Tri-Marine cannery will open ahead of schedule
Tri Marine International is set to officially open next month its Fresh and Frozen facility at the Samoa Tuna Processors (STP) Inc. site in Atu’u, where the company plans to open by September this year, instead of 2015, its tuna cannery operations, with top officials of the Governor’s Office offering “to clean the first fish” for production, says Tri Marine officials and the governor’s representative.
Tri Marine CEO and chairman Renato Curto, along with chief operations officer Joe Hamby and other company officials were on island late last week and met Friday morning with Lt. Gov. Lemanu Peleti Mauga and others from the governor’s office regarding progress made at the STP plant.
Lemanu and his group also toured the STP facility Friday morning where Curto revealed to Lemanu the cannery plant operation is planned to open in September this year, instead of 2015, said Iulogologo Joseph Pereira, the governor’s executive assistant, who was among the group that toured and met with Tri Marine officials.
Asked for comment on what occurred during the meeting, Iulogologo told Samoa News over the weekend that Lemanu expressed the governor's apologies to Curto for not being able to make the tour, but Lemanu affirmed the governor's commitment to work with the canneries to ensure they remain competitive.
Moreover it was relayed to Curto the administration will provide every assistance to ensure STP successfully completes its plan, which will mean thousands of jobs for American Samoa, Iulogologo said.
Lemanu thanked Curto on the substantial progress seen since his last site visit to the facility. Curto said the fresh and frozen operation is ready to commence, adding the cold storage facility now holds 4,400 tons of fish.
Curto also informed Lemanu that because of the governor’s “desire to fast track the canning operation, he is pushing to open this facility by September,” Iulogologo said. “This news was welcomed with appreciation by the Lieutenant Governor and on behalf of the Governor and the people of American Samoa expressed our appreciation for Mr. Curto's sensitivity and commitment to advance the economic goals of our government.”
After the meeting with Lemanu, Tri Marine called a news conference where Curto told reporters that for him, “personally, it's a great pleasure” to return to the territory, “a place in our heart and a place we have a commitment, which means a lot to us.”
Curto said they are here to see the progress on the projects in Atu’u, including the construction of the new tuna cannery plant.
He said things are going well, but he would like to see things moving “along faster” as he turned 69-years old last December and would like to see much of the local operation in place before he turns 70 this year.
FRESH AND FROZEN FACILITY
Last April the company officially opened its Cold Storage facility, which is phase one of Tri Marine’s local operations, and the next phase is the fresh and frozen facility launching, said Hamby, noting this project is “where we’re going to be buying fish from the local boats” and fish “that is better then cannery grade, like sashimi grade — the good stuff.”
He said this grade fish will be unloaded, packed and shipped to “the very best market” off island.
According to the Tri Marine official the fresh and frozen project is “something new and different; something we were hoping to help our facility be more economical, and a facility that not only does canned tuna, but we can share with the fresh and frozen business, similar to sharing the cold storage facility.”
“You’ll see more people hired for the fresh and frozen facility,” adding about 30 more new jobs, to the close to 100 currently employed at STP, he said. “Of course the big employer will be the cannery, where we will need many many people to clean the fish, pack the fish, do the labeling. It’s a very very labor intensive work. We would like that to be our crown jewel.”
Hamby said Lemanu and the governor’s group were pleased with what they saw, “and commented on how much progress we’ve made. They’ve offered to help us clean the first fish that we’re going to produce at the end of the year.”
“So that’s going to be an exciting moment, for American Samoa. We have the governor’s top people, including the lieutenant governor” offering to clean the first fish, Hamby said and Curto quickly added, “maybe including the governor” who was off island last Friday morning.
Asked for reaction to the offer made to Tri Marine, Iulogologo said Lemanu made the comment in response to the air-conditioned environment within which the workers will work.
“The fish cleaning and packing area will be air conditioned. We were impressed by the commitment by STP to the comfort and welfare of the workers,” Iulogologo told Samoa News over the weekend, adding that Lemanu “offered that he will clean fish when the operation first starts, because the working environment will be air conditioned.”
“So for the opening day Mr. Renato Curto said that he will welcome the Lieutenant Governor and cabinet members, who may wish to learn first hand how to clean fish when the canning operation opens,” Iulogologo said.
Asked if the governor will also join in cleaning the first fish, Iulogologo replied, “knowing the Governor, he will clean the fish because his mother and my mother worked in the canneries when it was Chicken of the Sea to support our families. Our futures were built on the toils and sweat of our mothers who cleaned fish.”
See tomorrow’s edition on issues Tri Marine raised with Lemanu.