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Gov’t Justifies Mega Tuna Fleet Investments

Mozambican Prime Minister Alberto Vaquina has justified the purchase of a tuna fishing fleet by the company Mozambique Tuna Company (EMATUM) as part of “a development strategy based on the integrated and balanced exploitation of our natural resources”.
He said this when addressing the county’ parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, in response to demands from both opposition parties, Renamo and the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM), that he explain the purchase and why the government had guaranteed it.

In theory, EMATUM is a private company, but its shareholders are state bodies. The major shareholder is the Institute for the Management of State Holdings (IGEPE), with 34 per cent. The other shareholders are the state fishing company, Emopesca, and GIPS (Management of Investments, Holdings and Services), with 33 per cent each. GIPS was set up in December 2011, and its main shareholder is the social services unit of the State Intelligence and Security Service (SISE).
EMATUM financed the purchase of the ships by issuing bonds on the Eurobond market. The bond issue was initially for USD 500 million but it was oversubscribed and EMATUM ended up issuing bonds for USD 850 million. The government has guaranteed the bonds which will have a final yield of 8.5 per cent.
The boats concerned are 24 fishing vessels -- a mixture of trawlers and longliners -- and six patrol boats which are being built in a shipyard in Cherbourg, France. The total cost of the boats is put at USD 270 million. It is not yet clear what the other USD 580 million will be used for.
Vaquina said that currently, out of the 130 vessels authorised to fish for tuna in Mozambique’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), only one is Mozambican. “So 129 of the fishing ships are foreign. They fish for tuna and carry it directly from the high seas to foreign fishing ports, where it is later processed,” he explained.
“Today, if Mozambique wants to consume tuna from its own waters, it has to import it from other countries. In the current situation, Mozambique is losing opportunities to train young Mozambicans in fishery. We are losing opportunities to employ our young people, as well as to increase our own exports.”
EMATUM had been set up to ensure that tuna would be unloaded at Mozambican ports, and that tuna fishing would play an increasingly important role in the country’s economy.
“The activity of this company will allow our country, for the first time, to enjoy access to fresh tuna that Mozambicans can eat, thus contributing to better household food and nutritional security,” the Prime Minister said.
The acquisition of the tuna fleet “is intended to endow Mozambique with the capacity to exploit one of its own resources, to the benefit of its people and its economy”.
“Studies show that EMATUM, once it starts operating, can generate about 1,500 jobs, not including the jobs that will be created in processing and marketing the tuna,” he said.
As for the patrol boats, Vaquina recalled the hijacking of the Mozambican fishing ship, the “Vega 5”, by Somali pirates in December 2010. At the time Mozambique was unable to mount a military response.
The patrol boats are being purchased “to guarantee the security of the fishing undertaken by EMATUM and other companies”. They would also protect Mozambique’s marine resources against illegal fishing, and fight against the use of the Mozambique Channel for trafficking in drugs and in human beings.
These boats could also protect such installations as the natural gas exploration and drilling platforms in the Rovuma Basin, in the far north of Mozambican waters.