StarKist Samoa Negotiating With American Samoa Shipyard For Freezer Space

Cannery refuses to confirm ongoing discussions

By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, Oct. 9, 2016) – ASG Shipyard Service Authority board chairman Keniseli Lafaele has confirmed the shipyard is in discussions with StarKist Samoa about the need for the cannery for additional cold storage freezer space — and a suitable location has yet to be determined.

However, when asked for comments, StarKist Co., corporate spokesperson Michelle Faist told Samoa News that, “It’s StarKist policy that we do not comment on rumors.”

Samoa News received information early this week that the shipyard is working to accommodate a location for a StarKist Samoa cold storage freezer facility, which is a project the cannery has been working on with the local government for a couple of years to secure ASG land to build the facility.

Asked if the shipyard is working to accommodate a freezer location for StarKist, Lafaele said, “Yes, the shipyard and StarKist have held discussions regarding StarKist’s need for extra freezer space” and that a suitable location has to be determined. He also said that a possible location has been discussed.

“We hope to work something out as soon as possible,” said Lafaele, who is also the Commerce Department director. Regarding the importance of the shipyard and ASG in helping out StarKist, Lafaele said, “It’s very important, after all, the canneries and associated business activities account for at least 70% of the private sector part of our economy.”

Lafaele also pointed out that other issues impacting StarKist and Tri Marine International, owner of the locally based Samoa Tuna Processors Inc. cannery, are federal conservation measures such as the closure of or restrictions imposed on fishing in the high seas, US economic exclusive zones, and other traditional fishing grounds to US fishing fleets, and the expansion of national marine monuments and sanctuaries.

“While we aim to assist StarKist with the need to increase their freezer capacity, we also need to pay attention to the impact the federal conservation policies have on our economy, and do something about it,” he said.

StarKist Co., confirmed last week that StarKist Samoa will shutdown the week of Oct. 10 and the shutdown is due to “fish-supply shortages”.

“Limited freezer capability and the lack of space to expand the freezer have negatively impacted the company’s operational efficiency over the years,” Faist said at the time.

However, the issue is further amplified due to fewer deliveries of fish now being made to American Samoa as a result of the closure of fishing on the high seas, US economic exclusive zones (EEZs) and other traditional fishing grounds to the U.S. fishing fleets, according to StarKist.

While fish are currently being delivered via reefer vessel, the cannery said the volume is not enough to keep the plant running as originally scheduled in October. In addition, securing fish from alternative supply sources, such as reefer vessels, is limited, expensive and unsustainable over the long term.

The StarKist Samoa plant is expected to re-open on Monday, October 17, after additional deliveries are made to the plant.

With the shutdown next week, many StarKist Samoa workers, who are heading to Samoa for White Sunday, followed by a holiday on Monday, are happy with the long break, but others who will remain on Tutuila are a bit concerned with no paycheck for the week. It should be noted that there will be a skeleton crew at the cannery during the shutdown.

Samoa News learned this week that the next weeklong shutdown for StarKist is scheduled for the week of Thanksgiving in November. It’s understood that this is the usual November shutdown. Then in December the cannery carries out its annual end of the year, two-week shutdown for the holidays.

The Samoa News
Copyright © 2016. The Samoa News. All Rights Reserved

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