By Alfred Sasako
It was in 1976 that Noro Township in Western Province was first established, primarily as a tuna cannery.
The new cannery replaces the nation’s first and only tuna cannery operated by Solomon Taiyo which closed its doors at Tulagi in Central Islands province, after 30 years.
Changes have been slow in the 42 years since.
In the last few years things have begun to pick up for the township which is now boasting an estimated population of about 5,000 people.
It is now linked for example by road to Munda where the nation’s second international airport is being completed.
Noro has a city council but like other civic bodies, the Council has little or no money to clean up the township.
Many retail and wholesale businesses there are owned and run largely by Asians.
The Noro cannery is now owned by SolTuna, which took over the operations from Taiyo Fisheries in 2001. SolTuna is majority-owned and controlled by Tri-Oceanic Overseas Holdings, LLC (“TOOH”) with 51.5 percent stake.
The company is an affiliate of Tri Marine (“Tri Marine” or the “Group”), which consists of a group of 41 privately-held entities that together, comprise one of the largest global tuna supply companies in the world.
The other shareholders in the Company are Solomon Islands National Provident Fund with 31.4 percent, Investment Corporation of Solomon Islands Limited (ICSI) with 9.3 percent stake and the Provincial Executive of the Western province which holds 7.8 percent.
In the last 10 months or so, Noro appears to have been given a new lease of life. Under a tripartite agreement signed last October by Solomon Islands Ports Authority (SIPA), MAERSK, one of the largest shipping containers in the world and TRI-MARINE the Noro Port is slowly but surely coming back to life.
Its 64m-long wharf would be extended by an additional 90m to accommodate large vessels unloading frozen tuna for exports. A trial run of 100 tons was conducted there last week.
Officials admit the last 10 months have been slow. Delays have been caused by internal requirements. In the case of SIPA, the lead actor in providing facilities on the ground for the multi-million dollar expansion, its Board has reportedly not met in the last 10 months.
Not so with the National Fisheries Development Ltd, a TRI-MARINE partner. NFD has acquired two large per seiners in preparation for expansion expected in tuna exports.
Those connected with the expansion one way or the other are eyeing turning Noro Ports into a hub for tuna exports from the Pacific.