Unlocking the potential
of sustainable fisheries and aquaculture
in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific

Reefer training to support tuna containerization in the Marshall Islands

FISH4ACP is backing the transformation of Pacific Island nation into a tuna industry hub

1 February 2024, Majuro - Maintenance and repair of refrigerated containers are key to transforming the Marshall Islands into a hub for tuna containerization in the Pacific. A first round of training by the global value fish chain development program FISH4ACP showed the way. 

The five-day training was held in the Marshallese capital Majuro from 2-8 December 2023. Twelve technicians from major tuna processing companies learned how to maintain refrigerated containers and fix some of their most common failures. Also known as reefers, these containers are used for the transportation of perishable goods, including fish.  

"The training was very useful for all of us,” said Ronie Gayanilo, who oversees maintenance and tuna transport at one of the companies, Pan Pacific Foods. “It was really productive to be able to practice at our plant and on the dock. We learned a lot about container maintenance." 

The training proved to be productive not only for the participants, according to Sergio Bolasina, FISH4ACP International Consultant in The Marshall Islands: two reefers were repaired on the first day - a big win considering that, typically, the shipping line that owns the container dispatches a technician from abroad to fix it, which can take months for such a remote location as the Marshall Islands.   

“Building capacity in reefer maintenance and repair can have a massive impact on the position of the Marshall Islands as a tuna hub,” Sergio Bolasina said, explaining that the training is part of FISH4ACP’s efforts to support the Marshall Islands in bringing more value of the tuna industry onshore, adding: “Filling the gap of technical expertise will remove a critical bottleneck in the tuna cold chain.” 

Tuna is big in the Marshall Islands. It accounts for most fisheries production and exports from the island nation. In recent years, the capital Majuro has become one of the world’s leading transshipment ports for tuna: 191 000 tonnes of skipjack tuna passed through there in 2022.  

Yet, with only 5 000 tonnes landed locally for exports in containers, there is a huge potential to bring more value onshore, boosting local economic growth and employment.   

This is why FISH4ACP, an initiative of the Organization of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) implemented by FAO with funding from the European Union (EU) and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), is helping the Marshall Islands to strengthen its position as a tuna hub by expanding domestic tuna containerization capacities.  

Working in close collaboration with the Marshall Islands Marine Resources Authority (MIMRA), FISH4ACP will be presenting recommendations on issues such as access to reefer spare parts, the adoption of standardized maintenance practices and advanced training for employees to become qualified technicians.  

Moreover, a follow-up training is scheduled to take place later this year, while FISH4ACP will be exploring the possibility of setting up a spare parts depot in Majuro.