Samherji vessel seized for a second time

Vessel may disappear

09 February 2020 | Crime

Nelius Becker: NamPol;“We had reasonable grounds to believe that the vessel might leave Namibia.”

Walvis Bay • [email protected]

The Samherji-linked vessel, Heinaste, was seized again by Namibian authorities on Friday as part of the ongoing Fishrot case.

Nelius Becker, head of the criminal investigation directorate of the Namibian Police, confirmed this, saying that the vessel was seized on the basis of Article 28 of the Prevention of Organized Crime Act (POCA).

Becker said that the necessary requirements of what the Article states have been fulfilled, such as that the vessel was used in relation of the company Samherji allegedly bribing Namibian officials to the tune of N$150 million.

“We had reasonable grounds to believe that the vessel might leave Namibia. The authorities will hold onto the vessel until the prosecutor general decides on the way forward,” Becker said.

Earlier on Friday, vice-president of the National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW) Phillip Munenguni had called for the seizure of the Heinaste.

“We want Samherji’s top management to come to the table and sit with us to discuss the way forward for all workers affected by their actions. Some men lost their homes, their assets and even their wives when they were retrenched as workers on the Heinaste and from ArcticNam.”

Munenguni said government needs to join the discussion, as the country cannot afford to have more than 200 fishermen jobless again.

“Fishrot had devastating consequences and is sending more fishermen to the streets.”

Munengeni said he has been calling the acting minister of fisheries and marine resources Albert Kawana to set up a meeting, but to no avail.

“You can come check my phone. I’ve been calling and texting but no answer. We don’t know what is happening in the fishing industry and we want answers. Government is supposed to protect its people from these capitalists, but it seems they prefer to do things through the back door.”

Saga Seafood, NUNW as well as the Namibia Food and Allied Workers Union (Nafau) signed an agreement in relation to the workers of the vessels Saga and Geysir.

Last Wednesday, the MV Saga and again on Sunday the MV Geysir left around 210 workers stranded. Samherji, who own the vessels, said that Saga left for repairs in Spain, while Geysir left to fish in Mauritiana.

The company said the vessels left Namibian waters legally, seeking clearance from the ministry of fisheries and marine resources as well as the directorate of maritime affairs.

On Wednesday, Samherji released a statement saying they will be retrenching workers. The company emphasised the next day that they would fulfil all obligations towards crew members, who have worked for these companies.

“Samherji will strive to provide employment for as many of those affected as possible.”

On the other hand Saga Seafood and the unions signed an agreement on Friday stating that the affected workers would be paid an incentive equivalent to two weeks’ salary as per their salary scale. This incentive will not affect the monthly salary due to them or any other packages to be negotiated in future.

Jackie Thiardt, Saga Seafood sales and operations manager, said that this incentive will be paid the latest next Thursday.

“On 24 February, another meeting will be held to finalize the way forward. NUNW has also requested that the top management of the Samherji Group should be present at this meeting. We also agreed on a task group to be formed between the union branch organisers and the company to advise the way forward.”

The final requirement was that if the Heinaste was to be released and start operating again in Namibia, provision should be made for the crew of the Saga and Geysir, as well the crew from the Heinaste to be re-employed.

However, Munenguni said that they will be revising the retrenchment package of the Heinaste crew who were retrenched in 2019.

“This package was not negotiated and neither was it paid out according to Namibian labour laws. The company simply paid the money according to their feelings and did not follow procedures as prescribed by law.”

Some of the workers at the meeting said that they want jobs, they want to work and do not just want to be ‘paid out’.

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