The Gulf Livestock 1 capsized on 2 September 2020, and yet the livestock and maritime industries are still none the wiser as to the cause of this disaster. The livestock carrier, with 43 people and 5,800 dairy cows onboard, was sailing through a forecasted typhoon (Typhoon Maysak) on a voyage from New Zealand to China. Only two crew members survived. Forty one men including Phillipine, Australian and New Zealand nationals lost their lives. Video footage sent by the crew as the vessel took on water show the water coming into the vessel.
The livestock carrier fleet is old, the vessels are often sailing under flags of convenience and when something does go wrong, the flag state for the vessel can delay investigation reports for years (see the protracted investigation for another livestock carrier, the Danny FII). Like the Danny F II, the Flag State for Gulf Livestock 1 is also Panama. The report of the investigation has apparently been released to family members of the two New Zealand crew who lost their lives. It is not known whether the families of the Philippine or Australian crew have also seen the report and Panama is yet to makes its investigation report publicly available.
A group of farmers who collectively sold $1 million worth of cattle to a live export company in March are reported by 1News NZ to be still unpaid. Farmers from around New Zealand sold cattle to Waikato-based Genetic Development (NZ) Exports Limited Partnership (GDEX LP). The 12,300 head of cattle were destined for China at the end of April this year, however the shipment failed after the livestock carrier, MV Al Kuwait, built in 2016, broke down enroute to New Zealand to collect the animals. and was replaced with a smaller ship. At least one farmer who had cattle returned to him, reported animal welfare issues in the returned animals.
This trade always has been a risky business for animals and a risky business for farmers.
However, this current situation in NZ also demonstrates that having a phase-out period with a “Continuous Improvement Programme” still has potential for, and possibly results in, serious welfare problems. Phaseout periods should always be as short as possible.
There was a 53% percent decline on the five-year-average for June 2022. Exports to both Indonesia (48% below five year average) and Vietnam (64% below five year average) were both down and trade of breeding and dairy cattle to China also thankfully decreased.
So for the 2021-2022 financial year, only 603 586 cattle, well below five year average of 997,667 head. Perhaps its time for a cattle phase out too?
With FMD raging in Indonesia, the livestock industry keeps calling for Bali tourists to have footbaths on their return (a pretty good idea!) or for a ban on tourism to Bali ....but no-one is asking for a ban (suspension) on live-ex to Indonesia. They are just not worried (or not mentioning) about the risk of cattle ships bringing FMD back. Short turnaround time, shared personnel across the countries handling stock directly and limited ability to ensure good disinfection on ships....
If farmers can call for a stop to the tourist trade, then surely they should be looking a little closer to home at one of the biggest risks - live ex ships!
Australian live export commentator and veterinarian Ross Ainsworth has recently expressed surprised that Australian cattle are still being imported by Indonesia ie into a country where FMD raging. In addition, he recommends Australian tourists come back from Bali to footbaths. These recommendations have avoided the obvious questions:
1) why is Australia allowing our FMD naive cattle to be exported to a country with an FMD epidemic - this is a serious animal welfare issue and there should be trade suspension to Indonesia whilst the FMD epidemic is out of control (we could send boxed meat instead....)
2) what biosecurity measures are in place for difficult-to-disinfect cattle ships returning back from Indonesia....and what of their crew (eg Australian stockpersons) when they get off, for example, the Nine Eagle in Broome in a few days?
Allowing live cattle ships fro Australia to Indonesia at the moment is a major biosecurity and animal welfare risk.
An anonymous submission to the NZ Parliament by an experienced cattle veterinarian validates VALE's report and analysis of the China voyages (Hing et al 2021).
Across the Equator: "there was no way of significantly reducing either factor [heat/humidity]that the cows were experiencing. During this period the cattle didn’t have enough time to adapt to the warmer weather, so it really was a brutal period of ‘survival of the fittest’."
And:the majority of the cattle on the ship to exhibit signs of heat stress (ranging from mild to severe) as we crossed the equator. Despite our best efforts to get all the cattle across the equator alive, two cattle died of heat stress on the journey. Although the two cattle written down on our trip report represent a low mortality rate attributable to heat stress, the pain and distress they and the surviving cattle experienced still haunts me.
And: It wasn’t a simple problem, and it didn’t have a simple answer. I still don’t have an answer for how to prevent heat stress. In my opinion heat stress is an inevitable and unacceptable aspect of transporting cattle by sea across the equator.
See FULL REPORT: ttps://www.parliament.nz/resource/en-NZ/53SCPP_EVI_115891_PP2427/3f9275012e56ee5fd5e145bbc0626c3ca58d8c45
Seems that the latest live ex shipping tragedy has really case a spotlight on live ex within the maritime industry. Lloyds List, Maritime Express, American Shipper have all carried insightful comments from a maritime perspective. The latest of these is from American Shipper on 21 June 2021 in an article entitled "Livestock Shipping Strikes Again: Death and Cruelty on the High Seas". Maybe tolerance is also wearing thin in the global maritime industry and maybe ship insurance will also start influencing the fate of this archaic trade that is long overdue to end.
A damning article about the live ex shipping fleet, its age, safety record, contemporary lists of disasters globally etc has been compiled in Lloyds List, one of the world's oldest continuously running shipping news media. The article reflects on the latest tragedy, the loss of 15000 sheep from an overloaded vessel that capsized in port and opens with "Third serious casualty involving a livestock carrier this year highlights low standard of operations for much of the industry".
Animal welfare concerns and shipping concerns with both under increasing scrutiny. The writing is on the wall for this trade.
A release from the highly credentialed and objective Animals Alliance provides well researched links that show phasing out live ex will benefit the Australian economy and create jobs. This industry operates because big business concerns (ie exporters) make a lot of money out of it. They then commission their own reports and provide information to the farmers. Independent analyses almost never agree with the findings.....because, go figure, they are independent and have no conflict of interest. Sheep export is on the way out ....instead of involving 6 million sheep and 4 states, it is down to 570000 sheep from 1 part of one state. Its time to move on: better for Australia, better for WA and better for the sheep.
See full article:https://www.allianceforanimals.org.au/resources/separating-fact-from-fiction-why-a-phaseout-of-live-sheep-export-is-good-for-the-economy-and-animal-welfare?fbclid=IwAR1ykUIzs-Rznm3G4wRLWlR5VRXl3TTdr_DAIqwAcA6QvgYowypMUXt0pGc
From 1 March to 31 August, AMSA ran a Covid-disrupted inspection campaign of live ex ships. Only 14/26 ships leaving Australia during this time were inspected. They found numerous deficiencies including:
3/14 had livestock pens that could not be effectively drained of fluids under any expected condition of trim or angle of heel - a welfare issue
2/14 did not provide satisfactory non-slip surfaces for livestock - a welfare issue
1/14 did not use accurate values for the calculation of ship stability for its voyage - a worry for both animal and human safety
1/14 had made changes to structural arrangements onboard that were not sanctioned by the ships flag administration
1/14 ships’ crew were not familiar with the onboard procedures to restore power - a very big concern when ventilation can make the difference between life and death for animals onboard.
AMSA stated that "the deficiencies observed during a relatively low number of inspections is of concern to AMSA" and with >20% vessels being unable to effectively drain livestock pens and 15% having inappropriate surfaces, both producers and Dept of Ag should be on alert that this trade still has a very long way to go before welfare can be acceptable, let alone good.