Ecuadorean boat owner orders 88m tuna vessel from Spanish shipyard

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PANAMA CITY, Panama — Ecuadorean tuna fishing firm Grupo Jadran has ordered a new vessel from a Spanish shipyard, the firm’s president, Diego Miletic, told Undercurrent News.

It will invest $ 35 million-$38m in the new vessel, depending on the equipment and technology used, Miletic said, without specifying which shipyard he has placed the order with. 

The vessel should be delivered in mid-2019 or the beginning of 2020 from Vigo, Spain, Miletic told Undercurrent on the sidelines of the Americas Tuna Conference in Panama City, Panama, held Feb. 22-23. 

“The [eastern] Pacific fleet is very old; we have to renew this fleet to compete in international markets,” Miletic said, pointing to the need to fish with modern technologies, developing the fishery. The new vessel, which will be about 88-meters-long, will have a capacity of 2,000 cubic meters (about 1,500 metric tons).

The family-owned firm, founded in the 1990s, currently owns three Panama-flagged vessels and one Ecuador-flagged vessel, which fish mainly with dolphin sets.

The company, which predominantly operates in international waters, fishes about 5,200t of tuna per year. It will have capacity to freeze onboard, maintaining fish in better quality with modern technology.

The company lands its catches in Ecuador, Mexico, Guatemala and other countries, depending on the customer. The firm specializes in catching and does not process its catches. Its customers include Tecopesca, Negocios Industriales Real Nirsa and StarKist & Co, among others.

The firm’s turnover in 2017 totaled about $45m.

Commenting on the future of Ecuadorean fishing firms, Miletic said: “In Chile, there were many jack mackerel companies, and in the end three/four large companies assumed all that. [It is likely that also in Ecuador] in the end some companies with good boats and good logistics [will stay]. Every day, more ecology, catches, compliance [are needed]; there are not many companies that can follow this path, so we continue with new boats. With old boats, I don’t see much future, Miletic said.

Consolidation is likely to “kick off shortly” in the Latin American tuna sector, where there are a lot of small and medium companies that are family-owned, according to Jose Antonio Zarzalejos, partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

Jadran is part of the Tuna Conservation Group, known as Tunacons, together with Nirsa, Eurofish, Servigroup and the US firm Tri-Marine International. 

The five tuna companies — which operate about 40 vessels accounting for 25% of the fleet operating in the region — are working on a fishery improvement project, with the objective of achieving Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification for tuna caught in the Eastern Pacific Ocean.

They plan to start the MSC certification process in 2019 and achieve it by 2020Shipowners have to adapt to the market trend, which requires more certifications, Miletic said.

The Ecuadorean tuna fleet, with 116 vessels, is the largest in the eastern Pacific Ocean. Last year, its share rose to 47.1% of total catches from 43.6% in 2016, according to Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission figures.

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