Started in the 1970s, Freddie Fish Processors has become one of the most dynamic, vibrant and innovative fishing companies in Walvis Bay.
The company which is 100% Namibian-owned and has a staff complement of approximately 125 has made its footprint in the industry not only as a fish processors but also as a service provider to other fishing companies. According to the company's Managing Director, Wayne Hart, many of the fishing companies use Freddie's premises to offload their products.
"We are a service provider, 99% of the fishing industry offloads here, we offer them services to offload their product, we also purchase all of the products of the individual operators, which then go into our factory," he said.
Freddie Fish Processors was a family-run business from the late 70s until the late 90s. The company used to have a factory and a processing plant which was sold off at the change of ownership.
Now they operate from a space along the Walvis Bay Harbour where they operate four monk vessels and a fleet of five line vessels targeting snoek. The company also has an EU-certified salted snoek processing plant.
"This business model is simple, it's a project that you have, it's got a value in the market and if your operational expenditure to catch is high, then what can you achieve for that? Stop before you even start. You are not going to make money that way. It is a simple mathematical formula to make money," said Hart. "Your income versus your expenses, then you fight it out. A lot of the companies are fighting it out year after year, continuously making and sustaining losses but because they have the quota and concession from the government, they have to fight it through otherwise they should just give it back and call it a day," he added.
He said that the company's line fish right expires this year and that the company has used its rights 100%.
"We have got a salt snoek processing plant, we create employment, we have met all parametres that the white paper requires when they give you a quota, we comply 120% so I don't see any reason why the government should withhold or not renew our licence. Because we create jobs, we have a social responsibility, we are the leaders in the market, we are innovators in the market, whatever the ministry has asked us we have done to the best of our ability so we are confident that it should be renewed," he confidently said.
Historically, the company used to target snoek, kabeljou and steenbras. Then more then five years ago, the scientists working for the ministry became worried about the kabeljou species as marine surveys indicated its biomass was too low. "So the then Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, the late Minister Iyambo said that fishing companies should concentrate more on snoek" he explained.
He said, "because snoek is a migratory species, it is caught for nine months from October to June every year. So there is a dead period of about four months when the crew as well as the company and the factory has no income" he said.
"It just stands still, that's why we purchase produce in to keep our factory going and to keep our staff going so we don't have to send them home on off-wages, but our crews are on standby wages. They must go home for four months because there is no work and there is no fish," he said.
He said the company can not pay the workers if there is no fish since they are seasonal workers. "That's why the industry is trying to revive the kabeljou species, so that during the off-season for snoek, fishermen can catch kabeljou and they can have work for 12 months of the year."
"We can have them fully employed at the company. We have the same people work for us every year, we have some employees that have worked for us for 25 years already. Hardened seasoned fishermen, but the nature of the business is that we have got fish for 9 months only," he said.