Stricken cattle ship arrives safely

Brad ThompsonThe West Australian

A controversial shipment of WA cattle arrived safely in Israel yesterday after five weeks at sea in another boost for the live export industry.

Only two of the 5240 cattle on board the Pearl of Para died during the voyage, which came under intense scrutiny because of a mechanical failure which caused a false start from Fremantle, as well as the vessel's chequered past.

The mortality rate is below the reportable level of one per cent under Federal Government live export regulations.

Exporter Alan Schmidt said the cattle would be unloaded over the next two days after arriving in good condition.

"The cattle have been on board for a long time but everything is fine and they will be discharged without any problem," he said.

"We would have been concerned if the number of mortalities got above 10 because we look after the cattle properly and hope for only one or two.

"We have a good team on the ship and it is a very good ship."

A Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry spokeswoman said the latest report from the onboard veterinarian supported Mr Schmidt's claims about the animals' condition.

The live export industry and animal welfare groups were monitoring the shipment closely after the Pearl of Para returned to Fremantle for mechanical repairs three days into a voyage, which started on September 4.

The ship spent more than a week anchored in rough seas in Cockburn Sound before docking to restock with feed and resuming the three-week voyage to Israel - WA's most valuable customer for live cattle in 2012-13 with exports worth $41 million.

A previous mechanical fault on the ship was blamed for the death of hundreds of cattle on a voyage from the US to Russia.

The safe arrival follows a move by Indonesia to lift import quotas and an agreement between WA and its sister state in China to work toward live exports.

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