12 April 2019

Namibia: Etosha Sells Three Vessels, Retrenches 19 Employees

Walvis Bay — Pilchard catching Walvis Bay-based fishing company, Etosha Fishing Corporation has been forced to retrench 19 of its employees and also to dispose three of their vessels due to poor catches in foreign waters.

Etosha was forced to deploy the three purse seine vessels to Angola and other foreign countries after government imposed a ban on all pilchard catches for the period 2018 to 2020 to sustain jobs and the running costs of these vessels. The three vessels are the Prowess, Advance and Morgenster.

The industry was allocated 10,000 metric tonnes during 2017, but could only catch 3,400 metric tonnes of the total allocation Hence government, in an attempt to help save the pilchard fish resource, which is in danger of extinction in Namibian waters, resolved the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for the species be set at zero metric tonne for the 2018-2020 fishing season.

The pilchard industry provided seasonal and permanent jobs to about 3 000 Namibians. Due to the low catches experienced, two canning facilities closed, with Etosha being the only operating canning facility.

Acting Managing Director of Etosha Fishing, Nezette Beukes yesterday said that low catches were also experienced in foreign waters, resulting in huge operation financial losses for the company.

"This left the company with no other choice but to sell all our purse seine vessels," she said in a statement yesterday.

According to Beukes, Etosha is also not in a position to provide employment to the crew of these vessels due to the company's financial position.

She went on and explained that the retrenchment process was done through the Namibian Seamen and Allied Workers Union (Nasawu), while a formal notification was also issued to the Labour Commissioner.

"Affected staff members were initially informed of possible retrenchments in December last year as we wanted to make sure that they are well informed from the start of the process, to avoid any uncertainty and to ensure transparency," Beukes explained.

According to Nasawu vice-president Epson Kavekuire, Etosha finds themselves in a very difficult position for the past couple of years and are understanding towards their situation.

"The union is oppose to any job losses, but Etosha is caught in a very difficult position. If they cannot catch, they cannot provide work," he explained.

He however expressed his satisfaction with the manner in which the process was concluded by the company.

Etosha Fishing currently operates one vessel only. The vessel, Iona, was converted to a refrigerated seawater vessel (RSW) at a substantial cost in 2018 to be able to fish in local waters, landing horse mackerel fresh for processing at its cannery in Walvis Bay.

Etosha Fishing operates the oldest cannery in Namibia and currently employs 44 permanents and close to 550 seasonal staff at its cannery. The mainstay of its business over the years has been the canning of pilchards for leading brands such as Lucky Star and Glenryck South Africa.

Etosha has been importing frozen pilchards for canning since 2010 to avoid job losses after experiencing low pilchard catches in the fishing industry. Last year, the company imported about 13 000 tonnes from Morocco.

The company is also canning locally catched horse mackerel since 2013 and selling it under its own product range called EFUTA Maasbanker.

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