The Vanuatu Government through the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Forestry, Fisheries and Biosecurity (MALFFB) is utilizing Virgin Australia to export frozen tuna destined for the sashimi market in Los Angeles, USA, because there is not enough cargo space on Air Vanuatu.

Director General (DG) of the MALFFB, Moses Amos, has stressed it is a challenge to ensure that the national airline can share the wealth generated from the country’s tuna industry.

“The loading space on Air Vanuatu is limited. Our national carrier only allows up to 35kg for each cargo while Virgin Australia allows up to 100kg.

“The tonnage that Air Vanuatu can carry depends on the weight of the tuna. Most of our tuna weigh over 35kg,” he said.

DG Moses said they (the MALFFB) have made known the challenge to relevant authorities within the government and are hoping that Air Vanuatu could be able to increase the capacity of its cargo load.

“Our preference is to use Air Vanuatu because it is our airline,” he stressed.

So far since the launching of the Sino-Van Project on October 25 this year, over two tonnes of frozen tuna have been exported to the US market.

“Vanuatu has not been benefiting from its tuna resources apart from the annual licence fee charged at Vt3 million, which is just about Vt8,000 per day,” DG Moses said.

“But there are some spin-off benefits to the local market since we started offloading tuna. Employment opportunities at the factory but there will be more opportunities in terms of crewing,” he added.

“It is the intention of the government to ensure that all vessels offload their catch in Vanuatu. If they refuse, they have to go and fish somewhere else.

“The long-term plan is for Sino-Van to own up to 66 vessels. The company now has six chartered vessels. The plan is for Sino-Van to own the majority of the vessel licences to boost production.

“The long-term intention of the company is to be the regional hub. Other countries in the region can utilize the hub to offload, process and export their catch out of Vanuatu.”

Around 40 tonnes of tuna are being offloaded by vessels twice every month since October 25.

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