Tunacor to buy Samherji’s Heinaste vessel

09 November 2020 | Fishing

Windhoek · [email protected]

Tunacor has bought Samherji’s controversial fishing vessel, the Heinaste, for N$18 million, but a legal battle is looming from a section of shareholders opposed to the sale.

Attorney-general Festus Mbandeka has been approached to sanction the sale by board members of Esja Holdings, which owns 58% of the vessel.

But lawyer Elize Angula, representing the local shareholders of the vessel who claim to be authentic board members of the company, has told Mbandeka to stop any sanctioning of the sale of the vessel to Tunacor.

She said unless the attorney-general assures the local shareholders that he will delay any decision on the sale of the vessel while shareholders sort out their differences, an urgent application will be lodged today to stop him from making any hasty decisions.

Costly upkeep costing state

Under the proposal to sell, those who claim to be the legitimate shareholders of the company that owns the vessel, have asked Mbandeka to sanction the sale and the money would remain in the hands of the state until criminal investigations into vessel are completed.

Namibian authorities impounded the fishing vessel last November after it was caught fishing in a restricted area near Walvis Bay.

It has been sailing under the Namibian flag but has since been stateless and deregistered after being impounded.

The state, under whose custody the vessel is, has allegedly found it costly to maintain the upkeep of the Heinaste.

Esja Holdings enticed government to agree to the sale to save money.

“The state could no longer afford to maintain the vessel because there are high docking costs and also when a vessel stands still for such a long time in a place like Walvis Bay, it depreciates very fast,” a source close to the matter told Namibian Sun over the weekend.

The vessel is currently in dry dock at the Port of Walvis Bay.

Not approved
Local shareholders insist the agreement to sell was not approved by Mino Gariseb, whom they say is the legally-recognised chairperson of the company owning the vessel.

However, a board consisting of three representatives of Icelandic company Samherji and three local directors believe Gariseb is no longer the chairperson and thus cannot stand in the way of selling the vessel.

The Office of the Attorney-General is said to have consented to the transaction, although Prosecutor-General Martha Imalwa, the lead authority on the vessel’s alleged transgressions, said she was not aware that the vessel was being sold.

“I was out of office, so that is news to me. The Office of the Prosecutor-General is in charge of that vessel and it was seized in terms of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act,” she said.

Embattled Samherji

The vessel originally belonged to Icelandic fishing company Samherji, which finds itself embroiled in an international corruption scandal spanning Namibia, Norway and its native Iceland.

Tunacor general manager Peya Hitula explained that it would be utilising the vessel for its own benefit.

“We bought the vessel. Tunacor has contacted the office of the attorney-general in terms of the legalities around the vessel. All of those things are in the hands of the attorneys now,” he said.

Despite taking over the operations of the vessel, Hitula said Tunacor was not in any way connected to Samherji.

The vessel would be put into operation as soon as maintenance work on it had been completed, he added. The Heinaste is expected to enter Tunacor’s operations by the end of this month.

When approached regarding the matter, attorney-general Festus Mbandeka did not comment.

Samherji had 100% shareholding in the vessel until 2018 when local fishing companies bought a combined 45% shareholding in the vessel, valued at N$140 million.

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