LIVESTOCK export company Wellard had something to celebrate on Monday after its new vessel, the MV Ocean Swagman, commenced its maiden voyage from Fremantle to Jakarta, Indonesia, carrying 5500 cattle, and setting new welfare and safety benchmarks for livestock, vessel and crew.
The newest and most technologically advanced livestock vessel in the world, the Swagman has the capacity to carry 6000 cattle or 25000 sheep and took four years to build using about 7000 workers.
It cost more than $40 million and comprises many new and improved features designed to lift the standards and welfare of live export.
And if that's not enough, Drydocks World of Singapore, which built the vessel, is in the final stages of constructing a sister vessel, MV Ocean Outback, which will be launched later this year.
Wellard executive director Steve Meerwald said the launch was a big step for the company.
"The quality we wanted to build is what we now have," Mr Meerwald said.
"It adds 180,000 head capacity to vessels bound for South East Asia which frees up other vessels to make longer voyages, giving us flexibility."
The impressive features include a Dual Independent Propulsion System, comprising separate engine rooms and propellers which provide levels of redundancy, and therefore safety, rarely seen in cruise liners and never before built into livestock vessels.
"If one of the systems fails, the other will automatically kick in," Mr Meerwald said.
"The engines could almost run unmanned - there doesn't need to be someone in the engine room 24/7."
The advanced ventilation system fans an average of 110 air changes per hour, four times the Australian standard and 3.5 times the number of air changes per hour on a commercial airliner, and through four reverse osmosis desalinisation plants, the vessel can produce 320,000 litres of fresh water per day.
"The automated watering and feeding is a good initiative because the animals can feed without having to wait for people," Mr Meerwald said.
Its extensive feed, water and fuel systems, combined with a fast 17 knot cruising speed, will enable the vessel to complete non-stop voyages to distant destinations, such as Fremantle to Novorossysk, Russia, in 18 days, compared to the 30-day voyages experienced by other vessels.
"A lot of other ships can't do that in that amount of time without stopping," Mr Meerwald said.
Mr Meerwald said the MV Ocean Swagman's maiden voyage was typical of the investment and innovation which put it at the forefront of the industry.
"This investment is more than just the construction of a ship, it is an investment in the future of Australia's livestock industry," he said.
WA Liberal Senator Chris Back, who used to be involved in the live sheep and cattle trade in the late 1980s and still has a strong interest in rural affairs, said the completion of the MV Ocean Swagman is a landmark for the industry.
"Australia is setting the standards of shipping," Dr Back said.
"This ship is state of the art compared to the ships I saw in the 1980s.
"There are fantastic features that demonstrate high standards and the conditions are very, very good."
Dr Back said there will always be a demand for live meat and Australia is able to produce a quality product.
Wellard chairman Mauro Balzarini said the MV Ocean Swagman was part of the next generation in livestock vessel design and construction.
"It is a state of the art livestock carrier which we are extremely proud of at Wellard, and will ensure more than ever that our livestock are delivered safely and in excellent condition," Mr Balzarini said.
"While the launch of the MV Ocean Swagman means the MV Ocean Drover (formerly the MV Becrux) loses its mantle as the world's most technologically advanced livestock carrier, it is extremely rewarding that the honour remains in the Wellard fleet."
The MV Ocean Swagman has been classified by the Registro Italiano Navale (RINA) as a 'Green Star Vessel', due to its low emissions and pollution prevention design and systems.
Both the MV Ocean Swagman and the MV Ocean Outback will become regular fixtures at Australian ports, loading quality Australian livestock to supply to international markets.