7 January 2013

Namibia: Fisheries Union Wary of Chinese Involvement

THE allocation of quotas to more fishing companies, especially Chinese companies, is a major concern because it is to the detriment of existing companies and the fishermen, says the president of the Namibia Fishing Industries and Fishermen Workers Union, Daniel Imbili.

Not only does the allocation decrease the size of the quota cake amongst all the companies, but it also leads to some having to keep vessels out of water because their quotas dried up, which eventually could lead to retrenchments.

Imbili blamed quota holders for an increased interest in selling rights to Chinese companies because they (the holders) are paid more for the quota, but at the end of the day workers are paid "peanuts", with no commission or other benefits.

He reiterated the recent concerns of the president of the Trade Union Congress of Namibia (Tucna), Paulus Hango, about fishermen who worked on a Chinese-owned trawler where working conditions were allegedly appalling.

It has come to light that China Fishery paid N$24 million to the fishing right holders for their quota, while other operators only pay about N$16 million for the same size of quota. The N$24 million is said to have been paid to a joint venture of five companies, including the Hefdy Group.

The Chinese vessel 'MV Leader' was manned by about 54 Namibians, 80 Chinese and 10 Indonesian fishermen. The vessel is owned by China Fishery Group Limited.

"Our stern warning goes to those Namibians in joint ventures with these Chinese companies to come to the table next year to discuss the security of Namibian sea going staff, or they will face the strong arm of the unions," said Imbili.

He said this was the first time a Chinese company has become involved in Namibia's fishing industry by having gained the right to catch the quota for local quota holders.

"You know the Chinese. You give them a foot in the door in the fishing industry, and the next thing they take it over. Look at what's happening in Namibia's construction industry," he said.

He said the involvement of the Chinese who apparently do not respect the labour law of the country "will lead to chaos, strikes and a lot of disputes", which will have a detrimental effect on Namibia's economy.

Imbili urged the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources to make all quota holders' names available so that the union can get in touch with them with related concerns.

"The quota holders are not taking those responsible to catch their quota into consideration [for how they treat Namibian workers], but are only interested in making money and looking for those who can pay more for their quotas," he said.

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