Sheep ship involved in horror Middle East voyage banned

EXCLUSIVE, Nick ButterlyThe West Australian
The Al Messilah was stripped of its licence to export live animals as it was preparing to take 75,000 sheep at Fremantle harbour.
Camera IconThe Al Messilah was stripped of its licence to export live animals as it was preparing to take 75,000 sheep at Fremantle harbour. Credit: Ian Munro

A live export vessel involved in a disastrous voyage to the Middle East has been slapped with a temporary ban from operating after an investigation found a series of defects aboard the ship.

The West Australian revealed this year how hundreds of sheep died of heat exhaustion during a trip from Fremantle to the Persian Gulf aboard the 37-year-old Al Messilah.

Documents obtained under freedom of information gave grim details of how the crew struggled to dispose of the mounting number of rotting carcases during the 2016 shipment as they disintegrated in the intense heat of the Middle Eastern summer.

In the wake of the case, Transport Minister Darren Chester said the Australian Maritime Safety Authority would review Marine Order 43, which governs the age of export ships as well as welfare conditions for animals being carried.

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The episode also prompted WA Agriculture Minister Alannah MacTiernan to seek advice from the Solicitor-General about whether State animal cruelty laws could be used against exporters in extreme cases.

AMSA said an inspection of Al Messilah at Fremantle on October 20 found “a number of issues” and it withdrew the vessel’s certification to carry livestock until repairs were done.

An AMSA spokesman said inspectors found holes corroded in the decks and bulkheads as well as wastage of the supporting structure.

Multiple issues were found with electrical cabling. There was an unserviceable generator and poor quality repairs had been made through the livestock decks. The vessel was berthed in Fremantle to carry 75,000 animals to the Middle East.

The sheep were not aboard the ship when it failed the AMSA inspection.

“AMSA does not allow non-complaint ships to carry livestock from Australia,” a spokesman for the agency said.

AMSA said it was still awaiting confirmation from the vessel operator on how they intended to address the issues.

Graham Daws, managing director of Perth exporter Emanuel, said the sheep would be put on another vessel on its way to Fremantle.

He rejected suggestions the failed inspection supported concerns the vessel was too old and unsuited for live export work.

“The age of a vessel has nothing to do with its seaworthiness,” he said.

“It’s the maintenance the owner puts into it.”

Al Messilah was on an export run for Emanuel during last year’s incident. A report filed to the Federal Government on the episode noted the vessel was a converted car carrier with no open decks and no exposure to wind and sea spray.

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