Old live animal export ships face ban
The Federal Government could ban old ships from being used in the live export industry to the Middle East amid growing pressure to improve conditions aboard vessels.
Transport Minister Darren Chester has confirmed that the Australian Maritime Safety Authority was reviewing Marine Order 43, which governs the age of export ships as well as welfare conditions for animals being carried.
The West Australian revealed details this month of a disastrous trip from Fremantle to the Middle East last year of the 37-year-old vessel Al Messilah, on which hundreds of sheep died of heat exhaustion.
Papers obtained under freedom of information showed how the crew struggled to dispose of the mounting number of rotting carcasses as they disintegrated in the summer heat.
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WA Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan has since sought advice from the Solicitor-General as to whether State animal cruelty laws could be used against exporters in extreme cases.
Mr Chester said that as part of the review of maritime orders the Government was considering banning so-called double tier vessels, in which animals are stacked on top of one another in close proximity with little head-room.
He said the review of Order 43 could change rules so that any live export ship built or converted before 2004 would be prevented from carrying livestock without installing additional ventilation systems.
Mr Chester stressed that any changes would take place in consultation with industry.
Ms MacTiernan said the Government needed to dump grandfathering clauses that allowed older vessels that did not meet basic ventilation and movement standards to continue to trade.
“If we want to preserve the community licence to continue the live export trade, we must remove the circumstances that can lead to sheep being ‘boiled alive’ on ancient ships,” Ms MacTiernan said.
It is understood several live carriers are in favour of new rules to remove older ships. At least half of the live export ships servicing Australian markets are more than 20 years old.
Live exporters have struggled in recent months thanks to sustained high cattle prices in Australia.
The Al Messilah was on an export run for Perth exporter Emanuel. A report on the incident noted how the vessel was a converted car carrier with no open decks and no exposure to wind and sea spray.
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