Beef Central reports that Australian stock handlers and veterinarians working on live export vessels are unable to secure basic health insurance for their voyages. A large number of stockpersons and most veterinarians are hired for voyages as independent contractors, not as export company employees, and are required to secure their own personal insurance for voyages. However, with Covid and the recent loss of the Gulf Livestock 1, insurance companies are not prepared to take on the risk: Covid and the recent vessel sinking.
The insurance issue comes at a time when accredited stockpersons and veterinarians are in short supply anyhow due to COVID quarantine restrictions - now they cant fly home, they all have to endure the stultifying boredom of return trips on an empty livestock ship (not exactly luxury cruise vessels) AND then potentially have Covid quarantine in a hotel when they get back. Hardly enticing conditions.
Could Covid achieve what decades of advocacy have failed to achieve???
VALE reported on the banning of the Barkly Pearl for 2 years a week ago. Beef Central ran the story on 13th Jan and provided extra details purportedly from AMSA: "The ship had known about the hole for close to 10 days before we heard about it.....If people try to hide things from us and if they unreasonably put people’s lives at risk and unreasonably put the environment at risk, we will not tolerate that. That was what happened here, it was a significant issue and we know for a fact that some of the seafarers on board that ship were in fear of their safety."
Interestingly, the Barkly Pearl was used as an example of "world's highest standards" of shipping in an article by Beef Central only 3 months ago. The detailed interview response from the ship's owner makes interesting reading!
Ross Carter was reappointed as the Inspector-General of Live Animal Exports (IGLAE) commencing 11 December 2020. On 18 December Carter released a report on the Implementation of Moss Review recommendations..and despite much procedural jargon they are actually pretty damning. He found:
1. the department’s IT systems do not support efficient operations or provide for streamlined industry interaction. They also do not effectively support data and intelligence analytics to target regulatory effort and contribute to the body of knowledge on risk mitigation to animal health and welfare.
2. the dispersed functional model of the department presents a major challenge to delivering an integrated regulatory model.
3. the department needs to improve compliance monitoring and using a proportionate response model to address poor performance.
“The department appears to determine the severity of an individual non-compliance in isolation from other factors. This is a reductive approach that risks not correcting underlying and ongoing unacceptable performance.”
It should be noted that VALE used the June 2020 Al Kuwait exemptions to illustrate the importance in regulatory practice of considering broader community trust and confidence (minimal) in its submission. It was interesting that Ross Carter chose to also use this voyage for the same purpose.
"Mortality rates ..remain the primary indicator of animal health and welfare....but not an indicator of individual animal health and welfare across a consignment."
"Transparency and access to the results of research will help underpin the credibility" SO....where is the study on rumen loggers performed by Murdoch University and reported as completed by Norman in various Shipboard Performance reports??
"The inspector general has not been provided with evidence of improvements to the compliance monitoring approach" [re Moss Recommendation 7]...[this] does not provide confidence in its agility ...and casts doubt on the departments capacity..."
"Despite a long history of significant incidents and events..the department has not put in place and effective proportionate regulatory model that includes strong enforcement action"
"The inspector general is concerned that the full intent and potential of the Principal Regulatory Officer has been reduced from the department's original intent"
"The department has not provided rgulatory process mapping in response to data requests"
"The department should continue to look for opportunities to further increase transparency and accessibility" (7 applications and 6 months for VALE to get one FOI document that showed Dept cover-ups gives little evidence of improved transparency)
"The Awassi Express incident was viewed...as an egregious failure to ensure appropriate animal health and welfare outcomes during an export voyage"
Re regulation "the senior executive have chosen a largely functional structural model [whatever that is]....However, it is a model that best works where the regulatory schemes it supports are at a mature standard of practice. For livestock animal exports this is not the case."
"It appears that the department is not sufficiently agile to take the multidisciplinary approach required"
Re Al Kuwait exemption "The voyage recorded a low mortality rate but a significant number of sheep suffered from heat stress in the later stage."....."mortality rate of 0.08% (28 sheep) ... (noting a 155 negative head count discrepancy. The heat stress scores observed ..appear to confirm that exporting sheep to the Middle East during the northern summer prohibition period results in a poor animal health and welfare outcome for many of the animals despite the additional risk mitigations undertaken by the exporter"
AMSA has issued its most severe banning to date - to a livestock carrier - banning the Barkly Pearl from entering or using an Australia port for 24 months.
"This is a significant decision by AMSA. It’s the first time a vessel has been banned from Australian ports for this length of time and it will certainly affect the vessel’s commercial operations... The owners and operators of the Barkly Pearl were negligent in their maintenance of the vessel, put the lives of the seafarers on board at risk and posed an immediate threat to Australia’s marine environment."
If only this came as a surprise. Livestock carriers comprise the oldest saltwater fleet and are renowned for detentions and for having a poor safety record. An analysis undertaken last year by The Guardian indicated that livestock carriers are twice as likely to be lost as cargo vessels.
VALE welcomes the move by AMSA. In addition to seafarer and marine environment risk, it would also have been yet another risk to our exported animals.
A media statement by the Maritime Union of Australia has highlighted the COVID danger to Australia involved with the live trade after a confirmed case of COVID on the Diamantina in Darwin. The MUA said vessels continued to dock around Australia inside the 14 day quarantine period imposed on other travellers, while the maritime arrival system remained reliant on a self-declaration system where a ship’s master is responsible for reporting if there are sick crew members on board (hmmm.....yes....think Al Kuwait!).
“Port workers, their families, the Darwin community, and all the vulnerable Indigenous communities in the NT continue to be put at risk because the Federal Government lacks a cohesive and consistent national policy addressing the unique risks posed by maritime supply chains. The current system, which is reliant on international shipowners, driven by profit, self-reporting potential illnesses — knowing that this will cause them costly delays — cannot guarantee the safety of our members or the broader community."
As VALE has repeatedly commented: where this is poor animal health and welfare, there is invariably little respect for human health and welfare.
Animal welfare laws consistent with Australian expectations for the treatment of cattle exported overseas will apparently be enshrined in Vietnam, with the help of Australia's livestock export industry. The new animal health laws being developed by the government of Vietnam will apply to all cattle in the country, regardless of their origin, covering animal husbandry and handling, disease prevention, transport, traceability, slaughter, and food safety. If Australia did make a country-wide improvement in animal welfare in Vietnam, it would be the first time in the history of live export.....so probably rather optimistic.
VALE would of course encourage any such improvements....and, if any meaningful laws are enacted, someone in Vietnam might realise that animals should not be exported, as they are, crowded and without bedding, by sea, from Australia.
The UK is undertaking an eight-week consultation on animal welfare including the banning of live animals for slaughter and fattening.
Leaving the EU has enabled the UK Government to pursue the plans, and if successful, it would become the first country in Europe to end the practice.
The government is also consulting on proposals to reduce maximum journey times, provide more space and headroom during transport, enact stricter rules on transporting animals in extreme temperatures and tightening rules for transporting live animals by sea.
Environment Secretary George Eustice said: “We are committed to improving the welfare of animals at all stages of life. Today marks a major step forward in delivering on our manifesto commitment to end live exports for slaughter.
“Now that we have left the EU, we have an opportunity to end this unnecessary practice. We want to ensure that animals are spared stress prior to slaughter.”
The move is part of UK plans to strengthen its position as a world leader on animal welfare.
VALE looks forward to seeing if the government will be true to its word after the consultation.
Yep....beef export, not cattle export. Argentina's beef sector will have upgraded processing and cold chain infrastructure under a government initiative that will allow a 33 per cent increase in exports over the next three years to 1.2 million tonnes a year.
Has Australia been left lagging again whilst we cling onto the archaic live ex trade?
The livestock carrier Queen Hind capsized on November 24, 2019, with the loss of around 14,000 sheep. The Romanian government has been accused of silence regarding its investigation into the incident. The Guardian reports: “Romania’s prime minister Ludovic Orban vowed on television last year to end live exports in the “medium-term”. However, since the Queen Hind disaster more than 2 million live animals have been exported from Romania – mostly to north Africa and the Middle East.”
The Guardian contacted the vessel’s management company, MGM Marine Shipping, and reported that a company representative said: “Nothing has changed, I don’t want to talk any more about this vessel – I want to forget about it,” before hanging up.
It seems government and industry are much the same in Romania as they are here in Australia – falsely promising reform when incidents are in the public eye before returning to existing practices and shunning transparency.
A recent analysis by The Guardian indicates that livestock carriers are twice as likely to be lost as cargo vessels. Along with tragedies such as the loss of the Gulf Livestock 1, the safety risks associated with the trade were recently highlighted in Australia when the Barkly Pearl, wallowing heavily with a hole in the hull, limped into Geraldton with 2 tugs assisting in early November.
Now, another incident has occurred. The Nabolsi I is reported to have suffered engine failure en route from Algeria to France. No livestock are reported to be on board the vessel which is now under tow.