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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Livestock Carrier ‘Al Mesillah’ develops engine snag and more trouble for its laden cargo…..

Quite often we go to a supermarket to pick up at one go, most of our requirements for a week or so.  There are specialised shops selling particular products alone and in fact there are even some streets which cater to a particular type of goods alone : In Chennai -   there is Rasappa Street with rows of shops   Essence, flavouring, colour and preservatives of food products; Devaraja Mudali Street – predominantly selling glassware, mirrors and like; Godown Street – having lot of cloth shops, Govindappa Naicken street – dry fruits and nuts; Sembudoss Street – iron ware; Narayana Maistry street – lot of pen shops; Malayaperumal Street – stationery shops – the list could be very expansive…  it would be hard to imagine how so many shops survive intense competition – but mostly these will be wholesale shops catering to the requirements of chosen segments. 
 the sheep - the speical cargo
The analogy is there are places which are common place and then there are some which heed to specialised segments.  There are ships which carry general cargo, bulk cargo, liquid cargo, cars and there are so many varieties of ships, making marine more and more enchanting.  There is not so frequently heard or seen (in our part of the world) – the livestock carriers – which as the name suggests are large ships used exclusively for transportation of animals – mostly sheep, cattle and goats.  These would be purpose built new ships or vessels converted from container ships.  Imagine tens of thousands of sheeps in a single place -  the transportation across continents for days together would present with multiple problems of restricting their movement, providing them water, fodder and ensuring that they have enough air and do not suffer asphyxiation.

 the specialised sheep carrier

and the sheep being loaded
There is the vessel called ‘Al Messilah” with callsign : 9KWH – IMO No. 7924425 Length 185 M Beam 32 M which has raised grave concerns for  the  Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA).  Can you imagine why ?  The vessel - Al Messilah was once a car carrier. By request of the Kuwaiti shipping company Livestock Transport and Trading Company (KLTT), Meyer Werft converted the ship into a livestock carrier.  It is touted to be a internationally coordinated as there were different contractors for different works and finally outfitting  as well as the installation of feeding, drinking water and ventilation systems were done – all within a year.   KLTT has another similar vessel  Al Shuwaikh, purpose built for carriage of sheeps having a capacity of 125000 well equipped with automatic fodder system, automatic drinking water supply, combined drinking troughs for both sheep and cattle, horizontal and vertical dung removal system, removal aluminum decks, pens constructed of galvanized products, ventilation systems and the like.   

The ship making transit is common especially at the time of heightened religious activity in the gulf.  Al Messilah left the Port Adelaide laden with 67000 sheep on board destined for Qatar and after days of sailing, the animals would be ready for consumption in the market.

There are so many perils that might be encountered in the voyage which would include, rough weather, perils of the sea, sinking, agrounding, collision and more..  this vessel which reportedly has a history of high animal mortality rates has encountered a problem, not so regularly thought of.   This ship laden with live cargo sailed from the Australian port after permission from authorities.  Soon it was ordered by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority to return to harbour due to engine breakdown.  A mechanical defect in a vessel and vessel either returning back to the port or calling at port of distress is nothing new to the shipping industry but this one is posing lot of concerns !

the stranded ship
The cargo is not ordinary and the Port authorities are not comfortable with animals being left on a vessel for longer than necessary – how long it will take to recondition the engines is being speculated and this time gap is posing the grave problem highlighting the risks involved in transporting live animals across the sea.   It would not simply off loading and loading them back – besides the troubles associated and the time that it would take, the animals also will have to be quarantined and any sheep dying for lack of ventilation is likely to affect more animals…  The Quarantine and Inspection Service now states that the  breakdown had not affected the ventilation, feed and water systems  but how long it would remain is a Q fraught with concerns. 

Newspaper reports suggest that the  Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry is working with the vessel’s master and the exporter to maintain the welfare of the animals.  The sheep are under the care of an Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service approved veterinarian who is onboard and the vessel is being assessed to determine if immediate repairs can be conducted, or whether the ship will need to be dry-docked.  If the animals are to be unloaded it will be procedurally and practically cumbersome with the additional burden of checks on biosecurity risks.  It will take days for moving the sheep to pens north of Adelaide whence it would become South Australia’s responsibility albeit the expenses will have to borne by the owner.  There are also possibilities of them being off loaded to another ship (depending on the availability and arrival of a similar livestock carrier) or they being  slaughtered for domestic consumption.  Even in ordinary times, the voyage is expected to take a longer time, passing through different climatic conditions which could also result in death and suffering of the animals.  

It is reported that there is raging controversy in Australia over live animal exports after images of animal cruelty involving cattle sent to Indonesia were broadcast on Australian TV.  Federal Parliament is to  vote this week on bills to ban the live export trade.

Animal rights groups are concerned for the welfare of the sheep and referred to the chequered history of the live export ship.  In 2006 some thousands died during a journey from Tasmania to middle Eastern ports attributed to starvation and disease.  In 2002  -  2173 of the 74,985 sheep on board reportedly  died during transit.  All these have outraged animal welfare activists who have called for an immediate ban on exports of live sheep from Australia.  In an unlrealted incident  earlier, 14,990-ton Uniceb, a Panamanian-registered vessel bound for Jordan from Western Australia, caught fire off Tanzania – all the 54 crew were rescued by a passing freighter, but the stricken vessel's engineer was lost overboard and many of the animals suffered a cruel fate much before they were slaughtered.

Many times it is the greed of mankind that results in disaster for the other animals getting cruelly killed.

Regards – S. Sampathkumar


  1. Good one Sir, brings out lot of info. hitherto not known - Gaurav

  2. the issue would get touchy, when the destination is gulf - Peter Thaw

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