Sanford departures, explanations and trading update

Sanford Ltd has informed shareholders of the retirement of its managing director and an experienced board member, and explained how it has fixed things after copping a multi-million dollar fine from a US court.

The fishing company also says it has made a positive start to the new financial year and disclosed a deal with the New Zealand Shareholders' Association that will hold the total fees paid to directors at $500,000 for another year.

Revenue for the first three months of the year is up 10 percent, helped by increased sales of salmon to the New Zealand market.

Chairman Jeff Todd says the board has accepted notice of managing director Eric Barratt's retirement after 15 years in the job.

He will continue in the role, and subsequently as an independent adviser if necessary, until December 31 at the latest.

"I am sorry to inform you that our long-standing and respected director David Anderson has decided not to seek re-election at today's annual meeting which marks the end of his current term," Mr Todd told the meeting.

Mr Anderson joined the board in 1982 and served as managing director from 1991-97. He took on industry roles, including deputy chair of the New Zealand Fishing Industry Board and president of the New Zealand Fishing Industry Association.

At last year's meeting shareholders endorsed an increase in directors' fees to a total of $550,000 per annum, but the board agreed to only pay $500,000 out in recognition of the company's less than satisfactory performance in 2011.

"Given the 2012 results, the board now confirms to shareholders their intention to hold total fees payable in the current year to the same level, $500,000," Mr Todd says.

Shareholders' Association chairman John Hawkins has confirmed the association is comfortable with this arrangement.

Massive fine

It was left to Mr Barratt to explain that a judge in the US District Court in Washington DC fined Sanford $US1.9 million and ordered it to pay $US500,000 to a fishing foundation after its tuna fishing vessel, the San Nikunau, breached rules for discharging waste in international waters.

Mr Barratt said the verdicts and sentence indicated there had been a pattern aboard this vessel of not following required protocols for bilges and bilge waste.

This was acknowledged by a Filipino relief engineer who never followed required rules on this or any other US or foreign flagged tuna vessel he has worked on. The regular chief engineer claimed he did but the court found otherwise.

"Sanford has been held vicariously liable for the actions of the engineers and other crew and we must accept responsibility for not detecting that these practices were occurring," Mr Barratt said.

"One aspect of our defence was that the vessel and its records had been regularly inspected by New Zealand and US government officials many times during the period of the offences and these issues were not detected at the time.

"I could spend some time detailing the many arguments and counter-arguments raised in this case but it is time to move on and to ensure that with our actions and responses we are never faced with this situation again."

(BusinessDesk)

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