Namibia: Samherji's Saga Seafood to Close Next Week

SAGA Seafood Namibia, the operating company for Icelandic fishing company Samherji in Namibia, will close its operations at Walvis Bay next Tuesday.

Last month the company announced it would cease operations at the end of March if it does not secure fishing quotas to operate their vessels or charter them to other organisations.

Last week the seagoing personnel as well as the land-based staff collected their termination notices and service certificates. This move came after three weeks of negotiations between the company and the Namibia Food and Allied Workers Union (Nafau).

"We concluded the negotiations on Friday, 13 March. All in all, it went very well. All negotiations happened in good faith and were also concluded as such. However, it was not an easy process for many of us involved. The uncertainty of these crew members' future is still a grave concern for all," said Saga Seafood Namibian company's operational manager, Jacqueline Thiardt.

This retrenchment agreement will include the 33 crew members currently working on the Geysir vessel in Mauritania on a three-month contract. Their contract comes to an end in April.

"They are part and parcel of this collective agreement; however, the termination will only apply to them once they are back in the country in terms of our Labour Act," said Annastasia Helao, the human resources consultant for Saga Seafood.

The company offered employees a termination package of one-month's salary in lieu of notice, one-week severance pay for each completed year of service, accrued leave and a gratuity of N$10 000 across the board.

"We are not happy that we lost our jobs, this would not have happened if the government had given the company fishing quotas. If the government wants to hear our cry, they must give us quotas so that the vessel can return and we can continue working, " said Leonard Shinedima, a fisherman. Packages will be paid out this week.

Although there was no agreement between the company and the trade union, Saga Seafood has engaged Nafau during this process.

"The negotiated packages were well received by the crew of both Saga and Geysir vessels. We are happy that all parties involved came to an amicable conclusion. We hope that the two vessels Saga and Geysir can return for us to help these fishermen get employment," Nafau's Walvis Bay branch organiser, Godfriedt Auxab said.

In December last year, Samherji announced that it was withdrawing from Namibia following the Fishrot exposé.

"Any further divestment in Namibia will be done in close dialogue with relevant authorities. Samherji will announce publicly as soon as there are new developments in the group's exit from Namibia," reiterated the company's interim CEO Björgólfur Johannsson in February. Johannsson was optimistic that there would be new opportunities for the company to fish in Namibian waters but that was dashed with the renewed seizure of the vessel Heinaste on 7 February. Heinaste is the only remaining Samherji vessel in Namibia. The other two are the Saga which is currently undergoing repairs in Las Palmas, Spain and the Geysir, which is currently fishing in Mauritania.

The Samhejri vessels were fishing for the state-owned company Fishcor. The fisheries ministry last month granted Fishcor a "governmental fish quota" of 20 000 metric tonnes of horse mackerel, which the ministry said would be used for drought relief.

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