Australia recalls live export ship bound for the Middle East following rising tensions in the Red Sea

Olivia FordCountryman
Livestock ship MV Bahijah.
Camera IconLivestock ship MV Bahijah. Credit: vesselfinder.com/vesselfinder.com

Australia’s Federal Department of Agriculture has ordered back a live export ship originally bound for the Middle East, amid concerns over rising tensions in the Red Sea.

The MV Bahijah, loaded with cattle and sheep, departed the Fremantle Port on January 5, before being diverted to South Africa and eventually being ordered to return to Australia.

It comes as Iraninan-backed Houthis from Yemen continue attacks on commercial vessels passing through the Red Sea, a major shipping channel from Australia to Europe and the Middle East.

The crisis in the Red Sea has caused militaries from the United Kingdom and the United States to intervene and has made ship owners reluctant to sail via the Suez Canal and the Red Sea.

The Agriculture Department, in a statement made last Friday, said it was considering options before giving an update to say it had ordered the ship back to Australia.

“To ensure the health and welfare of the livestock on the MV Bahijah, the department directed the exporter that the consignment be immediately returned to Australia,” the statement said.

“In making this decision the department considered the biosecurity risks associated with the livestock and the vessel and has not identified any basis on which these could not be managed within Australian territory.”

The department said it was closely monitoring the ship, with the health and welfare of the animals onboard remaining a top priority.

“As a condition of departure, the exporter was required to lodge contingency arrangements should the vessel not be able to reach the proposed destination in the Middle East,” the statement read.

“The department is monitoring the consignment closely and no significant animal health or welfare concerns have been reported at this time.”

According to the department, MV Bahijah was also loaded with additional fodder and veterinary supplies above those required by Australian standards.

The department said it would consider future consignments to the Middle East on a “case by case basis”.

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