How the Dutch Pioneered Pelagic Food Production in Faroe

Pages 40-41

Going against the odds and defying domestic tradition, Dutch-owned PP Faroe Pelagic proved that commercial processing of pelagic fish for human consumption was, and remains, a viable business in the Faroe Islands. 

[Bui Tyril & Edmund Jacobsen]

Since opening for business in late 2009, Kollafjørður-based PP Faroe Pelagic has processed more than 400,000 tonnes of mackerel, herring and other pelagic fish. New investments amounting to about 100 million dkk have also been put into the facility more recently, including a new 70M dkk cold store with a storage capacity of 10,000 tonnes.

With this enterprise PP has successfully demonstrated that it is technically and  economically feasible to operate a freezing plant in the Faroes. As further proof of the viability of the concept, two similar plants with Faroese owners have been added subsequently, Varðin Pelagic at Tvøroyri and Pelagos in Fuglafjørður.

PP Faroe Pelagic is managed by Ton Frissen (48), who arrived in the Faroes for the first time in november 2009, tasked with giving the then idle facility the kick start it had never had.

“I came to the Faroe Islands to launch PP Faroe Pelagic and make sure the facility was well run and profitable,” Mr. Frissen noted. “In essence, I went about it by first error analysing, repairing and adjusting, then starting up and streamlining the process, and finally making sure that every part of the plant’s machinery was running like clockwork.”

However, he recalls, the initial phase presented challenges that took time and effort, in fact a few months and many working hours, requiring plenty of analyses and expert knowledge to get the plant up and running.

“There were a few issues, primarily with the existing plate freezers, which we managed to resolve without too much of a cost,” he said. “It turned out that we were able to operate at a profit already after the first year.”

“The employees have been absolutely essential to our success,” Mr. Frissen added. “Our organization is non-hierarchical, wherein as managing director I consider myself part of the workforce. It’s critical for comfort and efficiency that everyone knows what’s required for good work performance as well as understanding the process, how things function at the facility, and why working well together as a team is so important.”

Affordable fish

Before PP arrived and took over the freezing plant at Kollafjørður, there was no on-shore production of pelagic fish for human consumption in the Faroe Islands. For such an enterprise to succeed—to make economic sense for vessels to land their catch there—there has to be a high processing capacity and the workflow needs to be well organized. Time is expensive in this context and the landing of catch will have to be handled within a short span of time.

According to Diek Parlevliet, CEO of Parlevliet & van der Plas (PP), the largest player in the European pelagic industry, it was quite natural for the company to consider getting involved in the Faroe Islands, as PP have long experience and good know-how in pelagic fisheries and freezing at sea.

“It only took a few months before the first pelagic trawlers could arrive to land their catch there with production commencing, and after one year the plant was running at full capacity,” Mr. Parlevliet said.

“Being reliable and keeping agreements is in any case one of the most important values in our world,” he told a Faroese publication in late 2017. “Today, after seven years, PP Faroe Pelagic has received some 400,000 tonnes of pelagic food fish—which is quite a lot in money terms—and a total 350 million dkk have been paid in wages alone. Add to this quite an amount of business generated for suppliers, various services, such as transport, logistics, cold storage and more. So this is a win-win for everyone.”

Mr. Parlevliet added: “I’m proud to be able to demonstrate that we have helped the Faroese through our knowledge in the pelagic business, both technologically and commercially, and we have helped opening doors to new export markets, for example in Africa, in Russia and elsewhere in the East.”

PP is a well known and established company in the fishing industry, headquartered in Katwijk on the Dutch west coast. The company was established in 1949, originally as a fish trading business. Development has been rapid since then and the company now has a fishing fleet consisting of 32 trawlers, including 8 pelagic vessels fitted with processing and freezing facilities. With an estimate total of 6.000 employees, PP focuses on delivering protein-rich seafood at affordable prices to people across the world.

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