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NatWest Bank has helped one of Europe’s biggest seafood businesses to deliver the finest-quality products on to the plates of eager diners across the UK.

The Big Prawn Company has a state-of-the-art processing centre tucked away in the North Norfolk village of Melton Constable, where it packs exotic shellfish in brine ready for distribution to retailers, the food service and to other businesses in products from sandwiches to gourmet dishes.

Thousands of tonnes of crayfish tails from China, tiger prawns from Southeast Asia, and coldwater Atlantic prawns from Canada and South America arrive by the container load. With some of these containers containing products costing £100,000, a relationship with an understanding bank is vital to the business – not least when faced with moving these large sums of money across international borders.

The support NatWest has provided to company founder Sean O”Hanlon since he launched the business nearly 12 years ago has enabled it to grow to a level where target turnover has dramatically increased for 2006.

And the company is certainly not resting on its laurels with new products including a seafood cocktail of squid, mussels and cold and warm water prawns, Norwegian mussels, which are cultured on ropes to keep them grit and sand free, and a new hand-peeled cold water prawn product called Chilean Gamba.

“We are a diverse and fast-moving business and can’t afford there to be any slow-moving operations,” says O”Hanlon. “It has been a challenging business and in the last few years especially NatWest has been a big help in our work.”

The next step forward for the company, which employs 28 people in the UK, will be the launch of a range of ready-to-eat snacks.

“We look to source products at the top 5% of the quality range to provide consumers with the ultimate seafood taste experience,” says O ‘Hanlon. “We work in partnership with eight primary processing factories in China, four in Vietnam, and others in South America and Canada, with procurement offices in Denmark, China and Vietnam where we have experts controlling the quality of the catch and helping us stick to environmental and ethical trading practices.”

NatWest has helped The Big Prawn Company become probably Europe’s biggest brining operation and the largest single purchaser of Chinese crayfish tails.

Nicola Sadler, who looks after its account, says the multi-million pound multi-option facility offered by the bank enables the company to maximise its cash efficiency. Letters of credit and international trade certificates smooth the way for its cross-border trading.

“NatWest has the international capability to deliver seamless banking operations to companies competing in today’s global environment,” she says. “We have provided the Big Prawn Company with a broad service of banking facilities. In particular, the letters of credit and international trade certificates that guarantee suppliers on the other side of the world that they will be paid on time.”