Cattle Offloaded from Disabled Livestock Carrier
The livestock carrier Nine Eagle suffered a major engine failure in the Port of Darwin, Australia, on May 15, while loaded with approximately 1,800 cattle.
The Nine Eagle, built in 2006, is a converted general cargo ship currently flagged by Panama. The vessel was headed to Indonesia on charter for Perth-based company Livestock Shipping Services.
The sourcing of parts to repair the engine is taking longer than anticipated, so the cattle were unloaded on May 21 and transported to a Pre-export Quarantine Facility where they will remain subject to biosecurity control until they can be exported.
As well as animal welfare concerns, the ABC reports that the accumulation of manure onboard was a factor in the decision to unload the animals. It cannot be legally discharged into Darwin Harbour.
While delayed in port, the cattle were inspected daily by Department of Agriculture veterinarians, in addition to ongoing monitoring by the exporter. They reportedly remained in good health.
Both the Department of Agriculture and the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) are monitoring the situation and working cooperatively with the Master and the Port of Darwin. Once completed, the ship repairs will be verified by a class surveyor, prior to departure.
Australia has a reputation for enforcing some of the strictest safety standards in the world for livestock carriers. In January 2021, the Marshall Islands flagged livestock carrier Barkly Pearl was issued with a two-year ban from Australia and was removed from Australian waters on a heavy lift ship. The vessel had sustained damage to its hull was listing heavily, and AMSA said at the time that there were significant concerns for the integrity of the vessel and its ability to safely reach its destination, Indonesia.
Following that incident, AMSA conducted a focus inspection campaign on livestock carriers between March and August 2021, concluding that the deficiencies observed during a relatively low number of inspections was a concern. The purpose of the campaign was to determine the level of compliance with maintenance and repair requirements of international conventions and to ensure masters, officers and operators of livestock carriers are complying with specific requirements of Marine Order 43 for ships that hold an Australian Certificate for the Carriage of Livestock.
COVID lockdowns limited the number of ships that could be inspected, but AMSA managed to inspect 14 out of 26 livestock carriers that visited Australia during the period. AMSA found one ship that did not use accurate values for the calculation of ship stability for its voyage. One ship had made changes to structural arrangements onboard that were not sanctioned by the ships flag administration, and one ship’s crew were not familiar with onboard procedures to restore power.
A study published in Animals in 2021 examined onboard observer reports from 37 live cattle export voyages from Australia to China between July 2018 to December 2019 and found evidence of poor ship infrastructure or mechanical breakdowns on over 60% of the voyages. For example, the main engine of the Ganado Express broke down in June 2019, and the Galloway Express and Girolando Express both suffered mechanical issues that year.
The September 2020 sinking of the Gulf Livestock 1 on a voyage from New Zealand to China highlights the repetitive nature of mechanical problems experienced on some livestock carriers, stated the study. In May 2019, the vessel’s departure from Australia was delayed by AMSA due to navigation and stability issues, and in June 2019, the main engine failed, leaving the vessel adrift for around 25 hours. In August 2020, the main engine failed again, and the vessel had to be towed by the Philippines Navy. In September 2020, the vessel, carrying 43 crew and 5,867 New Zealand dairy cattle, sunk after experiencing engine failure in typhoon conditions.