An Open Letter to Our Customers

Recently, news reports have alleged abhorrent working conditions aboard foreign charter fishing vessels (FCVs) operating in New Zealand waters.  One of these stories cited allegations by an anonymous individual on a voyage chartered by Sanford in 2010.  We take these allegations seriously and have launched a full investigation to determine the facts as they may relate to our company. Thus far we have found no evidence of any improper activity on the 2010 voyage, but our investigation is ongoing as is our endeavor to learn the truth behind these claims.

Sanford Ltd is committed to ensuring safe working conditions for crews aboard all FCVs and we strongly agree with the recent Ministerial Inquiry that all those who fish in New Zealand waters should be subject to the same standards and rules regarding vessel safety, workplace conditions and fisheries regulations. This way, the high standards we strive to uphold at Sanford will be applied to all.

To that end, we will support and cooperate with any independent agency regarding FCV labor practices.

Sanford has long been a leader in ensuring the safety and wellbeing of its crewmembers. We are the only company in New Zealand that has had a policy of 100% independent observer coverage on its charter vessels for over 10 years.

But we believe more must be done. That’s why we are taking the following steps to ensure that proper standards are observed on FCVs chartered by Sanford:

  1. We are redrafting our observer contracts to increase their accountability and will implement a process of independent audit interviews with crew at the end of each voyage and at the end of each person’s contract.
  2. We are initiating a comprehensive review of crewing agents and use only those that offer transparent and professional services to both crew and vessel owners.
  3. We are improving our payment processes to ensure crewmembers are paid their agreed wages and exploring ways to enable them to receive wages directly or to their family or other independent channel.
  4. We will specify on all our seafood whether it was caught by Sanford-owned vessels or by charter vessels.

The mistreatment of any crewmember on any vessel is inexcusable. We will take swift action if we uncover substantiation of such behavior on vessels contracted by Sanford.  Until then we cannot validate the claims made about Sanford by unnamed sources in the news media.

A Word About the Bloomberg BusinessWeek Article

On Feb. 24, 2012, Bloomberg BusinessWeek published a story by reporter E. Benjamin Skinner, “Fishing as Slaves on the High Seas,” alleging abhorrent working conditions aboard foreign charter fishing vessels.  Among the companies mentioned in the report was Sanford Limited.  The article included allegations made by “Yusril,” an anonymous crewman aboard a Sanford-chartered vessel, the Dong Won 519, on fishing voyages from 2008 to 2010.

Sanford is committed to maintaining safe working conditions for crews aboard all foreign-charter and non-charter fishing vessels.  As part of this commitment, we are conducting our own thorough investigation of the allegations cited in the Bloomberg story.  As yet we have been unable to substantiate the claims made about Sanford, but we are continuing our investigation.

Regrettably, in the wake of Bloomberg’s story, other media organizations have repeated the unverified allegations and failed to mention that Sanford has been the only company in New Zealand for the past 10 years to always require an independent observer on board its charter vessels. These independent observers have direct access to Sanford management and are able to relate any concerns about the crew’s treatment directly from the vessel to shore at any time.

To ensure the public receives accurate information on this issue, this forum will communicate the facts and point out when media organizations publish inaccurate information, or violate their very own journalistic standards of sourcing, fairness and objectivity in the production of their stories.