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The fishing gear side of the Urk Fishermen’s Co-operative’s (VCU) business continues to grow, not least with the strong demand for seine rope that VCU supplied increasingly to fishing vessels in France, Denmark, Scotland and England, in addition to their Dutch home market.

According to Albert Hartman who manages the fishing gear division, handling the volume of seine ropes has called for the storage areas have been re-organised to cope with the volume, plus new forklifts and a new truck capable of making deliveries anywhere from northern Jutland the Normandy.

In addition to investments in handling, VCU has also continued to develop its seine ropes, and also has succeeded in recycling used rope – a key development, as one of their pledges has been to take delivery of a boat’s old rope when delivering new.

‘This week we had 186 tonnes of seine rope was shipped out of the factory that has been making our ropes since 2008,’ he said. ‘Of course price is important – but everything starts with quality,’ Albert Hartman said.

VCU has invested in the equipment needed for supplying wire and seine rope anywhere from Jutland to Normany

‘We are the only ones who can deliver seine rope in long lengths, 3000 to 4000 metres, depending on the dimensions,’ he said, commenting that a single length compared to the traditional 220 metre coils is a significant time saver.

‘Every splice needs maintenance. This has to be looked after, and with single lengths of seine rope, there are only two splices that the crew need to worry about.’

VCU is working with agents to supply seine rope in various areas; Thyborøn Trawlbinderi in Denmark, Uni Pêche and CME in Boulogne, and Jackson Trawl in Scotland – and there are difference in the types of rope required.

VCU has been building up a ‘mountain’ of old seine rope for recycling

‘We had looked at the possibility of taking on more sales people here to handle seine rope sales in other areas, but decided that partnerships with local suppliers who know their own markets would be a better option,’ he said.

‘The Dutch skippers want stronger ropes, and the Scottish and Danish skippers have their own preferences for working softer ground. It’s a question of where they are fishing, what kind of boat, the type of winches.The ropes have to suit the boat.’

VCU’s delivery teams have the seine rope procedure down to a smooth routine, and a few hours is now all that’s needed to spool one set of ropes off and another onto the drums, with the old rope brought back to Holland for disposal.

‘I had a wake-up call a few years ago when a skipper I know caught discarded seine rope in his propeller, and it wrecked the boat’s gear box, leading to some very expensive repairs,’ he explained, adding that there has been a five-year search for ways of recycling seine rope to separate the steel and the PP materials.

‘We have a partner in the recycling business who does this in Vriesland, and they are making a dent in the mountain of seine rope that has collected. We take the old rope, and the costs and risk that go with it, and our recycling partner process is it. The PP goes to be made into clothing, and the there’s a demand for the high-quality steel that comes out of the ropes as it’s clean steel.’

As well as seine rope, VCU keeps an inventory of wire, and has also worked with a Korean manufacturer to produce a trawl wire that suits the Dutch fleet.

‘Corrosion is always a problem. It’s important to keep the wire clean as long as possible,’ Albert Hartman said.

The result is VCU’s Alumar steel wire rope that VCU claims lasts a third longer, as well as being a third cheaper, with a sacrifice in strength made to give the wire a longer working lifetime.

‘There’s aluminium and zinc in the construction which extend its lifetime. These reduce the breaking strength of the rope, but that isn’t a significant concern as the wire has a breaking strength that’s a long way beyond the ten tonne tension of most trawlers’ warps. We are well within any safety tolerances. The first ones to have this wire were the UK-19 and the UK-284, and they were able to use the wire for 2x12 months instead of the usual 2x8 months. Now 80% of our customers are using this wire.’

Source: Hook & Net