STP delays “indefinite” closure to end of this week
Tri Marine International has confirmed it has delayed until the end of this week the indefinitely closure of it’s Samoa Tuna Processors Inc., canning operation in American Samoa. However, there is no confirmation as to whether there is a buyer for the cannery, which opened in January last year.
The Bellevue, Washington based company, which also has a US flagged purse seiners operating out of Pago Pago, had announced in mid October this year that due to adverse business conditions, STP will “indefinitely suspend” canning operations on Dec. 11.
For more than a week now there has been unconfirmed information that Tri Marine was delaying the actual shut down date.
Commerce Department Director Keniseli Lafaele told Samoa News early this month that he “received word informally” that the Dec. 11 shut down “might be pushed back so to meet outstanding contracts.”
When Tri Marine first announced the indefinite shutdown, details of the number of employees affected were not confirmed at the time by STP, which has a workforce of about 800 people.
Responding to Samoa News questions for an update on the STP shutdown, Tri Marine spokesperson Heidi Happonen said the company “is planning to suspend canning operations on December 16” — but didn’t say the reason for the delay in closing down canning operations.
“We still anticipate about 800 employees will be retrenched while fewer than 100 will remain to handle ongoing operations and logistics support,” Happonen said last Friday afternoon via email.
“There have been no other changes to our decision and we have no updates to announce at this time about the potential future of the facility,” she said.
Tri Marine had said that 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 in today’s market.
It also said that Tri Marine is currently evaluating alternatives for the facility including outright sale, preferably to a strategic buyer that would minimize job losses.
Although canning operations will be suspended, Tri Marine said it would continue to operate STP as a logistics hub for the Tri Marine Group; but at a much reduced labor force.
Meanwhile the ASG Department of Human Resource last week dispatched case workers to STP to gather data that will be included in the territorial government’s application to the federal government for funding to assist with the to-be-dislocated workers at STP.
As previously reported by Samoa News the application is to the US Department of Labor’s National Dislocated Worker Grants, which replaced the National Emergency Grant (NEG) program.
“Total funding depends on the data collected and included in the application,” the Commerce director told Samoa News early this month. He said that information for the application pertains to number of workers to be dislocated, immigration status, skills, and other relevant information.
“Data needs to be collected from STP through surveys and existing data,” he said.