Beef Central reports that a new report commissioned by research bodies LiveCorp and Meat & Livestock Australia, in association with Dairy Australia, outlines the value of the live dairy cattle export trade and the benefit it brings to different regions of southern Australia. The trade was worth $258 million in 2020-21, of which $180 million was retained by dairy farmers.
So with that amount of money, wouldnt you think that exporters and farmers would be proactive about animal welfare in this trade. VALE's peer-reviewed scientific paper analysing voyages to China (long haul voyages that are invariably NOT accompanied by a veterinarian) revealed the astounding magnitude of welfare issues for these valuable animals. Is the industry going to wait for a Pakistani seamen to film or are they going to respond to the problems clearly identified in this paper? With these margins it is time to be proactive not reactive.
NOTE: One of the issues discovered in the VALE analysis (running low on food or running out of food on voyages to China) was likely a factor involved in the sinking of the Gulf Livestock 1 after it sailed through a typhoon rather than going around - a pretty extreme consequence of an issue that could have been averted.
Sheep Central reports that Livestock Collective, a live export lobby group has claimed “Whilst we are not a lobbying group, we do exist to ensure everyone has access to real, transparent insights into the industry so that informed decisions can be made,” The claim was made in an email detailing how industry stakeholders could subscribe to support its activities.
Quote of the day in response to this comment from Dr Jed Goodfellow, Alliance for Animals policy director : “If it looks like a lobby group and quacks like a lobby group, it probably is a lobby group.”
Dr Goodfellow said the Livestock Collective is effectively a lobby group for the live sheep export trade that’s trading off the good name and reputation of the broader Australian livestock sector. “Its origins can be traced back to Emanuel Exports. It created the Sheep Collective in the wake of the Awassi Express disaster as the company was facing criminal prosecution for animal cruelty – and still is – and the trade was embroiled in an existential crisis,” he said.
VALE agrees with Dr Goodfellow “These are not the best origins for an organisation whose mission is to build the social licence of Australia’s livestock sector."
Live EX calling the shots again?
During a 24-hour Middle East stopover last month, Agriculture Department Secretary Andrew Metcalfe and ambassador Melissa Kelly reportedly met officials from Kuwait’s food safety and agriculture affairs departments to tell them about the government’s policy to phase out live exports in the second term of a Labor administration. Now the Live Ex industry is bellyaching that they should have gone to the Trade Minister and even that the Kuwaiti government will reportedly register its concerns about a diplomatic gaffe.
How very interesting - one would assume that if that was the case, they would have been informed that by the food safety and agriculture affairs departments in Kuwait. How was it even possible to set up the meeting if it was such a diplomatic gaffe? An outsider could be blamed for thinking that once again the live ex industry is dictating to governments, in this case perhaps both Australia and Kuwait. No doubt they were most peturbed to hear that Mr Metcalfe said there was “quite significant interest” from government officials about the potential for chilled or frozen lamb meat to be exported to Kuwait instead of live sheep. Who would have thought....!
The Guardian reports that almost half the live export ships that sailed from Australia without an independent observer last year claimed there was “insufficient space” to allow them onboard.
Greens senator Mehreen Faruqi said the “live export industry is obviously taking the government for a ride”.
“Both the government and the live export industry are to blame for the utter decimation of the independent observer program,” she said. “The government clearly has little interest in ensuring proper transparency on live export ships, and has even resisted publishing reports from the few voyages that do have observers.”
It's the ultimate in sanitisation - dont produce the reports, saves sanitising them afterwards!
If Australian live sheep are so important for protein in Kuwait (see reasons from David Hazlehurst re Al Kuwait exemption June 2020), why is there no extreme haste/urgency and effort by KLTT to get sheep from Fremantle to Kuwait this sailing period (Oct 22 to May 23)?
Whilst the MV Al Messilah has made 3 trips, the MV Al Kuwait has been conspicuously missing from Freo since October 2022 and has been listed on vessel tracking sites as being in the Arabian Sea, not under command, waiting orders...?!
Maybe Aust live sheep are unnecessary after all - well who needs them when one can stock the Middle East freezers with frozen Australian lamb????
NOTE: interestingly Al Messilah is currently anchored off Sri Lanka (not a particularly usual destination/location). Are there ship problems....or dare we hope she is being sent for scrap in India????
DRUG TRAFFICKING ON LIVE EX SHIPS
Live-ex ships have long been on the drug-trafficking radar for international authorities as they are difficult to search for both personnel and sniffer dogs. Spain has been active in this area and just hit gold with 4.5 TONNES of cocaine from the aging livestock carrier Orion V.
Maritime Executive reports that last week, Spain's National Police and Tax Agency Customs Surveillance Service intercepted the Orion V at a position about 50 nm to the southwest of the Canary Islands. carrying 1,750 cattle on a voyage from Cartagena to Beirut. The 28 crewmembers were arrested, and the vessel was diverted to port for an inspection. Search teams found 4.5 tonnes of cocaine hidden in the vessel's cattle feed silos. Guess thats one way to head off live-ex vessel financial woes???? But again, it highlights the issues: poor animal welfare, poor human welfare - ONE HEALTH, ONE WELFARE.
ABC reports that the Yangtze Fortune failed to deliver cattle to China after a crack was discovered it its hull in Sept 2022. The Liberian-flagged ship has been anchored in Portland, in Victoria's south-west, since September 28 last year. A December 2022 judgement by the Federal Court of Australia found the vessel's Chinese owners had abandoned the ship and its crew amid mounting debt owed to creditors. With no food or fuel being provided by its owners, the ship is now under the care of a Federal Court Admiralty Marshal, responsible for vessels after court orders.
At least someone looks after the sailors here...not so for its sister ship, Yangtze Harmony in Singapore which the ITF have likened to a floating prison. The ship was arrested in Singapore in October after its owners failed to pay its debts. In Singapore, unlike Victoria, the crew are not allowed to shore and cant receive unless there's permission by the authorities. The crew there is "completely abandoned'."
And meanwhile, Splash 24/7 reports that liquidators have been establisheded for Cattle Line Two, the company which owns two long idle livestock carriers, the Barkly Pearl and Diamantina. The 30-year-old Barkly Pearl (used by Beef Central in 2020 as an example of the livestock industry's world standard vessels!!) ) is currently moored at Batam in Indonesia as is the four-year-younger Diamantina.
Spare a thought at Christmas for the poor crew of the Yangtze Fortune. Just like the cargo they carry, these men are at the mercy of this greedy (and progressively precarious) industry.
The International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) Australian Inspectorate Coordinator, Ian Bray, said that the more than 30 crew members from the Phillipines had been abandoned by their employer on the stranded Yangtze Fortune. Shipboard documentation shows that the crew received only one third of what they were owed in October, and the crew’s wages payments in both September and August were made using monies set aside for workers’ leave entitlements and the company’s provident fund.
ITF Australia’s Assistant Coordinator, Matt Purcell said that five members of the crew had already clocked up eight months aboard the vessel and were desperate to return home to their families. “These vulnerable, exploited crew face the prospect of spending months longer aboard this ship in dreadful conditions just to get what’s already owed to them, or the choice of returning home after 8 or 9 months away with nothing to show for it,” he said.
Discussions with the crew manager, ship owner and the Flag State have revealed that the company holds little hope of trading out of its financial problems. The crews are at the mercy of the market and will only be paid their full entitlement if the proceeds of sale cover the company’s debts to creditors and the total unpaid wages bill.
Ian Bray said that the Yangtze Fortune is representative of a broader problem in the livestock shipping industry where crews go unpaid and ships operate on the precipice of insolvency.“We believe there is an epidemic of borderline insolvency amongst the operators of these livestock ships as they repeatedly feature among the worst cases in our inspections around Australia and internationally,” Mr Bray said.
Yep, where animal welfare problems exist, human rights issues are usually not far away.
Barkly Pearl expelled by AMSA after being found too deficient to enter Australia. Gulf Livestock 1 insolvent/sunk. Yangtze Harmony arrested in Singapore. Now Yangtze Fortune arrested in Australia. The pack of cards????
Trade Winds reports that the Yangtze Fortune, a second livestock carrier managed by Dalian-based Accord Ship Management has been arrested, this time in Australia by the Singapore arm of Danish bunker supplier Dan-Bunkering. Court records indicate that the 11,670-gt Yangtze Fortune (built 2005) was arrested at an anchorage off Portland in New South Wales (NSW? surely Victoria - VALE note) over a bunker bill dispute. Australian livestock exporter UMMS Projects and Livestock and produce exporter Australian Global Exports have both filed caveats against the lifting of the arrest against the ship.
VALE is relieved that this ship with its litany of infrastructure problems that caused so much animal welfare suffering (which was reported over and over and over again to Dept of Ag - who predictably did nothing), is finally off the scene - good riddance!
Australia’s independent live export monitoring program has weakened significantly since resuming from a Covid-related pause. The Guardian reported that Senate estimates heard last month that just five observers had been sent on ships between May and September. Yet during that period, there were a total of 85 live export voyages, 38 of which were eligible for independent monitoring. Eleven of the 38 eligible ships went to China, where ongoing Covid restrictions prevented observers from boarding. Others reasons were that there was “insufficient cabin space” or that “there isn’t space available, because something is happening on the vessel”, ....most convenient it would seem with any excuse of "something" being good enough.
Anyhow, 3/5 IO Summaries are up - 2 were seemingly perfect cattle voyages, albeit on one ship, a stockperson couldnt diagnose most of the causes of death (no surprises, they dont have vet training and Dept has ignored VALE's request for a vet on every ship made now for 10 years). However, what is worse is the Depts assessment and responses of observations on the Al Messilah - up to 5% of sheep with open mouth panting but that was OK because if the sheep were scared (ie with humans coming close), they shut their mouths for a while....really???? did no-one in the Dept have to study any fundamentals of animal behaviour (not to mention pathophysiology of heat stress)?? So its same old, same old, with Dept cover up or incompetence and... heat stress occurring in May as predicted by the AVA Report in 2018 - sheep shouldnt be sailing between May and October!