A scandal-plagued live export ship slated to take 65,000 sheep to the Middle East has failed to satisfy an inspection and must provide evidence of improvements before maritime officials will allow it to set sail with livestock on board.
The concerns relate to airflow in pens where sheep will travel.
Inspectors from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) spent hours inspecting the Awassi Express after it docked in Fremantle, Western Australia, today.
“AMSA has advised the master and ship operator that they will have to arrange a third party air flow verification report to prove compliance with air flow standards before an Australian Certificate for the Carriage of Livestock can be issued,” an AMSA statement reads.
To carry livestock, a ship must have a certificate for the carriage of livestock.
The inspected ship, used by Emanuel Exports, is the same vessel linked to 2,400 sheep deaths during a voyage to the Middle East last August.
The Department of Agriculture investigated that incident but scandal erupted after footage of the sheep surfaced, reportedly showing livestock being mistreated.
The vision, broadcast on Channel Nine on Sunday night, showed hundreds of sheep crowded into a small space, workers throwing dead sheep overboard, and faeces-covered pens where animals stood panting or collapsed on the ground.
It remains unclear what will happen to the sheep and 250 cattle Emanuel Exports plans to send to Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Oman and Qatar in the coming days.
Emanuel Exports was also responsible for a July 2016 consignment, in which an estimated 3,000 sheep died from heat stress during a voyage to the Middle East.
Animal welfare checks needed before ship can set sail
Separate to the AMSA inspection, the Department of Agriculture also imposed special conditions Emanuel Exports needed to meet in order for the next shipment to proceed.
Those conditions include the company guaranteeing the sheep would have access to feed, water and appropriate ventilation and are loaded at a stocking density below industry standards.
Emanuel Exports would also need to prove to officials that there will be sufficient number of vets on board, trained animal handling staff and regular cleaning of decks.
The Department of Agriculture is also insisting that an independent observer will travel with the sheep and provide daily reports, including photos, so officials can monitor the shipment from Australia.
Along with AMSA approval, the shipment needs approval from the head of the Department of Agriculture for it to set sail.
After the August 2017 incident was revealed last week, Emanuel Exports’ Graham Daws said the incident had prompted the company to change its protocols.
Agriculture Minister David Littleproud, who viewed the footage last week, said he would be meeting with animal advocates and members of the live export industry on Monday.
“There’s no point complaining about the footage. The footage wouldn’t exist if the conditions on the boat were good for those sheep,” he said in a statement.
ALEC determined not to let farmers down
Mr Littleproud said those who do the wrong thing should be “nailed, not slapped on the wrist” and ruled out a ban on the industry.
“The live export trade is important for our farmers,” he said.
“I will support live exporters who do the right thing.”
The Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council (ALEC) said they would take steps to strengthen accountability and reduce risks to animals during exporting.
These included investigating reducing stock density on trips to the Arab Gulf through high-risk periods, additional training for on-board vets and stockpersons, and additional independent on-board personnel.
“Farmers put their faith in us to sustain and grow the live sheep trade, which is worth $250 million annually, and we are determined that we will not let them down,” ALEC chief executive Simon Westaway said.
Animal activists said the live export trade is untenable and have described the footage as “truly stomach churning”.
“This shows that the way in which sheep are being exported does not meet the requirements of Australian law — that is clear,” said Dr Bidda Jones, the chief scientist with RSPCA Australia.
Dr Jones said long haul live exports cannot meet health and welfare requirements, and that, “farmers have been betrayed by the live export industry”.
“The evidence is damning in terms of the pain and suffering and death that are occurring on board,” she said.
Farmers have said they were disappointed their animals were enduring deadly conditions and welcomed live export industry calls for new standards governing animal welfare on ships, especially when travelling during the peak of the northern hemisphere summer.