The exporter in charge of a livestock vessel forced by mechanical problems to return to Fremantle two days into a three week voyage to Israel is awaiting engineering reports to learn if the 5200 cattle on board will need to be unloaded.
Australian Livestock Exporters Council chief executive officer Alison Penfold said a damaged propeller shaft coupling was removed from the vessel late Tuesday evening.
“The exporter is working with manufacturing firm to have the required component manufactured locally in Perth,” she said.
“The timeline for completion of the repairs will be known later today.
“The cattle remain well settled.”
Ms Penfold said a veterinarian from the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry was assessing the welfare and health of the cattle against the requirements of the Australian
Standards for the Export of Livestock (ASEL).
The exporter Alan Schmidt of AH&R Schmidt remains hopeful the ship can be repaired quickly and resume its journey.
However, delays in repairs may mean the stock may have to be unloaded and/or transferred to another vessel.
While the ship has not been in contact with other vessels, the fact it has entered international waters means an assessment of biosecurity risks is now required before the cattle can be discharged.
“They are working through all the contingencies, but they are hoping they can do the repairs in a few days so the ship can stock up on fodder and keep going,” Ms Penfold said.
Meanwhile the RSPCA has seized on the incident to call on the incoming Coalition Government to commit to strengthening the live export regulatory system and expand meat export markets.
The RSPCA said a ventilation system failure on the same ship in 2011 led to the death of 400 pregnant cows en route from the USA to Russia.
“The live export trade is a very risky business and when it goes wrong it is usually animals that pay the price. The only way to manage the risks is by strong government regulation and developing alternatives,” said Heather Neil, RSPCA Australia CEO.
“Sadly these animals are now facing a much longer voyage than expected, and may well also be subjected to the stress and risk of injury of being off loaded and reloaded onto another ship.
“Today’s event yet again highlights the risks involved with live exports, risks that would be avoided if these animals had been processed in Australia and the meat exported. Until that occurs, it is vital that the current regulations are strengthened.
However, in a media release drawing public attention to the 2011 mortalities, the RSPCA left out the important point that the incident occurred when the ship was under different management and different chartering arrangements, and well before it had been upgraded to meet Australian livestock export standards.
Following the 2011 incident the owners of the vessel undertook extensive modification of its bilge pumps, washing, draining and ventillation systems.
The Pearl of Para now carries over 1,100,000 litres of fresh water and has the ability, via on-board reverse osmosis equipment to produce twice the daily water required for a full complement of livestock.
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