead whales were hauled up a stern ramp for processing on deck. Introduced by the Norwegian Captain Sörlle in 1925 aboard the Lancing, the idea was followed up by the other whaling nations, Salvesens of Leith being the chief British protagonists of modern sub-antarctic whaling.
The expertise gained from their whaling activities resulted in the Fairtry 1 the first stern-fishing vessel with ramp. Built in 1953 she was too big to berth at any of the nation's fish quays so she usually unloaded her cargo of frozen fillets and meal at the commercial docks in Immingham. After her maiden voyage of 82 days duration in command of Leo Romym, a Bridlington-born skipper, she was redirected, however, to Hull's Alexandra Dock where she arrived in September 1955. She measured 280 feet long with diesel-electric engines developing 2000 b.h.p. and endurance and victualing for three months. The freezing equipment could handle 35 tonnes of cod fillets in 24 hours.
Although technically very successful she was not very profitable and was followed by the slightly smaller Fairtry 2 (1959) and Fairtry 3 (1960). From 1960 all quick frozen fish produced by the Salvesen vessels landed at Grimsby or Immingham and 7000-8000 tonnes were handled each year exclusively by Ross Group of Grimsby. In 1966 the price for fish frozen at sea slumped and because of continuing losses these pioneering vessels were withdrawn from service. Salvesens involvement in factory fishing had not been an enormous success and the company decided to concentrate its activities in the areas of cold storage, quick-freezing and transport. They had, however, set a new pattern for fishing which was soon to be followed by trawler firms around the world. Remarkably an attempt at freezing on board ship was made as early as 1884 on the St. Clement of Aberdeen. This was built with a cold air refrigeration plant in her aft hold made by J. and E. Hall of Dartford, Kent. It proved very successful and her first voyage grossed a very healthy (for the period!) £117. The system was run off the vessel's main boiler and was removed after a few years operation, though the reasons why are not clear since it seems to have paid for itself and been generally reliable.
It was Halls of Dartford who were to provide the basis for the first significant trials of a shipboard freezing apparatus this century, then the Torry Vertical Plate Freezer was installed in the Northern Wave in the summer of 1955. This Grimsby trawler chartered by the White Fish Authority was fitted out in St. Andrew's Dock at Hull, so the two rival ports played their part in this pioneer effort. Costs, estimated at £105,000, were shared between the WFA, the Treasury and the Distant Water Fishing Vessel Owners' Development Committee. The rationale behind these experiments was to avoid the situation whereby huge quantities of fresh fish might be landed simultaneously. The excess of supply over demand depressed prices and resulted in a lot of otherwise edible fish being sent for processing into fish meal. If at least the early part of the catch could be frozen this could be put into storage and released onto the market as required, and when the price was favourable.
In the old side-fishing techniques after the net was brought alongside and the cod end spilled on the deck the net had to be largely man-handled over the side, a dangerous and strenuous exercise. This was eliminated in the stern trawler and for the first time the fish was sorted and gutted under cover protected from the extremes of weather in the North Atlantic. The arrival of the 'stern-dragger', therefore, not only brought a major improvement in technique but provided far better working conditions for the crew.
Freezing also altered the work pattern of the men who unloaded the trawlers, known as 'bobbers' in Hull and 'lumpers' in Grimsby. Instead of filling wooden or metal kits with loose fish in crushed ice, the frozen blocks of fish were passed by conveyor to waiting lorries which delivered the catch into cold-storage.
As opposed to huge 'factory' ships like Fairtry vessels the first stern-fishing trawler on the British register to be built to a more conventional scale was the 104ft Aberdeen vessel, Universal Star (1959). Equipped with the now familiar stern gantry, it was unusual in that it could be converted at short notice into a tug. At about the same time Marrs of Hull and Fleetwood began experimenting with freezing at sea, initially by installing a pilot freezer plant, consisting of a small compressor providing refrigeration for a vertical plate freezer, stowed under the whaleback of the Marbella. She was a side-fishing trawler, built in 1955, and commanded by Charles Drever. The experiments in processing continued on a larger scale in another side-winder, the Junella, in which some of the fish hold was used to build a small freezing compartment and a low temperature store. Fish caught in the first 2 or 3 days, about 3000 stones, was frozen and the remainder of the hold filled in the old manner with fish laid on shelves between layers of crushed ice and chilled rather than frozen.
In the event it was Associated Fisheries who introduced the first stern trawler to the Hull fleet. She was the 1226 tonnes (gross), 238 foot Lord Nelson which was launched at Bremerhaven on the 5th January 1961 by Frau Rickmer. This handsome vessel was furnished with two holds, one for fresh and the other for frozen fish, with air conditioned cabins, bathrooms, showers and mess room for 24 crew. She sailed on the 19th July 1961 under the command of Skipper Walter Lewis returning on the 24th August from a trip to Greenland and Newfoundland.
The four years of tests by Marrs came to fruition in July 1962 with the launch of the Junella at the Hall Russell yard in Aberdeen. She was Hull's, indeed Britain's, first all freezer trawler with the ability to handle 25 tonnes of fish a day in her newly designed vertical plate freezers. Diesel-electric motors by English Electric powered the vessel and all the processing plant of this 240 foot, 1435 ton vessel. There was the additional facility of blast freezing for large fish such as halibut and up to 300 tonnes storage capacity. The old Junella, aboard which the trials had been done, was now renamed Farnella and continued fishing until 1966. A series of ten stern freezers were ordered for J. Marr and in 1965 the Marbella was launched at Goole. At 284 feet she was bigger than Junella with accommodation for 34 crew and a four barrel electric trawl winch which could take up to 1500 fathoms of warp.
In 1964 the Ross Valiant became the first Grimsby stern freezer to enter service. She was under the command of Jack Kerr who learned a great deal about the new techniques of gear-handling from his German counterparts who already had several years experience with the stern trawler. As we have seen it was a German yard which provided Hull with the Lord Nelson, but the British yards were catching up fast and the Valiant was launched by Cochranes of Selby.
Over the years a number of trawlers were exchanged between Hull and Grimsby. The biggest transfer in 1963 involved ten Lord Line side-winders and some 200 crew. In 1978, with the fishing industry in crisis, seven freezers came to Hull from Grimsby, a move which affected over 175 crew. Such wholesale changes of port were deeply unpopular with the men who had to operate away from their home base. They lost time travelling to and from their ships, waiting for their pay settlements and were unable to socialise with their old friends in the local pubs and clubs.
Hellyer's first (of four) all freezer, stern trawler, Othello was launched on the Clyde at the Yarrow yard in 1966. An all-welded vessel 224 foot long she was the fourth trawler to bear this name. She had accommodation for 51 men and was designed for fishing in both Arctic and tropical waters. Her duration was up to 58 days with space for a maximum of 500 tonnes of eviscerated fish. The factory deck allowed space for filleting fish and, if required, she could be turned into a full blown factory ship.
Fire seems to have been a constant refrain in the working history of the stern trawler, several Hull and two Grimsby vessels suffering fire damage.
After the tragic loss in 1968 of three Hull trawlers, the Ross Cleveland, Kingston Peridot and St. Romanus, all in the space of three weeks, the Orsino was taken from her fishing duties to act as guardian to the British trawling fleet operating off Iceland. Provided with a crew of 21 the Orsino was able to keep in regular radio contact with her flock and had facilities on board for providing medical treatment for injured seamen.
The introduction of the 12 mile limit by Iceland in 1958, replacing the former 4 mile limit, though it did not greatly reduce opportunities for fishing in northern waters, should have served as a warning signal to the fishing industry. Skirmishing with Icelandic gunboats resulted in the first 'Cod War', but the new limit was officially recognised in 1961 and for a limited period in the season vessels were given access to much of the sea within the 6-12 miles area. Many voices were raised in concern about the conservation of fish stocks and even before the introduction of the new methods of fishing and processing the industry had been bedevilled by overproduction. War losses were quickly made up and there was a dramatic recovery in the fleet size with the trawler owners' eagerness to meet post-war demand for fish, quickly followed by glut and depressed prices. The awesome catching power of the new stern trawlers made them more cost effective than the side trawlers and they provided the wherewithal for a new market for pre-packed frozen fish and fish fingers. Despite concern about the conservation of fish stocks the industry was buoyant, so much so that a number of companies with no previous involvement in fishing made an entry into the trade. The most notable of these was P. and O. which in the guise of the Ranger Fishing Co. of North Shields commissioned a whole series of stern trawlers between 1964 and 1972.
All the familiar names in Hull fishing invested in stern trawlers, Marrs leading the way as you have seen. 1964 saw the launch of Cape Kennedy at Selby for Hudson Brothers. She had accommodation for 28 men and a fish store capable of holding 400 tonnes of frozen fish. The rapidly expanding Ross Group had acquired Hudsons of Hull in 1960 and had commissioned the Ross Valiant launched at Selby in 1964 followed by the Ross Illustrious, Ross Vanguard and Ross Implacable. They also built up a fleet of middle water stern trawlers for Grimsby and the Ross Fortune (1965) was only Britain's second 'push-button' vessel for this category of fishing.
Thomas Hamling entered the stern-fishing era with the maiden voyage of the St. Finbarr in 1964. An all-freezer trawler she was tragically lost after fire broke out in the crew accommodation on Christmas Day 1966. During the blaze 12 od her 25 crew died and she was taken in tow by the Orsino which hauled her for nearly forty-eight hours until the rope broke and she finally sank off Newfoundland. Other stern freezers followed in the Hamling fleet, the two sister ships St. Jerome and St. Jason, the St. Jasper and the St. Benedict. The St. Jasper was the subject of an experiment during 1972 in the automation of the engine room controls.
1966 saw Boston Fisheries bring the Sir Fred Parkes into service as their first freezer and factory trawler followed by the Lady Parkes, both built in Aberdeen. A new record for the greatest weight of fish caught in one year was established in 1969, when the Lady Parkes landed a total of 4169 tonnes. The Company ordered two vessels, Boston Lincoln and Boston York from the Gdynia shipyard in Poland in 1968, but both suffered a major design fault which made them rise stern high. As a result the ramp was 18 inches clear of the water and the nets tended to catch on the trailing edge and burst. Each had a crew of 28 with a capacity for 360-400 ton of fresh fish. Two years later Boston Lincoln was put into the dry dock of Humber St. Andrew's Engineering Co. to be lengthened by 25 feet and made into a freezer.
Boyd Line ordered the Arctic Freebooter which was launched at Goole shipyard in 1965, but she returned from her maiden voyage under the command of Richard Sackville Bryant with mechanical problems.
Throughout the 1960's, fishing and processing was brought to a high degree of technical perfection and though disquiet grew over fish stocks, little was done to establish effective conservation measures by the European nations. The Icelandic government, however, whose only significant national resource is the fish which inhabits the surrounding waters, was determined it was going to retain a larger proportion of the rich cod grounds for the benefit of its own people.
In 1972 they unilaterally declared a fifty mile limit and there followed a period of intense dispute known as the second Cod War, but eventually governments throughout Europe all accepted the new limit. There was deep concern in the fishing industry, but the established firms continued to maintain their fleet numbers either by new orders or by acquiring vessels second-hand.
The Ranger Fishing Co., subsidiary of P. and O., however, was wound up in the face of rising costs and the difficulties caused by restricted quotas. In May 1972 they had lost the Ranger Ajax when she caught fire and sank after the crew abandoned ship. Beginning in Autumn 1973 the first of the remaining Ranger vessels began to arrive in Hull for their new owners, Hellyers Bros. (B. U. T.). The Ranger Briseis had been employed during 1972-3 as one of the trawler support vessels off Iceland and was specially equipped for these duties with an operating theatre and dental facilities. All of these craft received tribal names and contemporary press reports remarked on the luxurious accommodation of the Kelt including laundry, video TV and fitted carpets. In February 1974 the former Ranger Castor, renamed Gaul, was lost off Norway with all hands. She sank without trace in heavy weather and is presumed to have been swamped by waves coming up the stern ramp and entering below decks. The same year saw the building of the Norse by Scott and Sons of Bowling with accommodation for 23 crew and a fish hold capacity of 30,000 cubic feet.
Newingtons were appointed managers of Seafridge Osprey, and 870 tonnes factory ship built at Aalesund, Norway in April 1972 for Seafridge Ltd. She was followed by Seafridge Skua the same year and Seafridge Petrel in 1973, all of them filleter factory trawlers. Each had two production lines, a pair of horizontal plate freezers dealing with up to 24 tonnes of frozen fillets a day and a storage capacity of 600 tonnes.
Boyds' Arctic Buccaneer (280 foot long, 1173 tonnes) came out of the Gdynia shipyard in Poland in 1973 to become Britain's biggest trawler. She cost nearly one million pounds but suffered from a serious engine fault which delayed her maiden voyage for two years. Designed as a 'go anywhere' vessel to fish in the Atlantic and the tropics, she had a fish hold capacity of 40,500 cubic feet. Deep bilge keels reduced rolling and the bulwarks were extra-high to give better shelter against the wind. In addition she was also heavily strengthened against ice impact. Fitted with smoke detectors and sprinklers, she had accommodation for a crew of 24 in two berth cabins.
The widening of the Icelandic fishing limits encouraged the search for new fishing grounds and the Boston Lincoln spent six months off the Argentinian coast engaged in experimental fishing, but was plagued throughout the trip by mechanical problems.
Boston Fisheries took delivery of a fine new ship in 1974, the Princess Anne (1476 tonnes) launched at Wallsend on the Tyne, and in 1975 she broke the British record for most fish caught in one year. She was designed to operate in Arctic waters off Labrador, Greenland and Norway to compete against the Russian and German vessels in those ice-filled northern regions. She was the only British built vessel constructed to Lloyds Ice Class 1. Her huge pelagic net could take up to 50 tons of fish at a time. The large winch was furnished with two main drums capable of holding 1500 fathoms of 3 1/2 inch steel warp and a further two ancillary drums. The associated net drum would take a complete 'Engel Mode 80' pelagic net, its headline height 120 feet and mouth opening 130 feet.
Iceland's declaration of a 50 mile limit was initially rejected by the European fishing nations but whilst the dispute continued the fleets were confined to restricted 'boxes' under Royal Navy protection and the area of sea available to them was thereby greatly reduced. In spite of these limitations and harassment by gunboats fishing was still remarkably good and profitable. Early in October 1973 the new limit was officially recognised and for non-Icelandic vessels access within the new zone was strictly limited. Close seasons were established, and the designation of reserved and conservation areas. Feelings still ran high on both sides and in October 1975 the Icelandic authorities showed their determination to preserve for their own use the seas up to a distance of 200 miles from the shore. The result was further hostilities lasting nearly a year in which the British fleet continued to operate to operate within the forbidden zone guarded by the Royal Navy who gave protection against Icelandic gunboats attempting to cut the trawl warps and generally harass foreign trawlers. Stern-freezers had continued to break catch records but to remain economic had to continue fishing all year round, which the extension of limits militated against. In August 1975 the freezer record fell no less than three times in two weeks, the St. Benedict (777 tonnes), Princess Anne (779 tonnes) and Arctic Galliard (845 tonnes). Any attempts to decrease access to traditional fishing grounds or introduction of quotas threatened economic disaster for the trawler companies.
The imposition of the 50 mile limit, although it made inroads into areas traditionally open to British vessels, was most significant as a portent of things to come. As we have seen 1973 saw the acquisition of the Ranger fleet by B. U. T. and new vessels were still coming off the stocks indicating the determination of the fishing companies to actively prosecute their trade. The 200 mile limit, which was fully recognised in 1977, was a devastating blow by itself but was quickly compounded by other nations following suit. After our entry into the Common Market a resumption of bilateral negotiations between Britain and Iceland became impossible and we were barred from the new zone except for the allocation of a meagre percentage of the en bloc quotas granted to the EEC. After December 1976 we were similarly excluded from the White Sea, Barents Sea, Faroes and Norwegian coast, Greenland and Newfoundland. The inevitable result was that a fleet of large highly sophisticated trawlers had few places where they could fish without their activities being severely curtailed by strict fish quotas and limited seasonal access. To add to the economic pressures, a rapid escalation of oil prices by the OPEC countries placed an added burden on trawler owners. When the price rises first began to bite, the oil-fired steamers, the vessels of the side-fishing fleet, were worst affected. They used up to 12 tonnes of heavy oil a day, so inevitably they were laid up in increasing numbers and were hauled off to the breakers' yard often years before their natural working life had ended. Eventually the diesel-powered trawlers were affected too, and in June 1978 the British deep-sea fishing fleet was shrinking at the rate of 2 vessels a week. An additional turn of the screw for the Hull fishing companies, which came at the height of the Cod War, was the closure of St. Andrew's Dock, which had been the home of the fishing fleet since 1883. The last vessel to exit through the lock pit was the Arctic Raider heading for Spitzbergen at 4 a.m. on the morning of 3rd November 1975. trawlers now tie up in Albert Dock which had been the base of the Hull trawler fleet between 1869 and the opening of St. Andrew's Dock.
Shorter trips and lower catch rates made the stern trawlers uneconomic and most cod is caught in the North Atlantic between 12-30 miles off shore well within the new limits. Many of these vessels resorted to the mackerel fishing off Scotland and Cornwall, waters not really suitable for manoeuvring large stern trawlers designed for deep sea work. They were not popular either with the inshore fishermen whose preserve this had been.
Arctic Buccaneer and Arctic Galliard were also converted in the same year for mackerel fishing and the catches sold mainly to overseas buyers. Exports of this fish by Marrs zoomed from less than half a million pounds worth in 1977 to a remarkable eleven and a half million pounds in 1978. Since the mackerel season off Cornwall terminated on a fixed date and all the boats came back at once facilities for repair, overhaul and refitting were severely over-stretched. As a result many vessels were laid up, at a cost of about £3000 a day. Seafridge Petrel was sold to Norway for work in the oil industry, the Osprey and Skua having preceded it in 1975-6, as a result of the cut backs of quotas granted by Norway to Common Market countries.
The Grimsby fleet was also ailing and high dock charges persuaded their owners to transfer the last seven vessels to Hull in 1978, thus ending the port's direct involvement in stern-freezer fishing.
Fresh fish was being landed in Hull by an increasing number of Icelandic trawlers and there was intense competition between Hull, Grimsby and Fleetwood for Icelandic fresh fish. Growing imports of fish coming into Britain at below market price, however, made it uneconomic for Icelandic vessels to land in Hull.
The closure of the Hull Ice Manufacturing Co. factory in 1978 meant that the last few freshers sailing from Hull were expected to obtain their ice by road from Fleetwood, Grimsby or Aberdeen. In April 1977 the Spanish vessel Avriscada was the first foreign freezer to land in the port.
In June 1978 the Goth was taken into custody by a Danish gunboat accused of fishing illegally for shrimps off the West Greenland coast. During the autumn three men died when fire broke out aboard the Roman off the Russian coast. Like all the deep sea operators B. U. T. was having a hard time and Associated Fisheries had made a million pounds loss on their fishing activities between October and December alone. As a result they decided to concentrate their business activities on food processing, cold storage, transport and a range of delicatessen products. By May 1980 Newingtons had sold the last of their Hull fleet. By then the Hull side-winder fleet had ceased to exist, and 27 stern trawlers spent most of their time in the dock. In Fleetwood the Hewett Fishing Co., founded in 1764 and the world's oldest fishing firm, went out of business and Findus closed their Hull frozen food factory with the loss of over 200 jobs, though to balance this move the Birdseye concern was expanding. Marrs were involved in a joint venture in the Baltic involving four of their vessels, a number of Polish trawlers, and the St. Jerome from Hamling's fleet. In the same year Marrs closed their Grimsby operation but acquired Subsea 1 for conversion to seismic survey work.
Experienced skippers with modern vessels well equipped for making bumper catches were constantly frustrated by regulations and restrictions. Inevitably there was a temptation to poach and bend the rules, and in May 1980 the Defiance was fined a swingeing £52,390 after being boarded by Norwegian fisheries' inspectors, for allegedly using illegal nets inside the 200 mile zone. The skipper, Paul Weeldon, was also fined nearly £2000 before he was allowed to leave Hammerfest. There was also the search for new grounds and species. In 1979 the St. Loman, a 223 foot purse-seiner was delivered to Hamlings for use in the blue whiting fishery in the North Atlantic off Faroes. Boyds however had already abandoned this enterprise with losses of a quarter of a million pounds. Newingtons bought a purse-seiner from Norway, renamed Peter Scott, and Boyd Line tried pair trawling using the Arctic Corsair as the slave vessel working in association with the Arctic Raider catching cod and coley in the North Sea. Cordella was chartered by the White Fish Authority in the Summer of 1979 for two weeks of test fishing for horse mackerel (scad) off Ireland. The Dane and Pict were converted in 1981 from mackerel to sprat fishing in the North Sea whilst the Kurd, Arab and Kelt all went to Norway for oil rig stand-by work. The same year the B. U. T. head office was transferred from Hull to Grimsby with a loss of 27 shore staff. They had at this time five freezers fishing in the Barents Sea, five laid up for sale and twelve wet fish vessels operating out of Grimsby in home waters. An attempt to establish a fishing operation out of Albany, West Australia in 1977 had proved a failure; B. U. T. had a 50% share in the Southern Ocean Fish Pty. Ltd. in running the Orsino, Cassio and Othello, but by 1979 the venture had collapsed. In October 1979 Ross Vanguard was sold to Nigeria and Cassio, Othello and Orsino were planned to follow.
The scarcity of landings meant that in March 1978 the workforce of bobbers in Hull was reduced from 138 to 83 and in 1980 after no trawler had landed for a fortnight all the men were laid off. High dock dues were also putting off potential business and when the Hull Fish Vessel Owners' Association collapsed the bobbers offered themselves for work individually until the formation of the Fish Landing Company. At the same time, the Hull Trawler Officers' Guild reached the brink of closure and overall there seemed to be little future left for the Hull fishing industry. The expansion in inshore fishing did nothing for Hull, but helped to keep Grimsby active and there was a real boom in the Scottish ports. Considerable profits were being made from 'Klondyking', with British vessels selling their catches to Russian and other foreign factory ships without ever landing them in a native port.
The outbreak of the Falklands conflict in 1982 gave an unexpected source of employment for a number of underused Hull trawlers. Pict was requisitioned by the government for mine counter-measures work after returning from Norway with 400 tonnes of frozen cod, haddock etc. After a stint in the South Atlantic she was fishing off West Spitzbergen for shrimps in 1983. The Kurd was sold in 1982 to a Norwegian owner, who renamed her Southern Surveyor and Kelt followed her the next year. After refitting by George Prior Engineering of Great Yarmouth she was able to operate as a mother ship for remote operated vehicles and mini-submersibles. A 'pound' was constructed at the centre of the vessel with direct access to the sea and a dynamic positioning system was installed in the form of two side thrusters at the stern and two at the bow.
The adverse effects of the post-1975 fishing restrictions were less for Marrs than most other companies, thanks to vigorous attempts at diversification and increasing expertise in survey work. The Criscilla made her first trip in this role in 1976 with a two month stint in the North Sea, and in 1977 she was chartered to BP for eight months. She was permanently refitted as a survey vessel at a cost of £250,000 and in March 1978 was contracted to Sonar Marine to make a geographical survey of the Brent oil field. The following year she was sold for experimental work to the Royal Aeronautical Establishment. The Cordella was chartered in 1979 by the White Fish Authority to evaluate the possibility of setting up a horse mackerel fishery off South West Ireland, and Cordella, Junella and Farnella were requisitioned along with the Pict for minesweeping off the Falklands where they found three of Hull's United Towing fleet on active service too, namely the Salvageman, Yorkshireman and Irishman. 1984 saw Cordella sail to New Zealand under contract to Skeggs Foods but she returned to Britain where after participation in the mackerel fishery she was eventually consigned to the scrapyard in 1987.
The second stern trawler, named Junella, returned from her maiden voyage in March 1976 after a 60 day trip with 600 tonnes of fish. In 1980 Prince Charles spent two days at sea on board her and later the same year she ran aground off Skye fishing for mackerel. She was pulled off by her sister ship Northella in atrocious weather conditions.
Junella was involved in the transport of troops and ammunition from the QE2 and Canberra during the Falklands landings and after minesweeping off Port Stanley brought one of the mines back to England for further investigation. Though defused this lethal device was still filled with explosives and after a 700 mile journey it was delivered to the Royal Navy at Rosyth. After her Falklands duty the Farnella, stripped of her refrigeration plant and trawling gear and fitted with side scan sonar, undertook a lengthy survey of the bed of the Indian Ocean, returning in 1984. There followed a three week survey of the ocean floor from the Mexican to the Canadian border for the National Environmental Council and the US Geological Survey. After a brief return to fishing as a 'fresher' farnella embarked on survey work again in 1986 and was equipped with free-fall grab suitable for picking up mineral nodules from the deep. Jointly for the US Geological Survey and the UK Institute of Oceanographic Sciences she embarked on a mission to map a million square miles of the Pacific basin.
Southella was chartered in 1980 by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Scotland, for fishing protection and surveillance duties for which she was based at Leith. Apart from the engine room crew she was officered and manned by departmental personnel. Northella had been refitted at Rosyth in 1982 for Falklands duty and then in July 1983 she was chartered as a guard vessel in the English Channel while a trench-laying barge and anchor-handling tugs prepared the way for a cable linking the English national grid with France. For this operation the hull was painted a bright orange for maximum visibility.
In 1982 the G. A. Reay was purchased by Marrs from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to investigate the possibility of establishing a fishery in the Falklands. Originally the Boyd Line trawler Arctic Privateer, she has been acquired by the government and renamed after the first director of the Torry Research Station with the intention of investigating the handling and processing of blue whiting off the west coast of Scotland. There was accommodation for 23 crew and 6 scientists and facilities for experimental handling, freezing and storage. Meantime the omens on the local fishing front remained bad.
Swanella had been chartered to the Fisheries Ministry in 1973 and in January 1980 she was one of four trawlers employed by the White Fish Authority in the search for new fishing grounds.
The sale of vessels continued with Arctic Galliard and Arctic Buccaneer going to Fletcher Fishing of Auckland, New Zealand, for less than their insurance value. Both vessels had been top fishers; the Arctic Galliard caught a port record of 845 tonnes of fish on her maiden voyage and the Buccaneer had held the national record for weight of fish caught in one year at a hefty 6,272 tonnes.
In October 1983 Boston Fisheries was taken over by the North British Maritime Group which also included the old established Hull tug company of United Towing. The Lady Parkes holder of the annual catch record in 1969 at 4,169 tonnes had been sold to the Faroes in 1977 and in an attempt at diversification the Boston Sealance (1,750 tonnes) was built in 1979 as a refrigeration cargo vessel, capable of carrying all kinds of frozen meat and fish. Her first cargo had been one of pork landed at Lisbon from Rotterdam. Boston Offshore Safety Ltd. was established to convert trawlers into North Sea standby vessels for the oil and gas industry; the fleet included the Boston Sea Fury, Sea Gazelle, Sea Vixen and Sea Knight.
1983 saw the famous old Hull firm of Thomas Hamling go into receivership, a year short of its centenary. The St. Jerome, St. Jasper and St. Jason were bought by Seaboard Offshore Ltd. of Great Yarmouth and Tain for stand-by work.
Decommissioning grants of £400 per ton became increasingly attractive and in 1984 the Dane, Norse, Gorse, Roman, Defiance and Boston Lincoln were all disposed of. On the other hand Iceland's successful exploitation of their native fish reserves generated plenty of surplus capital for investigating abroad and in 1985 the 105 year old Hull-based Brekkes Foods was taken over by an Icelandic company.
A stabilisation in oil prices and increasing government support helped to generate new optimism in the industry. In 1985 the side-winder, Arctic Corsair, returned to the sea after four years lay-off. She was fitted out with the help of the London based Inlak Group as joint owners and sailed under the command of Skipper Bernard Wharam. In June 1986 she broke the wet fish landing record for the fourth time with a catch of White Sea cod and codling worth £153,341. Arctic Corsair returned from her last voyage on 22 December 1987 and is now laid up awaiting scrap or possible acquisition as a museum ship after a long and honourable career. Boyd Line acquired the 200 foot Norwegian vessel, Vesturvon, in 1986 which they renamed Arctic Ranger for use as a factory filleting ship off Labrador.
In 1986 Marr and Son was restructured into two companies, Andrew Marr International Ltd. which concentrates on fish processing, vessel maintenance and cold storage, and J. Marr, dealing with wet fish, survey vessels, oil rig supply vessels and the management of Globe Engineering. In August 1986 the fleet consisted of six trawlers and eight survey vessels with an increasing interest and investment in the Falklands. Initially Marrs had chartered ten Japanese squid-jigging vessels but soon opened an office in Port Stanley creating a new company, Marr Falklands Ltd., for future operations. In April 1988, the factory freezer Hill Cove operated by Stanmarr Ltd., a joint venture between Stanley Fisheries and Marr (Falklands) Ltd., was named by Mrs Sally Blake, wife of a Falklands Council member. She left Hull loaded with spare fishing gear and other fabrications from Globe Engineering for refurbishing the Falklands port and storage system which the Island's government had bought from the Ministry of Defence.
Boyd Line have also made a significant investment in the South Atlantic and in 1987 Stanley Witte Boyd re-registered the former Arctic Freebooter as the Lord Shackleton, to work out of Port Stanley for the Falklands Development Council. This as yet infant fishery is initially concentrating on squid and hake as its main quarry. There are currently negotiations in progress to establish a consortium to operate a new ferry service with mainland South America. The partnership includes Stanmarr and Witte-Boyd Holdings and aims to re-establish links severed in 1982 so as to ensure regular supply from Uruguay and Chile to service the fishing vessels and islands in general, and provide an easy outlet for marketing Falklands fish.
In March 1988 Marr acquired the Dutch freezer trawler Cornelius Vrolijk for a reported £5 million pounds and renamed her Westella. Capable of freezing 120 tonnes of fish a day and with a cold store capacity of 1,400 tonnes she will fish herself, but also act as a 'Klondyker' taking catches from other vessels for processing at sea, a mode currently dominated by Eastern bloc vessels. Another sign of the buoyancy and confidence returning to Hull fishing came with the launch of the Thornella by Cochranes of Selby in 1987. In March 1988 after fitting out she loaded 100 tonnes of ice from the new £350,000 plant of Hull Fish Landing and Container Services on Albert Dock in readiness for her fishing trials. She landed 1,400 kits of coley from off the Shetlands the week before the launch of her sister ship Lancella on 18 April 1988. Investment in Marrs' scientific fleet continued with the purchase of the Jura, now renamed Criscilla, formerly belonging to the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Scotland.
No-one doubts the ability of the fishing industry to design the ships and equipment required to operate in any corner of the globe. The big question mark remains whether a satisfactory world wide control of the exploitation of fish stocks can be established. Close to home there are ominous reports of a pending catastrophic decline in the 'cod basket' off the Lofoten Islands where the worst cod season for twenty years has been reported by local fishermen. Later maturity of young fish and weather changes appear to have forced an alteration in the breeding pattern. This has been compounded by a large rise in the seal populations off Western Norway, though these are now being decimated by a virus, and the failure for the last two years of the arrival of capelin, the main food of cod. Carpet trawling has effectively vacuumed the heartland of the North Sea and Barents Sea and prevented mature cod from reaching the traditional breeding ground off the Lofotens. Vast quantities of young fish which should have been allowed to grow to maturity have instead finished up as fish meal. The estimated stocks in 1955 in the Barents Sea were 4-5 million tonnes, but by 1982 these were down to 1 million tonnes. The large, technologically advanced and capital intensive factory trawlers need to fish to capacity all year round in order to stay economic are the main culprits and present the same threat to fish stocks as the whale factory fleets have done to the populations of great wales.