1 Feb 2017

Tuna cannery at odds with American Samoa government

8:50 am on 1 February 2017

The tuna cannery StarKist has impressed upon the government of American Samoa that additional cold storage is vital to its operation.

A StarKist manager Archie Soliai.

StarKist manager Archie Soliai. Photo: Supplied/ KJH Radio

The cannery says it needs the additional freezer space to ensure uninterrupted fish supplies.

The government has agreed to let the cannery use space in the shipyard for cold storage but the two sides have yet to agree on a lease rate.

The government has proposed a rate higher than what StarKist says was originally agreed to in March last year.

StarKist declined to give details of the government's proposal, but the company said it was asking for a rate that was comparable to what others in the area were paying.

A StarKist manager Archie Soliai said production could be interrupted if a deal was not struck soon.

"We cant just keep kicking the can down the road. A decision needs to be made. It's cost the plant four weeks of shut downs last year because we had no fish supply. We've only got 10 days of storage in the current freezer and based on the capacity that we're currently producing it's no where near the standard that we want it to be."

Mr Soliai said StarKist won't be able to provide positions for 800 workers who lost heir jobs when Samoa Tuna Processors closed their cannery in December.

Chairman of the Shipyard Services Board and Acting Director of Commerce Keniseli Lafaele said his recollection of what was said in March of 2016, was that "we assured StarKist they would get extra space for their cold storage".

Mr Lafaele said the government was proposing rates that other tenants were paying for space at the shipyard and the current shipyard tenants paid a monthly rate.

He told KHJ News StarKist wished to maintain a rate that's yearly conforming to their global lease agreements.

Mr Lafaele said that other tenants leasing at the shipyard paid a monthly rate.

Negotiations were on-going and not at a stalemate and both sides will come to the table again this week and engage in further discussions, he said.

"We aim to arrive at a lease agreement that's good for all."

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