Sheep ship in live trade ban

Countryman - - NEWS - Nick But­terly

A live ex­port ves­sel in­volved in a dis­as­trous voy­age to the Mid­dle East has been slapped with a tem­po­rary ban from op­er­at­ing af­ter an in­ves­ti­ga­tion found a se­ries of de­fects aboard the ship.

Coun­try­man re­vealed this year how hun­dreds of sheep died of heat ex­haus­tion dur­ing a trip from Fre­man­tle to the Per­sian Gulf aboard the 37-year-old Al Mes­si­lah.

Doc­u­ments ob­tained un­der free­dom of in­for­ma­tion gave grim de­tails of how the crew strug­gled to dis­pose of the mount­ing num­ber of rot­ting car­cases dur­ing the 2016 ship­ment as they dis­in­te­grated in the in­tense heat of the Mid­dle Eastern sum­mer.

In the wake of the case, Trans­port Min­is­ter Dar­ren Chester said the Aus­tralian Mar­itime Safety Au­thor­ity would re­view Marine Or­der 43, which gov­erns the age of ex­port ships as well as wel­fare con­di­tions for an­i­mals be­ing car­ried.

The episode also prompted WA Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter Alan­nah MacTier­nan to seek ad­vice from the Solic­i­tor-Gen­eral about whether State an­i­mal cru­elty laws could be used against ex­porters in ex­treme cases.

AMSA said an in­spec­tion of Al Mes­si­lah at Fre­man­tle on Oc­to­ber 20 found a num­ber of is­sues and it with­drew the ves­sel’s cer­ti­fi­ca­tion to carry live­stock un­til re­pairs were done.

An AMSA spokesman said in­spec­tors found holes cor­roded in the decks and bulk­heads as well as wastage of the sup­port­ing struc­ture.

Mul­ti­ple is­sues were found with elec­tri­cal ca­bling. There was an un­ser­vice­able gen­er­a­tor and poor qual­ity re­pairs had been made through the live­stock decks. The ves­sel was berthed in Fre­man­tle to carry 75,000 an­i­mals to the Mid­dle East.

The sheep were not aboard the ship when it failed the AMSA in­spec­tion.

“AMSA does not al­low non-com­pli­ant ships to carry live­stock from Aus­tralia,” a spokesman for the agency said.

AMSA said it was still await­ing con­fir­ma­tion from the ves­sel op­er­a­tor on how they in­tended to ad­dress the is­sues.

Gra­ham Daws, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Perth ex­porter Emanuel, said the sheep would be put on another ves­sel on its way to Fre­man­tle.

He re­jected sug­ges­tions the failed in­spec­tion sup­ported con­cerns the ves­sel was too old and un­suited for live ex­port work. “The age of a ves­sel has noth­ing to do with its sea­wor­thi­ness,” he said. “It’s the main­te­nance the owner puts into it.”

Al Mes­si­lah was on an ex­port run for Emanuel dur­ing last year’s in­ci­dent. A re­port filed to the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment on the episode noted the ves­sel was a con­verted car car­rier with no open decks and no ex­po­sure to wind and sea spray.

Pic­ture: Ian Munro Photo avail­able at west­pix.com.au

The Al Mes­si­lah was stripped of its li­cence to ex­port live an­i­mals as it was pre­par­ing to take on 75,000 sheep at Fre­man­tle.

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