PERTH, Australia (AP) — A ship carrying thousands of livestock that has been stranded at sea for almost a month has finally docked in Australia, where welfare concerns mean some of the animals are expected to be offloaded.
About 16,500 sheep and cattle have been stowed on the MV Bahijah since Jan. 5, when it sailed for the Middle East from the western Australian port of Fremantle before it was ordered by the government, two weeks into its journey, to turnaround due to the ongoing Yemen Houthi rebels attacks in the Red Sea.
Since Monday the vessel had been sitting off the west Australian coast as concerns grew for the welfare of the animals on board. It finally docked at Fremantle on Thursday, 25 days after it had set off from the same port.
Authorities are now rushing to form contingency plans for how to safely offload and quarantine at least some of the livestock with heatwave conditions in the region adding to the challenge.
On Wednesday, authorities sent two veterinarians onto the vessel to inspect the animals, but they found no significant health or welfare issues among the livestock.
“That provides additional confidence that the livestock are in good condition and have appropriate care and supervision,” said Beth Cookson, Australia’s Chief Veterinary Officer. “It also confirmed that there were no signs of exotic disease present in the livestock on board the vessel.”
The reprieve for the animals may be short-lived as authorities currently assess an application to re-export the livestock. It will likely see them at sea for another month as the MV Bahijah avoids the Red Sea by sailing around Africa to access the Suez canal ports, adding thousands of miles and more than a week to the trip.
The MV Bahijah sails under the flag of the Marshall Islands and is carrying the livestock for Israeli-based export company Bassem Dabbah, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.