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Shipyard faces deteriorating financial situation

fili@samoanews.com

Faced with serious economic conditions in the fishery industry, the American Samoa Shipyard Services Authority board chairman David Robinson says five shipyard workers have been laid off and the shipyard has informed the governor’s office of its deteriorating financial situation.
 
Robinson said the five staffers were laid off effective Monday this week, after advance lay off notices was provided to them as well as a face-to-face meeting to explain the situation at the shipyard. “We are faced with serious, difficult economic conditions in the fishery industry, which is affecting the shipyard,” he told Samoa News yesterday.
 
“Having due regard to the sensitivity of this issue, we carried out a very careful assessment of all our staff levels in each department,” he said. “And with input from each of the supervisors, the shipyard management came to the conclusion that we had more staff in certain departments than was necessary in view of the shortage of work that we are experiencing and we are likely to experience going forward this year.”
 
He says the five people identified for lay off, included one crane driver who has to report to the LBJ Medical Center every week as his health is “extremely poor and he could be a danger to our work force if he suffered a medical condition on the job.”
 
Others laid off were one janitor, two welders and one general worker.
 
Robinson said the shipyard has asked the ASG Department of Human Resources  to try and relocate the two welders and so far one has been relocated with expectation that the other will also be relocated.
 
As to the production manager hired last September from New Zealand, this individual is returning to his home country this week “due to personal family reasons,” said Robinson, adding the shipyard currently has a workforce of 33 people.
 
CHALLENGES
 
Since the start of fiscal year 2014 on Oct. 1 last year, Robinson said the shipyard has lost approximately eight weeks of potential revenue. For example, six of the eight weeks were used to carry out all the repairs, including the replacement of the hauling chain and realignment of the railway lines — all of which were necessary to continue in business.
 
Additionally, it lost two weeks at the beginning of January due to bad weather and then two longliners canceled their dry dock appointments, while “one purse seiner that was scheduled to dry dock in December canceled so we have lost a considerable amount of revenue,” he said.
 
Robinson noted, “It would seem unlikely that the local fishing industry will see improved conditions in the near term if the price of fish remains low,” adding that the problems experienced by the local longliner fleet have been well documented.
 
(Longliner owners put up around 18 boats for sale in the beginning of January 2014 as they faced issues such as the price of fish and stiff competition from Chinese fishing boats that are subsidized by their government.)
 
The board chair said that in late December 2013, the Governor’s Office was advised of “our deteriorating financial situation and the [Shipyard] Board of Directors put in place a plan to reduce expenses.”  Parts of this plan “need to be fully ratified by the governor”, upon his return home at the end of this week, he added.
 
“We see the next few months as remaining difficult and even though we have dry dock bookings forward till July, the work is only small in dollar value,” he said.



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