Chicken of the Sea International, a subsidiary of Thai Union Frozen Products (TUF), is an international producer of seafood such as clam, crab, mackerel, salmon and sardines. The company also markets one of the best known brands of canned and pre-prepared tuna in the US. In May 2009, TUF announced its plans to move its tuna canning operation to Lyons, Georgia, US, from its base in American Samoa where the canning was carried out by Samoa Packing.
This change in strategy was partly a cost saving exercise as the company’s major market is the US. The operation involves processing and packaging imported frozen tuna loins into Chicken of the Sea-branded products. TUF completed its move into the Lyons facility in October 2009.
The Lyons facility is the first tuna processing facility in the US for Chicken of the Sea and one of the two facilities that process frozen tuna into ready-to-eat canned goods.
The old canning facility was used for cold storage and was shutdown later. The move had a significant impact on American Samoa and prompted calls for financial assistance ($20m from the supplemental appropriations bill) for the nearly 2,000 American Samoan workers who lost their jobs.
In October 2010, Tri Marine International purchased the old canning facility in American Samoa. The acquisition is expected to regenerate the tuna processing industry in the region.
In the second quarter of 2009, Chicken of the Sea began plans to move its tuna canning operation to the US (requiring an investment of some $20m). The company purchased a 200,000ft² ready-built facility in the Toombs County industrial park, situated off Highway 1. The Port of Savannah is an hour away and will supply the frozen tuna loins.
The site and building was previously leased to Simonton Windows but was vacant for 18 months. The facility required complete renovation, hygienic flooring, a 10,000ft², 0° freezer and an expansion of the 32° cold dock.
The modification saved nine to 12 months of construction work, according to a Chicken of the Sea spokesperson. Other features of the work included insulated metal panels, new gas and water lines under the facility, new dock positions with ‘fully loaded’ dock packages and a specially-designed roof system modification to handle the water flow more efficiently.
The canning facility project was fast tracked to get the plant operational by the end of October 2009. The renovated building was increased by 16,000ft2 but provision was made for future expansion if required. The facility created over 200 jobs, according to the Toombs County Development Authority.
The cold storage work was undertaken by Primus Builders in conjunction with the regulations posted by the Georgia Ports Authority. The general contractor for the project was Harry Moses Construction. A major modification for the facility was the installation of a mobile boiler room system, which was obtained from Nationwide Boiler of Fremont, California.