Allegations of unfair practices shake Erongo Sea Products joint venture

Niël Terblanché

Allegations have surfaced that the Oceana Group, might be undermining their Namibian counterparts, Erongo Marine Enterprises in the Erongo Sea Products Joint Venture.

The allegations are casting a shadow over the partnership that has spanned more than 20 years.

Central to the controversy is the recent suspension of Erongo Marine Enterprises’ Chief Executive Officer, Dr Martha Uumati, following her inquiries into the treatment and relationship with Namibian shareholders.

An independent legal assessment conducted by the firm Cronje and Kie has unveiled potential violations of the joint venture agreements, heavily favouring the South African conglomerate.

Particularly alarming are the issues related to quota and vessel usage fees owed to the Namibian partners, who have contributed significantly to the venture with quotas and two vessels, but now claim an inequitable distribution of profits.

Adding to the discontent, the Namibian partners allege the absence of essential corporate governance practices, including annual general meetings or shareholder meetings, further claiming that the board’s composition strays from the agreed-upon structure which paints a picture of a partnership marred by opacity and unbalanced power dynamics.

Contrastingly, the Oceana Group maintains a positive view of the joint venture’s history, labelling the relationship as “perfect” and the agreements as “successful.”

In response to the brewing discontent, both parties agreed in 2022 to appoint Cronje and Kie as independent evaluators.

Preliminary findings from Oceana suggested that charter agreements and fees were consistently applied to the benefit of the joint venture, a conclusion now under scrutiny by the Namibian shareholders.

To compound the issue, Erongo Marine Enterprises faces an investigation by the Namibian Competition Commission over allegations of price fixing and collusion with other industry players to manipulate horse mackerel prices.

This inquiry adds another layer of complexity to the joint venture’s challenges, potentially impacting its operational integrity and standing in the industry.

The allegations against the Oceana Group and the future of the Erongo Sea Products joint venture stand at a critical juncture.

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