Etosha Fishing to sell purse seine fleet

Low catch rates

15 April 2019 | Fishing

Nezette Beukes; Etosha Fishing MD; “Affected staff members were initially informed of possible retrenchments as early as December 2018."

Walvis Bay

Ethosha Fishing announced Thursday that it would sell its three purse seine vessels, resulting in the retrenchment of 19 employees.

The company said poor catches in foreign waters forced it to sell the vessels Prowess, Advance and Morgenster.

The three-year ban on local pilchard catches imposed in 2018 left it with no other choice, but to deploy its purse seine vessels to neighbouring Angola and other foreign fishing grounds in an effort to sustain jobs and the running costs of these vessels.

The acting managing director of Etosha Fishing, Nezette Beukes, said low catch rates compounded the financial burden of operating the vessels in foreign waters.

“This left the company with no other choice but to sell all our purse seine vessels and means that we are no longer in a position to provide employment to the crew of these vessels.”

Some of the employees affected are net workers.

Negotiations with the recognised union, the Namibian Seamen and Allied Workers Union (Nasawu), about the envisioned move officially started in January this year. A formal notification was also issued to the office of the labour commissioner.

“Affected staff members were initially informed of possible retrenchments as early as December 2018. We wanted to make sure that our employees are well informed from the start of the process to avoid any uncertainty and to ensure transparency throughout the process,” said Beukes.

Nasawu vice president Epson Kavekuire, who conducted the negotiations on behalf of the retrenched staff, said the union opposes any job losses, but understood Etosha is caught in a very difficult position. “If they cannot catch, they cannot provide work.”

He also expressed his satisfaction with the manner in which the negotiation process was concluded.

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

In response to Namibia’s dwindling pilchard resource, Etosha Fishing has since 2010 been importing frozen pilchards for processing on local soil in order to sustain its operations and jobs at its cannery.

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

The company also spearheaded value addition to horse mackerel when in 2013 it became the first company to successfully can locally caught horse mackerel under its own product range called EFUTA Maasbanker.

The EFUTA brand celebrated its fifth anniversary in December 2018, with nearly 5 million cans sold annually.