Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Thailand to expand tuna fleet

TUF to expand tuna and shipping fleet

POST REPORTERS

Thai Union Manufacturing, a unit of Thai Union Frozen Products (TUF), has announced investments totalling 440 million baht in five new companies to expand its tuna operations and shipping fleet.

Thiraphong Chansiri, the TUF president, said the investments would be to procure four purse-seiners and one fish-searching vessel for use in catching tuna in the Indian Ocean.

Each purse-seiner would have onboard cold-storage capacity of 700 to 1,100 tonnes. The new vessels are expected to supply 25,000 tonnes of tuna per year, or 8% of the total annual requirement of the country's largest seafood company. Mr Thiraphong said the vessels would be ready for operations by the end of the month.

''Tuna in the form of frozen loins or in cans are our key products that have produced steady growth over the years. We would like to secure fish supplies to meet continual growth in the market. Having our own tuna vessels will certainly help achieve this objective,'' he said.

The TUF group currently requires 300,000 tonnes of tuna per year, with daily production capacity of 1,200 tonnes.

Mr Thiraphong said the investment would also help the company take advantage of lower import tariffs under the new Japan-Thailand economic partnership agreement (JTEPA) and the European Union's Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) tariff scheme.

''The JTEPA requires fish used in canned tuna exported from Thailand to be sourced either from Asean-registered boats or any member of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission,'' Mr Thiraphong said.

''The fish supply from Thai-registered tuna boats is very limited due to the small fleet available. ... At the moment, tuna fishing in the Western Pacific and Indian oceans is dominated by the Taiwanese, the Japanese and the Spanish.''

TUF reported first-half profits of 957.9 million baht, up 27% from a year earlier. The company will pay an interim dividend for first-half operations of 0.55 baht per share on Sept 18, with the share registration closed on Sept 7.

TUF shares closed yesterday on the SET at 23.80 baht, up 0.85%, in trade worth eight million baht.

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