Somalia Requirement for Boat Building Hubs


Model Industrial Policy for Developing Somalia's Fishing and Boat Building Industry.
Somalia's fishery is under exploited due primarily to four factors. The first factor is the abundance of livestock, which makes people reluctant to utilize the resources in the sea. The second is the absence of vital and important infrastructure. The third is the division of Somalia into several clan-controlled regions, which are presently functioning as self-governing states.

No one is responsible for fisheries resources and activities have failed due to inadequate security. Some of the reasons include the following; firstly unrealistic perceptions, particularly primitive attitudes of ignorance, non-competitiveness, and other fallacious attitudes of nomadic agropastroal people; secondly, there are scarcity of professionals who take how realistic approaches would come to being; thirdly, sectarianism with respect of clan based divided territories where the artisanal fisheries are being intimidated; fourthly, isolation organizational structures where lack of communication exists between the fisheries professionals and artisanal fishermen because of unclear policies of the political leaders.

Due to the decades of civil strife and political upheaval, the state of Somalia was brought to its knees. With very few of its systems left functional, successive governments have found it difficult to govern the country. Lack of proper and up-to-date systems, funds and capacity have compounded the situation further. The fisheries sector is one of the least- developed with an average annual GDP of 1%. Fishing is mostly on a small-scale level with implements comprising of simple nets, lines and small boats. There is also no data on the fishing operations of the small-scale fleet throughout the Somali coast. This has made it possible for activities such as piracy and illegal fishing to thrive in the waters off the Horn of Africa region. Availability of such information would enable the local administration to improve the understanding of the fishing livelihoods for Fisheries Management purposes while providing useful information to the antipiracy forces.

Roughly half of the fisheries production from Somalia waters (19,546 tonnes in 1987) is from the artisanal fishermen. Most of the remainder derives from licensed foreign trawlers used for exploiting demersal fish in depths from 20 to 70 m, and deep water lobster and shrimp.

Historical View of Somalia's Fishing Industry
The continental shelf along both coasts is narrow, usually extending not more than between 6 and 30 km from the shore, except in the Ras Asir to Ras Mabber area where the shelf is up to 60 km wide. UNEP (1987) gives the following estimates for the shelf areas.



North coast shelf


Ras Asir-Ras Mabber


Rest of east coast shelf




Table 1.1. Annual marine fish landings by type since 1974



Fish Landings INDUSTRIAL LANDINGS (tonnes)

CRUSTACEA (tonnes)








































































Source: Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources

In the mid-1970s, deep-sea trawling was carried out by SOMALFISH, a Somali/USSR joint venture commercial fishing company, with 10 factory trawlers of about 680 GRT. This industrial fishery partnership ended in late November 1977, and annual fishery production dropped abruptly from a peak of 3 400 t of fish and 150 t of crustaceans, mainly deep-sea lobsters, to 235 t and 20 t, respectively, in 1978.

Since then several foreign fishing companies have been given fishing licences to fish in the offshore EEZ of Somalia. Such licences are issued by the Ministry of Fishery and Marine Resources, and recipients have included Italian, Korean, Spanish, Japanese, Greek and Egyptian vessels. Another joint-venture industrial fishing operation was established between Somalia and an Italian high seas fishing company in 1983 – Somali High Seas Fishing Company (SHIFCO) – operating 5 stern trawlers and 1 freezer mothership for transport of the fishery products to distant marketing outlets (mainly Italy).

This national joint-venture fishing fleet is still flying the Somali flag, and still fishing in the Somali EEZ, but they are based and land their fishery products outside the country. During the pre-war era, industrial fishery production was lowest in 1982, with 3 900 t of fish and 436 t of lobster reported, and highest in 1985, when production reached 11 940 t of fish and 462 t of lobster.

Boats and Fishing Gears Most fishing boats used in Somalia are wooden outboard motor Boats and rowboats. These boats catch most of fish with gill nets, lines & hooks, trolling lines, short pelagic longlines, and hand lines, drift nets, purse seine. They are owned by individual fishing families. There are about 1,000 in the country. Somalis are proficient in their manufacture and maintenance. These boats are rowed while some are outboard motors. There are also about 400 small fiberglass boats 6-10 meters long. These boats are mechanized; however, the motors and other equipment for these boats are old and debilitated. It is difficult to find spare parts for them. Some of these boats were manufactured in the country by a project funded by FAO, but was its infancy when the civil war broke out. On gear and spare parts, there is very little or almost no place to buy.

The most active fishing in Somalia (excluding illegal fishing from foreign trawls) is being carried out along coastal waters. Over all 866 functional motorized GRP vessels are observed actively engaged in fishing. Similarly, the largest number of traditional fishing boats (i.e. the canoe-like Houris and the larger wind- powered Mashuas and Bedens) were counted in Somalia as shown in Table 1. The numbers of fishermen who are actively engaged in the sector of fishing and make a living out of it are estimated 4500 fishermen, although varying considerably in the coastal regions of the country. However, the greater majority of these unaccounted fishermen are not working in the field either because of they are lacking fishing equipment and/or boats or because local or export markets outlet are not available. Due to the absence of the additional infrastructure such as ice plants, adequate transportation means, processing facilities, etc., the industry is at the present limited to the production and marketing of sun-dried and salted products. Shark meat as well as a variety of demersal and pelagic fish species is being utilized. However, although reliable figures are not available, the total quantities of dried products produced and exported in the last few years is likely to have been very low.

Illegal Fishing Problem
There are also an estimated 700 foreign-owned vessels that are fully engaged in unlicensed fishing in Somali waters. This illegal, unregulated, and unreported (IUU) fishing in the offshore, as well as in the inshore, with the difficulties it causes for legitimate Somali fishermen, causes great problems for monitoring, control and surveillance (MCS) of the Somali EEZ. It is impossible to monitor their fishery production, in general, let alone the state of the fishery resources they are exploiting. There is also strong suspicion of illegal dumping of industrial and nuclear wastes along the Somali coast.

Artisan Fishing
There have been no assessments of the resources available to the artisanal fishermen. Having in  mind the relatively small numbers of fishermen and the very low population densities along much of the coastline, it is suggested that the artisanal catch can not be substantially increased.

Somalia possesses the longest coastline of any independent   African country. It possesses within it EEZ some of the most potentially lucrative fishing grounds in continental Africa and oil and gas grounds that are yet to be commercialized. Strong seasonal currents and monsoon initiated weather systems lend themselves to renewable offshore energy sources, which can be a balance to the exploitation of hydrocarbon deposits.

In September 2015 Oxfam reported the following; “Somali waters are home to some of the richest fishing grounds in Africa, with vast potential for fisheries and coastal area development. However the sector remains under developed due to lack of skills among fishermen to go deep into seawater, lack of tools (boats and fishing gears) and lack of regulatory frameworks.

The Somali fishing industry has high potential for growth and job creation. Though it is not among the top three contributors to the country's GDP, the Somali coastline is the longest in Africa and among the most blessed waters.  According to the latest survey, some of the only fish stocks in the world that are actually “under fished” are in the deep waters off the Somali coast. Large schools of primarily tuna migrate from north to south and back along the east coast of Africa. Its no doubt, home to an extensive list of fish species, including lobster, swordfish, shark, and many others.

Fisheries, oil and gas and renewable offshore energy sources all require one common item of equipment - boats – fishing boats, coastguard patrol and safety boats, support vessels, an auxiliary fleet and a coastal trading/transport fleet.

Seeding Boat Building as Model Industrial Policy
Boatbuilding remains a labour intensive industry and thus to build this fleet domestically is the obvious strategy to hasten this development, whilst also providing the much needed employment within the boat building industry domestically to assist in stablilising and building the economy.

Countries with comparable coastlines and resources such as Vietnam and Taiwan have demonstrated how the seeding of boat building hubs, establishing flag state rules and building fleets domestically can hasten development by reducing the cost of prime assets and avoiding the high cost of financing associated with the import of vessels.

As an example, Taiwan's industrialization of its domestic boat building industry dates back to 1911, when, under Japanese occupation, Taiwan was technically established. At that time the Japanese seeded boat yards to build their domestic fishing fleet in Taiwan. After the Japanese withdrew in 1945 and the Kuomintang initiated very targeted industry development hubs, Taiwan's growth, referred to now as the “Taiwan Economic Miracle”, was seeded.

Specifically relating to the boat building industry, the Kuomintang developed boat-building hubs in Kaohsiung, Tainan and Keelung. By the late 1950's and as a result of the increased role the U.S. took in the Second Indo China War (Vietnam War), Taiwan was already in a position to offer it's skilled boat building industry to build a large part of the U.S. auxiliary fleet of fiberglass boats required to patrol the inland rivers and coastal areas of Vietnam and its supporting auxiliary fleet. It is considered, that as a result of this steep learning curve initiated indirectly by the Second Indochina War, Taiwan gained the confidence in it's own boatbuilding ability to subsequently build, domestically, over 90% of it's massive fishing fleet, considered one of the largest in the world. To build, domestically initially, the cargo vessels, container ships and bulk carriers that established Yang Ming, Wan Hai and Evergreen amongst the worlds top five shipping companies. It has enabled Taiwan to progress to build, entirely, the Taiwan Coastguard's fleet and the majority of the Navy's Auxiliary Fleet.

Taiwan recently demonstrated the long term results of it's early establishment of boat building hubs, with the launch of it's domestically designed and built Tuo Chiang Corvette Class, a 60m stealth wave piercing catamaran, designed as missile carrier, capable of 43 knots in seas of up to 10m. It is considered the most advanced vessel of its type in Asia.

In 2015 Taiwan's boat building industry contributed US$2 500 million to it's GDP. Aside from Taiwan and Vietnam, other countries that have taken the limelight, in an industry that was traditionally dominated by Western developed economies, are South Korea, China and Philippines. Whilst there has been significant government subsidy involved with the development of China and South Korea's industry, others such as Taiwan, Vietnam and Philippines have developed as a result of good strategic policies by government with a back ground of low labour rates and high availability of labour.

Creating Hub Culture and Platform as Policy Tool
Somalia, with it's immediate necessity for a fishing fleet and related natural resources, should look favourably upon this opportunity and plan now for the establishment of boat building hubs.

There is potential for 5 hubs along the whole of the Somali coastline starting from Kismayo in the south to Berbera in the North. It is estimated that with average annual production of 350,000 the fishing industry in Somalia can generate 10% of the GDP.

The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in Somalia was worth 5.71 billion US dollars in 2014. GDP in Somalia averaged 1.13 USD Billion from 1960 until 2014, reaching an all time high of 5.71 USD Billion in 2014 and a record low of 0.18 USD Billion in 1960. Yet fishing sector contributes little inspite of the hype of its potential.

Transformation of these fishing ports into modern, multifunctional harbours serving the fishing industry and boat building would generate much needed employment opportunities plus the base of sustainable development of industry.

In 1945, only a 100 or so trawlers were tied at Taiwanese piers with off-loading capacity of 40,000 tonnes. By 1998, the island's fishing fleet totaled 27,163 (of which 25,156 were powered craft) and brought home annual haul of 1.09 million metric tonnes per annum.

In order for Somalia to utilize its full potential of 300,000 metric tonnes per annum (valued at $450 million) it would need 500 Fibre Glass boats of 20 to 24 m size of 100 tonnage. Competition between the hubs would contribute to the generation of a viable industry.

Apart from enforcement of EEZ and licensing of foreign vessels in controlled manner, a proactive seeding of a boat building hubs would generate much bigger impact for as little investment as possible. Unlike the 1970's socialist led policies of cooperatives Somalia has a thriving private sector, which is quick to adopt technology and new business (see the impact of electronic money in 5 years). With bigger fishing fleet, it will not be long that the private sector invests in the value chain.

These hubs will also allow the development of maritime educational institutions and technical expertise in terms of engineering and training of the work force needed to sustain commercial grade industry.

If the Federal Government and States can agree a national framework under article 52 of the Constitution, which probably needs amending to include fisheries, the division of development work then it will not take the 50 years that Taiwan managed to become industrial power house in fisheries.

Julian JESSON, Managing Director Simpson Marine and expert in Marine & Coastal Development and Technology. Kahiye Alim (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.), international public and private lawyer based in London. He has particular interest in Diasporas and investment financial flows and disruptive fintech.

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