Tri Marine International, the parent company of Samoa Tuna Processors, says it’s working with local government officials to determine what else can be done to mitigate any negative economic impacts from its reduced operations.
The governor’s executive assistant Iulogologo Joseph Pereira told KHJ News Friday that they are looking at possible options but at this stage there’s nothing concrete to announce,.
KHJ News has learned that since the announcement that canning operations at STP will be suspended indefinitely beginning December 11, ASG officials have been making contact with people in the fishing industry and seeking information on canneries which may be interested in the local plant.
Tri Marine spokesperson Heidi Happonen said, “We know that the tuna industry is an incredibly important part of the American Samoa economy, This is one of the reasons why this decision as so painful for us.”
She said providing 60 day notices to affected workers was intended to ease the transition and provide more time to search for employment.
The Governor’s Office press release concerning the suspension of the tuna canning operations at the STP plant, said Chief Operating Officer Mr. Joe Hamby informed the governor the global unfavorable economic environment for the fishing industry and changing dynamics of its business prompted the decision “to stop its current financial hemorrhaging.”
KHJ News asked for information about losses at the STP plant.
Happonen said Tri Marine did not expect to see black numbers in STP the first year or two of operation of the plant and added it’s normal for any startup company to lose money during the ramp up period.
“However,” said the Tri Marine official, “we had expected the losses at STP to be reduced, then eliminated and eventually turned into profits as STP’s daily production volumes increased.
“Unfortunately, our costs increased, the availability of fish supply was reduced, and the demand for responsibly caught high-quality tuna did not increase as quickly as had been anticipated.”
Tri Marine is considering different options for the future of Samoa Tuna Processors, one of which is an outright sale of the plant and its equipment.
Happonen said, “As a global business, their company is constantly in discussions with peers in the industry about opportunities, but there are no concrete negotiations taking place at this time for STP.
After the tuna canning lines close, which is the labor intensive part of the operation, Tri Marine says it will continue to operate its fleet based in American Samoa, and will continue to work with contracted vessels operating there.
The company had about ten vessels based here last year but some of the boats have moved out to South America and also other parts of the Pacific.
The local fleet will also continue to supply StarKist based on their needs but Happonen points out they expect, that volumes of fish deliverable by the fleet based in American Samoa will exceed the requirements of StarKist.
That excess volume of fish will have to be handled and shipped out to export markets, so as to maximize the revenues for the fishing vessels and optimize their turnaround.
STP has significant cold storage capacity, facilities, and equipment for unloading, grading, storing, and shipping fish. It will therefore continue to operate as a logistics facility for Tri Marine and fishing boats calling into American Samoa. Packaging operations are also expected to continue until all unlabeled stock has been shipped.