EMATUM fishing boats cannot export to Europe

Not only did the state company EMATUM (Mozambique Tuna Company) borrow hundreds of millions of dollars on the European bond market to purchase a brand new fleet of fishing boats, but it now turns out that the boats are not fit for purpose.

The Minister of Economy and Finance, Adriano Maleiane, told deputies of the Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, last week that ten of the 24 EMATUM fishing boats are being refitted in South Africa so that they meet the technical specifications demanded by the European Union for boats that catch fisheries produce intended for the European market.

But the boats were all built at a shipyard, Constructions Mechaniques de Normandie (CMN), in the French port of Cherbourg, and France is a member of the European Union. Maleiane was thus effectively claiming that boats built recently in a European shipyard do not meet the European Union’s own specifications for fishing boats.

Yet the boats were delivered and by late 2015 all of them had arrived in Maputo. Some tuna was caught (just 300 tonnes in 2015, according to government figures) most of which was exported to China.

Because of the European Union demands, EMATUM has decided to refit some of its boats. It cannot refit them all, because that would be too expensive.

“What EMATUM explained to us”, Maleiane, cited in Monday’s issue of the Maputo daily “Noticias”, told the deputies, “is that, in order to export tuna to Europe, there are rules that must be followed. They sent inspectors to look at the boats as they are, and recommended adaptations to comply with the requirements”.

First, an attempt was made to negotiate the refitting of the boats with CMN, but that was too expensive, and so it was decided to hire a South African company to make the necessary changes.

“The costs involved in refitting the boats are high, hence the work is being done in phases”, said Maleiane. “Right now, we have part of the fleet ready, while other funds are being mobilized to pay for the rest”.

Thus a Mozambican state company ordered 24 tuna fishing boats from a European shipyard, but when the boats were delivered they were not suitable for fishing tuna for one of the main tuna markets on the planet, that of the European Union. Despite this the boats sailed to Mozambique, and only recently has the problem been discovered. Nobody from EMATUM seems to have considered checking the boats against the EU requirements while they were still in Cherbourg.

Paying for the boats to be refitted increases still further the cost of the EMATUM fleet. Serious question marks already hang over the initial costs. The EMATUM loan, in 2013, guaranteed by the Mozambican government, was for 850 million US dollars.

The French press at the time said the contract for the 30 vessels (24 fishing boats and six patrol boats) was for 200 million euros – about 230 million dollars. That left a question mark as to the other 620 million dollars.

The government did not query the figures given by the French press. In December 2013, opposition deputies in the Assembly of the Republic, citing the figure of 200 million euros, asked the government what had happened to the rest of the money.

Far from disputing the figure, the then Fisheries Minister Victor Borges said the 620 million dollars had been spent on such items as training, satellite communications, radars, on-shore installations, licences and the like.

But EMATUM’s own accounts, cited recently by the Zitamar News Agency, show that the vast bulk of the 850 million dollars was speedily dispatched to the parent company of CMN, Abu Dhabi Mar, in September and October 2013. Abu Dhabi Mar received 836.3 million dollars from EMATUM. The rest of the money (about 13.7 million dollars) went on bank fees.

Nobody has yet explained this enormous discrepancy in the figures, nor has the government withdrawn or amended the statement made to parliament by Borges.

Source: AIM
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