Maputo — Five of the 30 vessels ordered by the Mozambican Tuna Company (EMATUM) from a shipyard in the French city of Cherbourg have now arrived in Mozambique, Fisheries Minister Victor Borges told reporters on Saturday.
The boats had arrived a month earlier than expected, he said. EMATUM now needed a month to prepare the vessels to start operations - “that means we shall be catching tuna this year”, Borges declared.
The EMATUM order was for 24 fishing vessels (a mixture of longliners and trawlers) and six patrol boats. In September 2013, the French media put the total cost of the vessels at 200 million euros (267 million dollars at the exchange rate of the time).
But EMATUM raised 850 million dollars on the European bond market, and this debt was guaranteed by the Mozambican government. The rest of the money would be spent on such items as radar equipment, satellite communications, onshore installations, transfer of technology, licence fees, and training.
To all intents and purposes, EMATUM is a state company. The major shareholder in EMATUM is the Institute for the Management of State Holdings (IGEPE) with 34 per cent.
The other shareholders are the state fishing company Emopesca and GIPS (Management of Investments, Holdings and Services), with 33 per cent each. GIPS was set up in December 2011, and its main shareholder is the social services of the State Intelligence and Security Service (SISE).
The government justified the purchase on the grounds that, out of the 130 vessels licensed to fish for tuna in Mozambican waters in 2013, only one was Mozambican. So EMATUM had been set up to ensure that Mozambique could gain additional benefits from its own fisheries resources.
Addressing the Mozambican parliament last November, Prime Minister Alberto Vaquina claimed that EMATUM would generate 1,500 jobs, not including the jobs that will be created in processing and marketing the tuna.
The government prediction was that, when the EMATUM fleet was fully operational, it would be bringing in revenue of 200 million dollars a year. It was said that studies showed that the bondholders could be paid in full in seven years out of the revenue generated by EMATUM itself.
Asked if repayment could really be made in seven years, Borges said the government remains optimistic. He also said the money does not have to be repaid as from the moment the boats arrive in the country.