Monday, 3 October 2022
Killybegs is a thriving port on the edge of Europe and businesses in the port have been to the fore in making it one of Europe’s premier commercial fishing ports. Killybegs is now at a new stage of evolution and well positioned to drive substantial economic growth for the entire North West of Ireland and beyond. Karl Bonner is Manager of the Killybegs Marine Cluster and tells us more about its future plans and opportunities.
“The Killybegs Marine Cluster was officially established on February 1, 2021 and while it is one of twelve business clusters on the island of Ireland and part of Enterprise Ireland’s National Clustering Programme it is the only marine cluster on the island” explains Karl.
A business cluster is a concentration of interconnected businesses and Governments are recognising their value in terms of increasing productivity and employment and enhancing a regions competitiveness.
Karl explains that Killybegs physical location in Donegal bay is one of its’ greatest assets with easy access to some of Europe’s richest fishing grounds as well as proximity to the offshore continental shelf and delivering some of the best wind speeds in Europe.
“Killybegs has quite a unique eco-system with most members located within one square kilometre of each other, making logistics much easier. The town is also in relative proximity to the offshore continental shelf, which delivers the highest wind speeds in Europe. This makes Killybegs an attractive access port for investment in the Floating Offshore Wind sector”.
Karl is a native of Dungloe and has a wealth of experience working in the blue economy. His passion and knowledge for the industry is clear and his experience working in both public and private sector roles, with organisations such as Intertrade Ireland, as well as leading capital investment programmes supported by Bord Iascaigh Mhara.
While the challenges facing the commercial fishing sector are well known, Karl believes that these challenges present a catalyst for change saying “necessity is the mother of invention and I see that this is the case in Killybegs where collaboration and innovation are central to the success of businesses in the port. BioMarine Ingredients Ireland is a great example of an innovative company in this space, leading the way with novel proteins derived from blue whiting”.
“Another sector that offers great potential for Killybegs is the Floating Offshore Wind sector and the Killybegs Fishermen Organisation has been to the fore in ensuring that local fishermen will be central to the development of this growth sector in Killybegs. They have joined forces with Sinbad Marine Services Limited, a member of the Killybegs Marine Cluster, and international company Hexicon AB and entered into a unique partnership (Memorandum Of Understanding) arrangement that will see local fishermen involved from the outset.”
Karl believes that Killybegs has the potential to become the epicentre of Europe for protein and energy, two sustainable and global markets saying that it has the required marine skills as well as a proven track record of success.
‘’Currently there are over 350 marine engineers on the ground in Killybegs and we will require many more. That’s why we are so keen to engage with young people and share with them the exciting opportunities that exist in this sector and in Killybegs. This month we are collaborating with the Alpha Innovation Project on a pilot initiative with students in St. Catherines Vocational School where the young people will be introduced to the concept of innovation and have an opportunity to engage directly with local businesses and if successful we will be expanding this programme.
“We are also working with our partners in Donegal ETB who, in collaboration with our members, developed Ireland’s first bespoke Marine Engineering Traineeship with plans to roll it out in early 2023.
I would also urge local students or anyone considering a change in career to get in touch with myself or any of the businesses to find out more about the opportunities that exist in this sector.’’
Killybegs is also home to the new Atlantic Technological University and Karl believes that this provides an opportunity for the port to become a centre of excellence for all things relating to the blue economy, ensuring businesses operating in this marine ecosystem have a sustainable pipeline of talent to serve the current and emerging industry needs.