Trilant plans £1m fish processing plant in Wicklow


TRILANT, a joint venture between Irish interests and a Korean food giant, is investing £1 million to develop a fish processing plant in Wicklow town. The new company will employ 50 people.

Trilant's managing director, Mr Soo Young Park, who is now based in Ireland, said the firm plans to spend £5 million over the next five years on other fish processing ventures in Ireland, creating up to 150 further jobs.

On ultra modern automatic canning system has been installed in the premises at mouth Quay, Wicklow. The plant will be capable of competing with the best in Europe, according to Trilant.

The seafood being canned in the plant will be exported to the US, Japan and Korea. Markets in Thailand and Indonesia are also being investigated. The plant will initially process whelks, which are available throughout the year.

This is the first venture into Europe for Korea's Cheil Foods and Chemicals Inc, which has an annual turnover of more than $2 billion (£1.25 billion). The Korean partners expressed surprise at the way fish resources were under exploited in Ireland. No Forbairt or IDA aid has been given to the plant so far but Trilant hopes for "Government participation in future joint ventures".

Mr Maurice Kenny and his family are the Irish principals. The Kenny family has installed canning lines for Gallagher's in Killibegs and Princess Foods in Britain. A team of engineers around the world has installed food processing plants in the Middle East the Far, East, America and in this country. This work brought the Kenny's business into contact with the Cheil group and negotiations to set up a joint venture in Ireland started six months ago.

Production trials have already started in Wicklow. But full production will not start until well into this year. The company is currently negotiating with 15 local trawlers of different sizes.

Trilant wants to take Wicklow harbour back to the days when it was thronged with working fishing boats, according to a director, Mr Simon Kenny. Nowadays Wicklow is better known for heavy shipping coal, lead and timber are transported through the harbour. But some years ago, large catches of scallops, herring and crabs were landed there.

Trilant calculates that it will not be treading on too many toes, because Wicklow is now a fairly small fishing port. "Because there are no other fish processors in Wicklow, there should be fewer headaches. There are small processors in Greystones, Arklow and Wexford. We hope to contract trawlers to fish for whelks which are there in abundance along the east coast," said Mr Kenny.

"For every job at sea, it has been estimated there can be 12 onshore, in down stream processing."

The company is examining the possibility of buying several fishing boats. One will be purchased before Christmas. These trawlers will be 100 feet long on average and worth about £225,000 each. They will be bought in Europe and will be stationed in up to four ports.

Premises in Arklow have already been examined and plants will be built in the west of the country and the North eventually. There are "huge" possibilities for expansion along the west coast, according to Trilant. Herring roe, frozen crabs and other seafood will be processed for export. The possibility of pork processing is also being examined.

The Cheil group, which used to be part of the Samsung conglomerate and which is dominated by the Lee family, recently ventured into the movie business, with a $300 million investment in Steven Speilberg's new studio, Dream Works.

Samsung used to distribute movies in Korea. The fruits of this movie investment are expected to hit the big screens in early 1997. Cheil is also involved in the pharmaceutical industry.