American Samoa Government Will Not Lease Property To StarKist For Storage

Satala Shipyard not available for freezer; company must look elsewhere

By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, June 20, 2017) – The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council has been informed that the government has decided not to lease ASG land at the Satala shipyard compound to build additional storage freezer space for StarKist Samoa, which has been seeking government land to build the facility since the Togiola Administration, according to a Council staff report.

Last year, discussions between StarKist and the ASG Shipyard Service Authority, which oversees the shipyard, centered on land in the shipyard compound to build the freezer facility, but by the end of 2016, things were not looking good for the cannery.

During a cabinet meeting late last month, Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga revealed that the cannery has been informed that the shipyard land is not available for the freezer storage and to look at another site.

This was later confirmed to Samoa News by Keniseli Lafaele, the Shipyard Board Chairman and also the Director of Commerce who said that ASG offered an alternative space for the Starkist cold storage —at the old location of the Satala power plant.

The StarKist Samoa freezer facility project has been followed closely by the Council, whose members were updated on the latest development through a staff report submitted in advance of the Council’s 170th Meeting in Honolulu set to begin today for three days.

The freezer facility is one of the issues in the staff report on “American Samoa Community Activities and Issues Report.” The report notes that the Governor has made the decision not to lease ASG land at the shipyard to StarKist Samoa, but he did leave the door open for alternative sites to be leased, possibly land across the street from the shipyard at the old Satala power plant.

The justification cited by the governor for not leasing the shipyard land, according to the staff report, was that the Department of Interior would question ASG leasing land after investing large amounts of money in its development.

As previously reported by Samoa News and also cited in the staff report, the American Samoa Economic Development Authority bond sale funds were directed to go to the shipyard for a new building to be constructed for office space and workshops.

Additionally the government has also decided to commit $10 million to the Shipyard from Capital Improvement Projects funds, according to the report.

“However, the timing of this final decision to not lease StarKist Samoa space at the Shipyard is questionable as the company has been in negotiations with ASG over the space at the Shipyard for months,” according to the staff report, which also states that StarKist has been requesting land to lease from ASG since the Togiola Administration.

When asked if StarKist has made a decision regarding ASG land at the old Satala power plant area being used for the freezer space, StarKist Co., corporate spokesperson Michelle Faist told Samoa News yesterday morning, “We have no comment at this time.”

The staff report indicated that during the Council’s American Samoa Advisory Panel meetings, “questions have been raised about the government’s commitment to the tuna industry given its lack of willingness to support the American Samoa longline fishery, and the adoption of the Port Scanner Fee legislation which the government has decided StarKist must be subject to, despite an existing exemption status from such fees.”

“Members of the Advisory Panel have questioned such decisions made by ASG, and the impact these decisions will have on the fishing industry that has been the backbone of the local economy for so many years,” the report says.

The staff’s report dealing with the Legislature says the added fee from the scanner equipment would cost StarKist millions of dollars.

“While the company is making its best effort to remain viable and continue to be the largest private employer of the territory, the government’s insistence on this fee schedule puts the company at a severe disadvantage,” notes the Council staff’s Legislature report, which covers issues relating to fisheries.

“This also seems to be a direct contradiction to the government’s stated priorities of supporting the tuna industry and fisheries development for the purpose of revenue generation.”

The Samoa News
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