Freezer storage options are part of collaborative efforts
One of the discussions between StarKist Samoa and the local government during the "historical moment" - this is the first time that Dongwon and StarKist have held a board meeting in the territory - is a freezer storage facility, needed by both StarKist and new comer Tri Marine International, to be used by both canneries as well as local alia.
Dongwon chairman Jae-chul Kim and StarKist Samoa cannery president and chief executive officer In-Soo Cho were among the eighteen Dongwon and StarKist officials on island to attend the StarKist board meeting held here. They also met with Gov. Togiola Tulafono during their visit.
Dongwon Industries is the owner of StarKist Co.
In a press conference called last week Thursday at the StarKist Samoa office with Dongwon chairman Jae-chul Kim and StarKist CEO Cho, Samoa News asked about the outcome of meetings with the governor and if any particular issues were discussed.
Kim, speaking through an interpreter, said the meeting was "an opportunity to reaffirm promises by both parties for future collaboration, and future discussion will continue."
Responding to whether StarKist made any specific request to ASG, Kim said the need to work on inviting more vessels to American Samoa was discussed with the governor so that there will be more unloading, and more processing of fish, creating more employment opportunities.
Also discussed was the cold storage facility, however Kim said discussions and meetings with the governor on a number of issues continue, and therefore could not provide any specific details of any firm agreement between the two parties.
However, Samoa News has learned that one of the main options being considered is for the cold storage facility to be built inside the customs building on the main dock in Fagatogo, rather than in the old customs building area where government vessels are currently docked.
StarKist lost its major cold storage facility about a year ago, when the local power authority terminated its land lease with the cannery, the citing need to re-locate their Satala power plant according to FEMA requirements. The cold storage facility was then dismantled and the governor has since sought federal funds to build a facility that could be used by both canneries and local alias - noting the need to help develop the territory's main industry - fisheries.
Samoa News received several phone calls over the weekend concerning the issue, with callers asking not to be identified. The callers said that Starkist officials including Dong Won owner JC Kim, several board members and ASG officials and representatives have been to the main dock several times and are seriously looking into making this proposal official. Samoa News was unable to get official confirmation by press time.
Callers did comment that they were highly concerned about a cold storage facility being placed inside the main dock area, noting that this operation would be an environmental disaster: When they wash the unloading docks and the cold storage, where is that dirty water going to go? The main dock is not too far from the Utulei Beach area where families and visitors enjoy swimming and water activities. Will that water end up on Utulei beach? Or maybe it will just stay in the Fagatogo area where the kids also play in the waters.
How would the fish be transported from the main dock to the plants in Atuu? Through trucks where fish blood, water will be dropping on the streets from Fagatogo all the way to Atuu? How about the surrounding Fagatogo village? We know that fish automatically attract flies... and the smell? Do the Fono members know about this? And, what about the cruise ships? Is this where tourists are going to disembark?
Speaking on his weekend radio program, Togiola said discussions and meetings with StarKist continued over the weekend and today in order to assist the company as well as the future economic condition for the territory. He didn't give any details of issues discussed.
During the press conference, when asked how he would characterize the relationship between ASG and StarKist, Kim said, "it's been a very healthy and constructive relationship. But in order to reaffirm our staying in American Samoa, I have to have further dialogue [with ASG] in shared understanding of our operation in American Samoa.
Both men emphasized the importance of continuous collaborative efforts between the two companies and the territorial government as well as the local community in order for American Samoa to be more competitive in the global tuna processing industry.
During the press conference media also asked about the possibility of further hiring in 2012.
Cho said "we cannot discuss the numbers here" but total number of the work force will continue to increase, he said. "I can promise that."
"The way to help us to continue the journey is to really make entire [American] Samoa competitive. You need to understand also that creation of employment doesn't happen only in our facility here...," he said. "As chairman Kim said, as more boats come in, more unloading happens,and repairing boats - there will be more people working and more employment [opportunities] will be created."
"So we are looking into this development not only as a Starkist project, but as an entire American Samoa project," he added.
Regarding training of its workforce, Cho said the company has been training its workers for management positions "and we hope that some young Samoan workers here, will make it all the way to headquarters. That's the kind of internal program we are developing."
Samoa News will continue to report this week on other issues discussed during the press conference, which include the support services StarKist officials say are needed, with power generation being one of the most important due to the ‘obviously high' cost.
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