You could look at it as a strange tale of the international nature of the modern fishery. Or, you could ask whether it’s further proof that often, in a natural resources-based economy, workers end up being the hewers of wood and haulers of water, while the major profits end up far away.
In any event, it’s a story about a commercial dispute in the shrimp fishery, a dispute that started in 1997 and ended up in courts in both Newfoundland and Norway.
The short version is that one company alleges that another firm “blockaded” its shrimp, causing the first company to fall into bankruptcy.
In the end, the judge in the Newfoundland part of the court saga decided that the case can proceed here, despite a Norwegian judgment on some of the issues. What’s more interesting, though, is the nature and the nationality of the real players in the conflict.
Here they are, in the judge’s own words.
“The first plaintiff, Nordica Foods A/S (hereinafter ‘Nordica Foods’) was incorporated in Norway and registered to do business in this province. At all times material to this action it was engaged in the business of buying and selling shrimp on its own account and as marketing agent for various ship owners. It also managed two shrimp trawlers owned by the second plaintiff.
“The second plaintiff, Nordica Fishery (UK) Limited (hereinafter ‘Nordica Fishery’) was at the relevant time 90 per cent owned by Nordica Foods. It was incorporated in the Isle of Man and also registered to do business in this province. At all times material to this claim it was the owner of two shrimp vessels, the Cape Zenith and the Cape Circle, chartered to a Lithuanian Company, GMK Ltd. GMK Ltd. held the various fishing licenses and sub-chartered the vessels back to Nordica Foods.
“The first defendant, Eimskip, is an American company registered to do business in this province and was engaged by Nordica Foods as a ship’s agent for services in relation to the discharge and supply of various shrimp vessels and declaration of the vessels in and out of Newfoundland, including customs and shipping fees, costs of shipping inspectors and port storage costs.
“The second defendant, Icelandic, is a ship owning company incorporated in Iceland, which also acts as ship’s agent and has numerous associated companies, including Eimskip.”
Four pages into the judgment, and we already have interests from Norway, the Isle of Man, Iceland, the United States and Lithuania. There were also three other fishing vessels under contract to Nordica, the Merak, the Vinogradnoye and the Sheduva. The Sheduva at one point was connected to Latvia, but is apparently registered now in Kingstown, St. Vincent and The Grenadines. The Vinogradnoye? Looks like it’s registered in the Ukraine. The Merak? There are several vessels that share the name.
The Newfoundland part of the connection?
“The third and fourth defendants, Argentia Freezers & Terminals Limited (hereinafter ‘Argentia Freezers’) and Harbour Grace Cold Storage are both incorporated in Newfoundland and operate cold storage facilities at Argentia and Harbour Grace, respectively. Both received cargoes of shrimp allegedly owned by the plaintiffs.”
You could be a little bit sarcastic, and say that with all the shrimp and money involved (the suit was seeking $15.7 million in damages — and the plaintiffs quantified their damages in American dollars, thanks very much), we should do more than operate the fridges.
International fisheries, international players — and haulers of fish. And for that matter, for resources like oil and iron ore as well.