Fish processing plant may open before end of 2018

Michael Jiang, managing director of Sino-Van Fisheries Limited, in Port Vila. Photo Alex: Ellinghausen
Michael Jiang, managing director of Sino-Van Fisheries Limited, in Port Vila. Photo Alex: Ellinghausen

THE controversial fish processing plant at Blacksands may be open for business before the end of the year, says its managing director.

Michael Jiang, who took over the building and its non-operation last year, said he hoped to have a functional warehouse, workshops and floating wharf within eight months.

The Independent Online news joined an international media crew at the plant last week and Mr Jiang spoke of his plans.

“From my point of view it should be open this year,’’ he said.

He said he would employ about 40 people, some of whom would be Chinese but most of whom would be Ni-Vanuatu.

He said the plant would process tuna from a fleet of 40 long-liners which were each crewed by between nine and 14 fishermen.

The fish – mainly tuna – will be caught by the Chinese boats under licence in Vanuatu’s exclusive economic zone and exported mainly to Europe.

“Right now the fish are not coming to Vanuatu,” he said. “If China does not invest here, maybe some other countries will.”

He said at present the fish are being processed in Fiji which means Vanuatu is missing out on considerable revenue.

“We are a local company, we are not doing business in China and some of the profits will stay here,” he said.

The Sino Van fish processing plant has never operated since it was built more than 10 years ago and has been the subject of a major and concerted protest during that time.

The protests centred on the unsuitable position of the plant which many felt would have been better located in Santo.

The fears of thousands of protesters centred on issues of water and noise pollution, shark infestation and moral issues relating to an increase in prostitution, drug use and general crime based on the ‘needs’ of the fishing boat crews.

Sino Van is a joint venture of a Chinese firm and a Ni-Vanuatu state-owned company.

The independent Online news understands it will cost a considerable amount of money to get the plant to operating standard.

People who have been inside said most of the equipment was rusted and would have to be replaced.

Mr Jiang allowed us to photograph the outside of the building but we were not able to see inside anything but an office.