The 5500 cattle on board the MV Ocean Outback, which experienced an engine failure on December 29 soon after leaving Fremantle for Israel, will be redirected to South East Asia.
The 7500 sheep on board the vessel have been discharged and transported to a pre-export quarantine feedlot.
Wellard Rural Exports, which owns the MV Ocean Outback, said in a statement on Sunday that livestock remain in a healthy condition with all livestock services – feed, water and ventilation – operating as normal.
The exporter said three cattle and 30 sheep mortalities had been recorded since the mechanical failure 10 days ago.
The cattle originally bound for Israel will now be supplied to a regular buyer of Australian cattle who is Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) accredited.The M/V Ocean Outback was constructed with a Dual Independent Propulsion System, so can safely operate on one of its two engines.
“It has previously completed a number of successful short voyages using a single engine, without impacting on voyage success rates.
“Both the WA and Federal Governments and Departments have been very responsive and supportive to expedite a solution to this issue and I want to publicly acknowledge their support,” said Wellard CEO Mauro Balzarini.
When the vessel was in port it was inspected by a Federal Department of Agriculture Veterinarian, a WA Department of Agriculture animal welfare officer and an RSPCA inspector before being given clearance to proceed.
RSPCA Australia issued a statement on Friday stating its “serious concerns” about the ongoing welfare of the sheep and cattle on board the MV Ocean Outback.
“We are aware that current contingency plans for the livestock include unloading the sheep at the port of Fremantle to be either sold to a domestic processor or re-exported at a later stage, and for the cattle to be shipped to a market in South East Asia on the same malfunctioning vessel early next week,” the RSPCA statement said.
“We welcome the possibility for the sheep to be slaughtered here in Australia to Australian standards. We would be extremely concerned if the sheep were to be re-exported at a later stage. They have endured enough already and should not be subjected to stress of another sea voyage and the trauma of undergoing unstunned slaughter in the Middle East.
“The cattle will have been onboard the Ocean Outback for two weeks by the time they finally depart for South East Asia. Under the power of a single engine, this is likely to be a long journey. This is a wholly unacceptable situation and again demonstrates the inherent and unavoidable risks of the live animal trade.”
“We strongly encourage the exporter to put the animals’ welfare first in making further decisions about the future of the 13,000 animals involved. Equally, the Department of Agriculture, which is charged with protecting the welfare of exported animals, should be doing everything in its power to ensure that any decisions made are in the best interests of these animals.
“Once again we call upon the Australian Government to seriously consider the merits of transitioning to a more stable, sustainable, and ethical trade in chilled and frozen meat processed here in Australia to Australian standards.”
Dept of Ag statement on Ocean Outback
On 9 January the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, working closely with the Western Australia Department of Agriculture and Food (DAFWA) and the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA), approved a proposal by the exporter to manage livestock on board the MV Ocean Outback.
Under this proposal, sheep have been unloaded in Australia and cattle have remained on board for export to South East Asia.
This solution maintains the highest standards of animal welfare and reflects strong cooperation between the exporter, the live export industry, and state and federal government agencies.
On the evening of 9 January, all animals on board the MV Ocean Outback were inspected by departmental and Australian Government accredited veterinarians alongside independent experts.
No concerns for the welfare of the animals were identified and they were found to be in excellent condition.
The department conducted a Biosecurity Risk Assessment and issued an import permit for sheep on board the vessel, which requires that the sheep be moved to a registered premises and kept isolated from the national livestock herd.
There were no injuries or mortalities during unloading and transport of the sheep to registered premises. All required biosecurity precautions were taken under the supervision of DAFWA. This included disposal or cleaning of equipment that have come into contact with the animals.
Cattle remained on board the vessel for export to South East Asia. Departmental officials inspected the cattle prior to departure to ensure they were fit for travel and certify that all importing country requirements have been met.
The exporter has loaded medicines, fodder and bedding materials in excess of the normally required levels. Cattle on board will be also moved to provide additional space following the unloading of the sheep.
The MV Ocean Outback departed Fremantle at 5.20 am AWST on 10 January.
The vessel currently complies with all AMSA requirements for on board livestock services and travel to South East Asia.
The department will continue to monitor the situation in line with its regulatory responsibilities for the export of livestock.
Source: Wellard Rural Exports, RSPCA, Dept of Ag