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Crews left high and dry

Crews left high and dry

Niël Terblanché

A FEELING of anger and betrayal once again gripped the fishermen of Walvis Bay after the Namibian crew compliment of two fishing vessels were left high and dry while their ships left port under a cloud of controversy.


One of the two super trawlers, the Saga, belongs to subsidiaries of the Icelandic fishing and seafood company Samerji. The Saga sailed from the fishing harbour on Wednesday evening and is rumoured to be on her way to Las Palmas for repairs.


On Sunday the crew members from the harbour town were notified to remove their personal belongings from the Geysir on short notice. The Geysir, a Venezuelan owned ship, sailed from the harbour on Sunday evening with more than 30 Namibian crew members on board and is reportedly heading for the fishing grounds off of Mauritania.


Both vessels are under the control of Saga Seafood Namibia. The Saga worked directly for Saga Seafood while the company was able acquire quotas and the Geysir worked in Namibian waters on a seasonal rotation.


Walvis Bay fishing fishermen Namibian
Pictured: NAFAU regional organiser, Johannes Shayuka addressing disgruntled seagoing workers after the vessels they were supposed to work on, sailed away from Namibian waters under a cloud of controversy. – Photo: Niël Terblanché


The two multi-role super trawlers were also chartered out to other fishing companies to fill their various quotas.


When in Namibian waters the two Monsoon Class fishing vessels made use of a Namibian crew compliment that signed on for duty as temporary seagoing workers.


The more than 200 unhappy fishermen gathered in front of the offices of the Namibian Food and Allied Workers Union (NAFAU) in Walvis Bay for a second day to find out what the future holds for them.


Their work being of a temporary nature means that the best the disgruntled fishermen can hope for is that Saga Seafood will pay their outstanding salaries and seagoing allowances.


In this regard Johannes Shayuka the regional organiser of NAFAU told the fishermen, who now find themselves high and dry, that the union has approached Saga Seafood and that a meeting where their payment and benefits will be discussed is scheduled for Tuesday morning.


Shayuka told the disgruntled fishermen that he will endeavour to end the unfair labour practices that they are subjected to once and for all.


In the meantime the super trawler, the Heinaste, is still impounded and docked in the port of Walvis Bay. The Heinaste was impounded on a court order to stop the contested sale of the vessel to a Russian buyer. The huge fishing vessel is jointly owned by the Icelandic seafood company Samerji, which finds itself at the centre of the Fishrot bribery scandal that hit Namibia at the end of November last year and three Namibian fishing companies.


The Saga which is remotely linked to Samerji through subsidiaries, that sailed from the fishing harbour last Wednesday evening also became an asset of interest as investigations by the Anti-Corruption Commission progressed.


Paulus Noa, the Director General of the Anti-Corruption Commission, confirmed that the corruption watchdog has over the past few weeks developed an interest in the Saga but that no order was issued to arrest the ship before it could sail for Las Palmas.