THE Awassi Express, the vessel at the centre of the latest live export turmoil, continues to sit in Fremantle Port.
The vessel has been delayed from leaving Fremantle Port while the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) waits for the owner of the Panama-flagged livestock carrier to conduct third party ventilation testing on the ship.
The vessel was scheduled to leave port on April 9, with 57,000 sheep and 250 cattle bound for the Middle East before the delays occurred.
AMSA will not renew the ship’s Australian Certificate for the Carriage of Livestock (ACCL) unless it is satisfied the ship complies with Marine Order 43, including requirements for minimum air flow across all areas of the livestock pens.
AMSA understands the ship’s owner, Awassi Shipping SA, made arrangements for a ventilation technician from the manufacturer to assess the ship’s ventilation systems on Wednesday, April 11.
AMSA understands the technician will be undertaking adjustment work on the ship’s ventilation systems prior to the owner engaging a third party to conduct comprehensive ventilation testing.
This work is expected to take several days to complete, and at the time of Farm Weekly going to press the vessel remains in port.
Two weeks ago, 60 Minutes footage, supplied by Animals Australia, showed heat-stressed sheep dying aboard the Awassi Express.
Additional footage has since been released of a breach of the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System (ESCAS) outside the abattoir of Qatari importer, Widam Foods, where an abattoir employee was filmed mistreating sheep.
The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources said it was investigating the allegations, which included “apparent on-selling of sheep to private buyers from the approved supply chain, and mishandling of sheep at an ESCAS approved abattoir in Qatar”.
Animals Australia has a campaign against the live export trade on its website, and has also taken to social media to drum up support for their cause.
A petition against the trade has been posted on Change.org, which has already attracted more than 150,000 supporters.
Animals Australia’s Lyn White said it had also “written to the secretary of the Department of Agriculture seeking answers as to why Emanuel Exports hasn’t had their export licence suspended”.
“The Secretary has the power to suspend an export licence if conditions of that licence have been breached,” Ms White said.
“The Department is in possession of evidence confirming comprehensive breaches by this exporter, which on top of a history of non-compliance in importing countries, warrants the strongest possible Departmental response.”
RSPCA Australia has also written to the Federal Department of Agriculture and all major live exporter companies, proposing to place an RSPCA observer – independent of government and industry – on at least the next eight long-haul live sheep shipments.
RSPCA Australia chief scientist and strategy officer Dr Bidda Jones said “at this point in time, we are very concerned the Department is making decisions that do not reflect the gravity of the situation or the seriousness of the risks to animal health and welfare”.
“The Department has already granted an export permit for the MV Maysora, which left under cover of darkness early Thursday morning crammed full with around 77,000 sheep and 9500 cattle,” she said.
The Maysora left Fremantle on April 12, on its way to Turkey via Egypt, which is one of the longest voyages for live animal exports – of up to 31 days.
The Al Messilah, another livestock carrier operating under a Kuwaiti flag, has docked in Fremantle prior to returning to the Middle East.
Ms Jones said the MV Bader III, another livestock carrier, was expected to arrive for loading in Fremantle on Friday.
“The only change is the presence of a Departmental observer on board the Maysora, and as yet, it’s unclear how much information they’ll be able to share,” she said.
“Otherwise, it’s business as usual for the live exporters.”
Ms Jones said there was a need to “make sure farmers and the public are not let down again, and that the welfare of these animals is properly monitored”.
The RSPCA was concerned for the welfare of the livestock on board because “there is only one veterinarian on-board (the Maysora) responsible for the health and welfare of over 86,000 animals”.
“We’ve been advised that WA government representatives inspected the ship and we remain very keen to see the report on their findings,” Ms Jones said.
Emanuel Exports has complied with all government requirements since the incident and has chosen to remain silent on the issue until the investigation into their shipment last year is concluded.