HERALD WEEKLY ISSUE 608: 21 March 2012

One thousand tonne super frozen tuna processing plant for Rarotonga
Marine Resources Minister Hon. Teina Bishop says a tuna processing facility with 1,000 tonne storage capacity will soon be set up at Avatiu port in Rarotonga.
This is according to the Ministerial delegation, which visited China last week, and toured a similar set-up in Ningbo operated by the Zheijian Ocean Family Co. Ltd.
In Ningbo City, Minister Bishop said the Cook Islands has to “put an end to the old days of simply issuing fishing licenses to fish in our waters and then letting these vessels offload their catch elsewhere, which denies us the economic benefits of the onshore activities”.
Offloading tuna catch on Rarotonga may see up to 500 tonnes a month of super frozen tuna for processing at the minus 60 degree Celsius facility.
The Minister says that setting up this facility on Rarotonga will be a big investment and a risky one because of the high operational costs and limited infrastructure and sea transportation routes.
The investor behind the proposed operation is the Luen Thai Company, which outlined its plans to the delegation when they visited the company headquarters in Shenzhen.
“The reality is that the Luen Thai company are the only operators in our waters with the fishing capacity, expertise, capital finance and knowledge of the Pacific to do this”, says Minister Bishop.
The Zheijian Ocean Family Co. Ltd. facility employs up to seventy workers and processes 15 tonnes of tuna a day. This fish is sorted, graded and filleted before being packaged for delivery. It is stored at minus 60 degrees Celsius to maintain high quality (super frozen).
The frozen tuna retains a high value. Frozen Big Eye tuna is mainly exported to Japan for sashimi market while Albacore is destined for canneries. The product can be value added by smoking or other types of processes. Offcuts can be processed into feedstock for livestock farming and silage can become organic fertilizer.
“This is also about boosting our Golden Tuna,” says Minister Bishop. A portion of the product that is landed in Rarotonga will be sent to Pago Pago where it will be processed under contract by the Star Kist cannery under the Golden Tuna label.
Sophisticated logistical planning is required to turn around the large number of reefer containers that will be required to export the product. This will incur a significant boost of activity at Avatiu port and international shipping services.
The stakes are high to prove the viability of Rarotonga’s port for offloading and processing.
“We have to break into the cycle of fishing otherwise we stand to miss out on significant economic benefits including the opportunity to develop our northern island’s ports” says Marine Secretary, Ben Ponia.
The Government is developing a Fisheries Policy in support of onshore processing.
“It is an imperative learning process and we also need to be engaged with the company to smooth out the bottlenecks as this project unfolds,” says Ponia.
The Luen Thai Company proposes to phase the 1,000 tonne land storage facility by firstly relocating a 500 tonne super-frozen fish carrier vessel and a fuel tanker vessel to Avatiu port. The fuel tanker will provide fuel to the fishing vessels as they offload their catches and will bunker offshore with two larger carrier vessels based out of Pago Pago. The company operates thirteen fishing vessels.
The company envisions 300 to 500 tonnes a month of product to be processed, which will require 15 to 20 fishing vessels regularly offloading into Rarotonga port.

Herald Issue 608 21 March
- Terms of one China Policy document should be reviewed
- Pacific Media Assistance Scheme Seeks Innovation
- Successful NZ visit by PM
- Rerekura Teaurere New Climate Change Coordinator
- News Briefs

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