There was a homecoming for the Raptis family last month as brothers Con and Spero visited Ceduna to check on progress at the Thevenard Marine Offloading Facility.
The brothers, along with A. Raptis & Sons chairman George Shlahtych, were greeted by Ceduna mayor Perry Will and viewed the facility.
Mr Shlahtych said the company was keen to explore the possibility of utilising the Thevenard facility, which is due to be completed by October 2019, as a base.
He said it would increase production and made sense for the company.
“We have two trawlers in the Great Australian Bight which catch 1600 tonnes of finfish which is then taken to Port Lincoln, but the issue we have is it’s 48 hours one way and so we are wasteful with fuel and lose fishing time of 96 hours, while weather is also a factor,” he said.
“From Thevenard to our grounds the longest time is 18 hours and this would help maintain freshness of the fish.
“We would need to build a shed to contain our gear, crew, a space to handle fresh fish and keep it fresh – so we would sort fish out here for markets like Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.”
Mr Shlahtych said Ceduna was “well positioned” with regular flights to Adelaide and road access from Port Lincoln, which added to the interest.
“It’s a great project, and then there is an emotional link too.”
The genesis of A. Raptis and Sons came when the family lived at Thevenard and family patriarch Arthur Raptis worked as a fisherman.
After opening a fish and chip shop in Adelaide in the early 1950s he began filleting his catch for local shops, and soon his children became involved which saw the business develop into a seafood wholesale and retail company.
While Spero Raptis regularly returns to Ceduna to fish, this was Con Raptis’ first time back in his home town since leaving “about 70 years ago”.
He said the trip gave him a chance to visit the old family home in Kent Street at Thevenard as well as view the new facility.
“It is always great to come back home,” he said.
“We saw the family home – a two-bedroom house with my parents in one room and five kids in the others – and the school.
“We think of where we came from, dad was a poor fisherman, and to now come back and see the project is great.”
Con Raptis also said the visit allowed him to set foot on land near the offloading facility, which would be utilised in production, for the first time since he purchased it 50 years ago.
His brother Spero said this would be a “new era” for the industry at Thevenard.
“It is about efficiency in operation – we had boats unloading at the main [Thevenard] wharf, but did not have much access, so this would be great for us,” he said.
“We’ve always been nostalgic about the area and I think Thevenard and Ceduna has been shunned by the industry because there was no chance to unload.
“This is a new dawn, a new era, and will be positive for the region.”
Mr Will said this facility was a long time coming, with initial talks to have an unloading facility at Thevenard dating back to the early 1930s.
He said there had been a good response from the industry and a number of interested users such as the Raptis family.
“We are happy the family has come here now and are pleased with their interest in the project,” he said.
“Spero comes up here regularly to fish and wants to fish like his dad did, with a handline!”
Mr Will said the build of the facility was ahead of schedule.