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Sanford Faces Oil Pollution Charges On Longliner

Fishing company Sanford Ltd has been charged with dumping oil at sea, Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) says.

The allegations relate to a chartered South Korean-flagged longline tuna vessel, Pacinui, and are based on evidence offered by Indonesian crew who jumped ship in January alleging maltreatment.

Sanford, an Auckland public company whose major shareholders include National Party president Peter Goodfellow, could face a fine of up to NZ$ 400,000 and two years’ jail.

In January a US District Court in Washington DC fined Sanford USD 1.9 million (NZ$ 2.27m) for dumping oil waste at sea in American Samoa then attempting to cover up its actions.

MNZ said Sanford will face three charges after an investigation into alleged illegal dumping of oil into the sea of New Zealand’s exclusive economic zone.

Sanford is charged with illegal discharge of a harmful substance - oil - from Pacinui, failing to notify MNZ of the discharge and failure to notify a pollution incident.

The discharge of a harmful substance charge carries a maximum penalty of two years’ imprisonment or a fine of NZ$ 200,000.

The two other charges each carry a maximum fine of NZ$ 100,000, and for a continuing offence, a further fine not exceeding NZ$ 20,000 per day or part day when the offence is committed.

“The charges follow an extensive investigation since January 2013 by MNZ investigators, including examination of the ship in Timaru, gathering of photographic and video evidence, forensic examination of samples, and interviews with a number of Indonesian crew members,” MNZ said.

The crew members will be witnesses.

The case will have its first mention in the Timaru District Court on Monday.

In a statement to the NZX today, Sanford CEO Eric Barratt said Pacinui is owned by Juahm Industries.

Sanford CEO Eric Barratt

“Sanford is conducting its own internal investigations into claims that on-board machinery for separating ship-board waste was not used correctly,” he said.

The allegations were made by former Indonesian crew members of Pacinui and “relate to an alleged failure to use the equipment on one day in January 2013.”

Fourteen crew jumped ship from Pacinui saying they had been intimidated and cheated by their bosses.

The MNZ charges come as a bill to end the use of foreign charter fishing vessels comes before Parliament this week for a third and final reading.

The American Samoan charge involved Sanford’s own New Zealand-flagged ship, San Nikunau, in Pago Pago, American Samoa, in July 2011.

US Coast Guard inspectors witnessed crew clearing a bilge by pumping directly overboard without using the oil water separator.

In a submission to the US District Court Sanford said the court should recognize the company “has been a corporate leader in New Zealand in the development and implementation of sustainability practices”.

But the US Government said Sanford had caused harm to the marine environment in American Samoa. It called for the near-maximum fine of USD 3m, “because it is reasonable that the fine disgorge some amount of profit from defendant Sanford Ltd”.
Sanford this month issued advice that its end-of-year profit is going to be less than initially expected.

In a statement to the NZX, Barratt, said results in tuna and toothfishing operations were less than they expected, accompanied by a drop in mussel production that would affect their bottom line.