SAIMI would like to extend a huge congratulations to Ms van Heerden and her team on this incredible achievement. We are really proud to see this type of investment and growth in the local fishing industry.
See below to read the article featured in The Herald on 19 Feb 2019, written by Deneesha Pillay.
Supplier lands the big one - Bay businesswoman who runs R50m fish supply enterprise, adds new stern trawler investment.
Working in the fishing industry from the age of 15 has seen Sharmilla van Heerden go from doing deliveries and staff pickups to running her own successful business at the Port of Port Elizabeth.
She started the fish supply business in the backyard of her home, but Van Heerden now runs a R50m enterprise – Fisherman Fresh – which supplies fish to both the local and export markets.
Some of the fish species Fisherman Fresh supplies include hake, tuna, swordfish and demersal shark.
The company is now in the process of preparing its new stern trawler for voyage – an investment that will enable the business’s workforce to grow by at least 20.
Van Heerden said operating in a male-dominated industry was no easy feat, but her “never back down” attitude had enabled her to continuously grow her own business and stimulate entrepreneurship for small-scale fish sellers in the Eastern Cape.
“It’s very rare that you find women having their own vessels, processing and marketing the fish themselves, as well as exporting the products,” she said. The new trawler, called Qavak, which Fisherman Fresh bought from Ireland, has recently been refurbished and is now valued at R20m.
Van Heerden said bringing the fishing vessel to Port Elizabeth cost the business more than R1m and included flying crew to Ireland so they could sail it back to the Bay.
“I also had to fly over a representative form the South African Maritime Safety Authority to have it flagged and declared worthy to be brought back.
“It was a very costly operation, but I think it shows my determination and my handson approach with regards to every aspect of the business,” she said.
But the purchase, Van Heerden said, would also allow the business to increase its export supply and further enhance local business development for her customers.
“The entire fleet of vessels we own is valued at more than R30m. I currently have 80 employees working for me, but this new buy is going to enable us to move into the hundreds.”
The mom of three also recently bought other premises to build a hazard analysis and critical control points facility.
“With this I will be able to process and export product to the European and American markets,” she said.
A core part of Van Heerden’s business model is passing on the critical skills of fish processing to young employees.
“When you export product, it has to meet a specific standard and the fish have to be packed in a certain way.
“My older employees who have been with me since starting the business and who are now in their 60s, are passing on these skills to the younger ones,” she said.
“There isn’t anyone else in PE currently who is supplying fresh fish to the local communities.
“I believe Fisherman Fresh is quite important in the Eastern Cape with regards to supply,” Van Heerden said.