Stricken firm was losing a lot of cash –

Stricken firm was losing a lot of cash Published:  31 January, 2007

THE Seabay operation at Grimsby, which closed down yesterday with the loss of 100 jobs, was losing money heavily, it was revealed today.

But a Grimsby fish leader has stressed that the company had special problems of its own and was not typical of the fish processing business in general.

Steve Norton, chief executive of the Grimsby Fish Merchants Association, said: “We were very saddened to hear the news about Seabay, but the fish processing industry in Grimsby is doing very well at the moment with investment in new factories and jobs being created by other companies. So what happened with Seabay, while terrible for those who are losing their jobs, should not be taken as a benchmark for the rest of the industry. While we recognise that fish is now a global business and Seabay was a long established company, it was in a niche export market. Many people would obviously like to know the reason why the parent (Sjovik) company has decided to no longer support the operation”

Mr Norton said it should be borne in mind that firms like Young’s, Flatfish and Sealord in the nearby town of Caistor were all investing and expanding and that the fish dock regeneration plan was continuing to make steady progress

After more than 30 years of continuous fish processing and steady expansion through most of that time, the fish production lines at the Seabay factory on the North Wall have fallen silent. Some of the workers had been there almost since the factory first opened and whole families – mother, father and children – worked there.

The company has been taken over by two administrators, Matthew Bowker and David Willis, who belong to the business recovery firm JJC.

JJC have issued a statement which said: “Despite recent restructuring, the company’s facilities have operated below capacity during which time it has made significant operating losses,

“Regrettably, after a review of Seabay’s trading prospects, production ceased on January 26 and the majority of staff were made redundant on January 29.”

The North Wall factory and cold store is a relatively modern set-up following a major refurbishment and expansion a decade ago. Close to Grimsby Fish Market and all the back up services, it would make ideal premises for any fish processing company looking to expand or for a new factory.

The administrators are hoping that they can sell the factory or the business, which is thought to have a strong customer base in European and especially among certain French supermarkets.

Seabay is part of the larger Norway Sjovik Group which operates an international fishing fleet and enterprise on the country’s West Coast. Geographically, it puts the company at the heart of Norway’s main fishing region. The Grimsby operation produced breaded and battered fish portions along with other seafood products. It had a comprehensive selection of fish and shellfish including IQF plain fillets, scampi and prawn products.

The Humber seafood industry has been hit by a series of job cutbacks in recent weeks with the closure of the Birds Eye factory in Hull where 650 people are employed. And this week Young’s Bluecrest announced it was closing its factory in Gillet Street, Hull with the loss of some 200 jobs. The operation will be moved to Grimsby, creating 125 jobs on the South Bank, but these gains will be almost wiped out by the Seabay closure.

Because of rising fish prices and soaring energy costs, seafood companies are coming under increasing pressure to reduce overheads and increase efficiency – and labour cutbacks are the first target. Seabay’s problems were not helped either by the recent rise of the pound against the euro which has made exports more expensive.