Livestock vessel diverts away from Red Sea

Livestock carrier Bahijah (IMO 9360788), carrying Australian sheep and some cattle, has diverted towards Africa.

The ship had left Fremantle, Western Australia on January 5th with its named destination being Aqaba, Jordan’s port in the northern Red Sea close to Eilat, Israel. After 11 days, on Tuesday January 16th, the ship elected to change course away from the route to the Red Sea. This might in part be due to the ship having previously transported animals to Israel. Last Tuesday it changed course, heading for East London in South Africa, according to shipping data compiled by Bloomberg. Its AIS destination is “awaiting orders”.

The change is significant in that it was the first indication that, as a result of the Red Sea situation, ships loaded with animals could be diverted and therefore face a longer time at sea.

The Australian federal government said that the vessel has diverted away from the Red Sea due to the worsening security situation, adding that to date there had not been any “significant” welfare concerns reported.

Livestock, primarily sheep, that are exported via Fremantle are often sent to Jordan ahead of Ramadan, which this year starts in March. Parts of the Middle East require live animals rather than meat because wholesalers, retailers and consumers require assurance that the animals have been slaughtered in compliance with religious ritual.

Suzanne Fowler, chief science officer at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Australia, called for exporters of live animals to suspend voyages to destinations in or near regions of conflict. “This redirection will likely prolong an already long and arduous journey,” she said.

As a condition of departure, the exporter was required to lodge contingency arrangements should the vessel not be able to reach the proposed destination in the Middle East.

Australia’s Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) said that when the carrier departed Fremantle the department was satisfied that the arrangements for the transport of the livestock were appropriate to ensure their health and welfare.

Mark Harvey-Sutton, CEO at the Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council, told Bloomberg that “all Australian livestock consignments have reserve fodder on board as well as Australian Government accredited veterinarians and stock hands that are responsible for constantly monitoring the welfare of animals on board”.

The Bahijah (7,900 dwt) has seven decks, four enclosed and three open, for the carriage of up to approximately 8,000 head of livestock. It operates with a crew of 35. The Bahijah is listed as part of Korkyra’s fleet on the company’s website. It states that it has a cargo capacity of around 8,000 cattle or sheep.

2010-built, Marshall Islands-flagged, 13,016 gt Bahijah is owned by Bassem Dabbah Shipping Inc care of manager Korkyra Shipping Ltd of Korcula, Croatia. It is entered with Thomas Miller Specialty on behalf of Korkyra Shipping DOO. As of January 15th the vessel was in the South Indian Ocean, awaiting orders.