GenSan looking for more cold storage investors

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/15 Feb) – The state-run operator of the fish port complex here has urged investors to put up more cold storage facilities as efforts to lure the unloading of tuna stocks caught by foreign vessels continue.

The 11-hectare fish port complex managed by the Philippine Fisheries Development Authority (PFDA) has still enough spaces to accommodate cold storage facilities, said Paris Ayon, the agency’s local chief for food safety.

“We are inviting investors to put up cold storage plants to further boost economic activity inside the fish port complex,” he said.

Currently, the fish port complex has a combined cold storage facilities capable of handling a volume of 3,000 metric tons (MT), he added.

Ayon said the fish port complex is now capable of handling large carrier vessels mostly operated by foreign tuna companies.

In 2010, foreign fishing vessels brought in tuna stocks weighing 70,529MT from 72,557 MT the previous year, while tuna caught by local fishing companies account for about 15 percent of the total annual unloading, PFDA data showed.

The downtrend has been blamed on the conservation efforts involving the ban on purse seine fishing in portions of the Pacific Ocean ordered by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission. The two-year ban was set in motion on January 1, 2010 to allow tuna stocks to replenish.

Miguel Lamberte, PFDA local chief, earlier said that altogether, the city, dubbed the “Tuna Capital of the Philippines,” has a combined holding capacity of 50,000 MT of cold storage facilities.

He said there is a need to put up 30,000 MT to 50,000 MT cold storage facilities should more foreign fishing companies favor the fish port complex as unloading point.

“There are efforts to encourage more foreign vessels to unload their stocks here because we are nearer to Thailand from the fishing grounds,” he noted.

The fish port is capable of handling 7,000 gross MT vessels with its wharves measuring a total of 430 meters that has a docking capability of nine meters deep, Lamberte said.

Completion of the new wharves servicing several foreign fishing companies was completed in 2008 in line with the modernization of the city’s fish port that started more than five years ago.

Lamberte said that from the international fishing grounds, it will only take six days for carrier vessels to reach this city, compared with 15 days to Thailand, the world’s top exporter of canned tuna products.

He urged local canneries and other investors to build additional cold storage facilities in line with the efforts to encourage the unloading of foreign-caught tuna stocks at the fish port here.

Investments by canneries in new cold storage facilities will enable them to hold stocks for six months to a year, Lamberte said.

Six of the country’s seven tuna canneries are based in the city. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)