Meat & Livestock News

Live Export Ship Redirected to Australia Amid Rising Red Sea Tensions

A live export vessel carrying sheep and cattle, originally bound for the Middle East, has been redirected back to Australia due to escalating tensions in the Red Sea. The MV Bahijah, which set sail from the Port of Fremantle in Perth on January 5, was rerouted towards South Africa before the Federal Department of Agriculture ordered its return.

The Red Sea, a crucial maritime route from Australia to Europe and the Middle East, has seen increasing hostilities, leading to military interventions by the United States and the United Kingdom. In response to these developments, the Australian Agriculture Department issued a statement last Friday, followed by a Saturday update, directing the immediate return of the MV Bahijah to Australia.

The department’s decision was based on ensuring the health and welfare of the livestock aboard the vessel. They assessed the biosecurity risks and concluded that these could be effectively managed within Australian territory. The MV Bahijah, previously known as the Ocean Outback, was sold by Wellard to an Israeli company, Bassem Dabbah.

The decision to redirect the ship also considered the growing importance of food security. Live exports to Israel and other Middle Eastern regions had increased in the latter half of the previous year, with sheep and cattle prices becoming competitive with European livestock.

The Australian industry had been vigilantly monitoring the situation in the Red Sea and had taken precautionary measures, including loading the MV Bahijah with additional fodder and veterinary supplies and making contingency plans.

However, the RSPCA, as reported by ABC, called for a further step – a voluntary suspension of all shipping to the region. Contrarily, Australian Live Exporters’ Council CEO Mark Harvey-Sutton advocated for assessing ships on an individual basis, considering the complexity of shipping to Red Sea destinations. He emphasised the importance of food security as a key factor in live export decisions, especially during times of geopolitical tension.

The Australian Government remains attentive to the situation, prioritising the health and welfare of the animals on board. The MV Bahijah had departed with comprehensive arrangements in place, including additional supplies and a registered veterinarian and accredited stock person on board.

The vessel’s diversion from the Red Sea was a decision made under the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Convention and the International Safety Management Code, prioritising the safety of the vessel and its cargo.

The department continues to closely monitor the consignment, reporting no significant animal health or welfare concerns at present. Future consignments to the region will be considered on a case-by-case basis.