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Live Animal Export: Loaded sheep ship capsizes, 13,567 sheep drown

Live Animal Export: Loaded sheep ship capsizes, 13,567 sheep drown
November 25th, 2019

Dr Lynn Simpson questions what the EU will do in the wake of yet another livestock shipping tragedy yesterday.

How long will authorities allow this madness to continue? Romania and the EU are yet again under the global spotlight with animal welfare failure. Romanian farmers are outraged, and welfare groups are yet again proven right- Live export is cruel, dangerous and unnecessary.

Yesterday another livestock carrier capsized whilst leaving the Romanian port of Midia. The 1980-built, converted roro, Queen Hind Queen Hind, was freshly loaded with 14,600 sheep when she began her journey. The vessel experienced “maneuvering issues” and capsized only a few hundred meters away from the wharf.

Something went terribly wrong as the Queen Hind was still in the calm and relatively safe waters of the port.

However, anyone who follows shipping knows that there is never truly anywhere safe for livestock on ships. Of the 14,600 sheep- 33 survived. All 22 of the Syrian crew survived with one member being treated for hypothermia.

This event is reminiscent of what could have happened to the Jawan when she left the Port of Portland, Australia nearly one year ago to the day. On November 22, 2018 the Jawan left port rolling heavily, nearly capsizing fully loaded with 4,327 cattle onboard.

A multi-agency investigation found multiple issues causing the near disaster, namely overloading.

Here’s hoping the EU authorities will thoroughly investigate the cause of this maritime disaster.

This event highlights the inherent dangers of taking livestock to sea. Capsizing, sinking, collisions, fires, mechanical failures, and rough weather are all guilty of killing livestock at sea: A place they do not belong.

The EU will be under massive pressure now to ensure disasters such as this do not occur again. However, there is a horrible history of these events.

Previous shipping disasters that haunt the live export trade include the following:

2018: November – Jawan rolls dangerously leaving her berth, returns to be unloaded to prevent capsizing.
2017: Youseff H – Left the Port of Media and collided with a Russian Navy vessel, sinking the Russian vessel with all crew requiring rescue.
2016: A ship carrying about 3,000 sheep encounters rough weather with an ensuing fire, all 3,000 sheep are burnt to death and the ship sunk off of Somalia.
2015: The Haider capsizes carrying 5,000 cattle whilst still tied up in port in Brazil. Majority of the cattle drown.
2009: The Danny F flounders in heavy weather off of Lebanon, loses power and sinks. 44 of 83 crew and all 10,224 sheep, and 17,932 cattle drown.
1996: The Uniceb catches fire at sea, and sinks. All 67,488 sheep die.
1996: The Guernsey Express sinks in a typhoon, all 1,592 cattle onboard are lost off of Japan.
1991: Cormo Express, 10,000 sheep die due to reported mechanical ventilation failure when sailing from New Zealand to the Middle East.
1985: Fernanda F, 15,000 sheep perish from “heat exhaustion”.
1981: 635 sheep die during transhipment between the Al Khaleej and the Al Shuwaikh.
1980: 40,605 perish in a fire on the Farid Fares at sea.
1975: The infamous Achille Lauro collided with the livestock carrier Youssef sending her to the bottom of the sea.

How many more of these disasters go unknown to the ‘outside world’? How many ships that are declared ‘lost/decommissioned’ are simply sunken graves full of animal bones that have been hidden from the public?

The Queen Hind has been partially righted and towed away now, presumably to unload the dead sheep. This is an awful job.

The sea water around Port Midia yesterday was only 14 degrees Celsius. Any sheep that didn’t drown in the initial flooding of decks would have died from a combination of hypothermia and exhaustion.

When I have had hypothermic deaths on ships they present a different range of issues to the more common hyper-thermic/heat stress corpses crew must deal with. The water in the wool makes the weight immense, the ‘dead weight’ is exacerbated. The crew or workers brought in for this ‘cleanup’ will be working in a labyrinth of decks and railings that is difficult to negotiate with a wheelbarrow, let alone any heavy machinery. The bodies will initially be in a state of rigour mortis making the handling difficult depending how ‘laced’ all the bodies are with each other, assuming that they will have been thrown around inside the hull and no longer in their original loaded pen. Images showing dead sheep piled up against the ships railings with stiff legs sticking up like bristles from a weird sea creature give an indication of what is inside.

With luck, outside help will be brought in to assist the crew. However; a job like this does not leave people ‘untouched’.

The fear the crew and sheep would have experienced in the initial capsize will be validated further when they see the fate that could have been them had they been trapped in the lower decks like the sheep were. A 0.2% survival rate is no way for a ‘live’ export ship to return to Port.

Sailing through rough weather in the Great Australian Bight once, my ship was pounded with huge waves that flooded upper decks. These waves resulted in many deaths from hypothermia and crushing injuries. As we worked to unstack the dead and dying sheep another wave came through and picked up a crewmember working next to me. His body was thrown into a gate pin that had minutes earlier ripped a sheep open from sternum to thigh. The crewmember followed suit, however this time only overalls were ripped open, he was knocked unconscious and taken away in a trough as an emergency gurney. I asked after his health offering to help with my medical and surgical training and was told he was fine. I never saw him again; that was day one of a 35-day voyage.

I think that chief officer and I have a very different definition of “fine”. Was his body in the freezer? No one would tell me.
How many gut wrenching reminders does our ‘civilized’ world need to conclude that the transport of live animals by sea is ridiculously dangerous, unnatural and belongs only in history books. If live exporters really think animal and crew welfare are paramount there is only one way to ensure it. Ban the live export of mass numbers of livestock by sea.

Don’t be fooled when you hear people saying it’s only the old ships that pose a danger. New, ‘purpose-built’ vessels have had horrendous mortalities on their maiden voyages. There is no way to transport large numbers of animals by sea and be financially viable, corners are cut, animals and crew suffer as a result.

When will authorities grow a backbone, stop supporting this trade and transition to a chilled and frozen meat trade only?