Tri Marine halts production indefinitely at American Samoa cannery

Hundreds of canning jobs in American Samoa are at risk after an American tuna company said it would suspend its operations there.

By 11 December, 2016, canning operations for Tri Marine Group’s Samoa Tuna Processors (STP) plant will be indefinitely suspended due to a challenging economic climate in American Samoa and "other external factors," the company said.

On Friday, 14 October, Tri Marine told the 800 employees at its Samoa Tuna Processors cannery plant in Pago Pago it will be shutting down the facility later this year.

"This is an incredibly difficult decision and one we make with a great deal of reluctance," said Tri Marine Chief Executive Officer Renato Curto in a statement. "Our hearts go out to STP's employees, suppliers, service providers and everyone else who depends on STP's operations."

Tri Marine has not yet said exactly how many employees will be affected by the decision.

"The challenging economics of canning tuna in American Samoa combined with external factors facing STP make Tri Marine’s private-label focused business model for operating the plant economically unsustainable," the company said of its overall decision-making process in a statement.

Tri Marine invested USD 70 million (EUR 63.6 million) into building the factory, which opened in January 2015. When the plant opened in American Samoa in 2015, the company said it expected to create more than 1,500 jobs there.

However, earlier this year, Tri Marine requested a moratorium on lease payments extending to two years for the cannery, with a reduction in utility and water rates, according to Radio New Zealand. The request was spurred by concern for American Samoa-based, U.S.-flagged purse seiners, who supply much of the tuna to the cannery, said Tri Marine spokesperson Heidi Happonen in January, per Radio NZ. Happonen told the news station that due to lack of supply, the company faced the decision of either slowing down production or importing higher-cost raw materials, "both of which represented a potentially heavy blow to Tri Marine."

As of now, Tri Marine is considering alternatives for the plant, including a full sale, reported the Danbury News Times.


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