A project to build a new generation of livestock ships has become a victim of the coronavirus lockdown in Italy and other parts of Europe.
Ex-Wellard boss Mauro Balzarini launched the NextSeaWell venture last year to construct LNG-powered and technically advanced ships for more humane live animal ocean transport.
He has announced work has dramatically slowed as it includes operations located near coronavirus hotspot, Milan, in northern Italy.
"The situation in Italy, coupled with the increasing global travel bans, means we've had to delay design and testing work," Mr Balzarini said.
"At this stage we don't know how long the delays will last and our primary concern is for everyone involved with the project and their families to remain safe and healthy."
Mr Balzarini said he had family members in some of Italy's most impacted regions.
Now living in New Zealand, Mr Balzarini said his ability to maintain hands-on involvement with the shipbuilding project had been severely restricted due to that country's rules on international travel.
"We understand and fully support the strict controls on people's movements that are being put into place around the world and hope the spread of the virus can be contained as soon as possible," Mr Balzarini said.
"Prior to the outbreak in Italy, we had made some exciting progress, proving that many of the advanced technologies to be implemented in our designs are even more robust than we'd initially thought.
"Testing on our new ventilation system designs, for example, indicate they will be a major step forward compared to any current systems.
"We are looking forward to getting back to work as soon as we are advised it is safe to do so."
Mr Balzarini moved to Queenstown, NZ, following a settlement with Wellard.
When he announced the NextSeaWell project he said the new vessels would be fully digitalised to provide improvements to animal welfare, better environmental performance and ensure optimum operation for better commercial outcomes.
The new ships would run on LNG, providing about a 30 per cent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions and almost totally eliminating pollutants including sulfur oxides and nitrogen oxides.
Mr Balzarini said innovation was essential for improving performance in the shipping industry as many ships now operating would soon become obsolete.
Meanwhile, the Australian Livestock Exporters Council (ALEC) is working closely with the federal Department of Agriculture and exporters to ensure the live trade can continue through the Covid-19 turmoil.
"The challenge facing the industry with two-weeks of self-isolation will be in being able to secure Australian Accredited Veterinarians (AAV) and accredited stock people to keep the trade operating at the standard we pride ourselves on," ALEC CEO Mark Harvey-Sutton said.
"ALEC is working closely with all stakeholders at this time to ensure appropriate measures are in place and the trade can continue to operate."
The ports where stockpersons are unable to disembark were returning to Australia onboard the vessel.
"The wellbeing of the crew and animal welfare is not being compromised with this current situation and exporters will continue to adapt and prepare as required.
"ALEC's understanding is that stock people are not disembarking from vessels in high risk areas and are required to self-isolate for two weeks, this self-isolation can commence once leaving the port for the journey back to Australia," he said.
"ALEC is working with exporters and vessel owners to understand what processes are in place regarding pre-boarding due diligence, hygiene for the voyage and additional measures implemented when coming into contact with one another on the vessel to support the industry in managing Covid-19."
The story Covid-19 hits project to build smarter livestock ships first appeared on Farm Online.