Livestock Carrier Permitted by Australia to Sail to Israel Avoiding Red Sea

livestock carrier
Bahijah docked in Fremantle, Australia (port webcam)

Published Mar 1, 2024 2:10 PM by The Maritime Executive

The saga of the Australian live export of sheep and cattle continues with news that the vessel which was turned back in January has again been given permission to sail with a newly loaded cargo for Israel. The vessel, the Bahijah, was ordered to return to Australia in mid-January when the shipping company decided the risk was too high for the vessel to transit the Red Sea.

Australia’s Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry reported today that it has approved a notice of intention to export a consignment of livestock to Israel on the Bahijah. “The exporter intends to transport the livestock to Israel without passing through the Red Sea,” they wrote in the official notice.

The 7,900 dwt vessel moved back into the port at Fremantle yesterday to prepare for a new voyage. Media reports are that the ship was loading fodder and supplies which was expected to be completed today and then the loading of the animals will begin. The reports are that 14,000 sheep and 1,000 cattle will be reloaded after having spent the past three weeks in quarantine in Australia. In addition, approximately 1,000 cattle will be transported.

Animal rights groups renewed their protests calling the plan cruel. Instead of the normal two-week trip, it is now expected that the vessel will travel for up to 30 days and may be required to load foreign supplies. The previous attempt to follow the route around South Africa had met with various problems and ultimately saw the vessel return to Fremantle where there were further delays in offloading the animals. The Australian authorities reported that in the more than a month the animals were aboard the ship four cattle and 64 sheep died and a further seven cattle and six sheep died on land, rates “below the reportable mortality levels.”

It began on January 5, when the department granted an export permit and health certificates for approximately 2,000 cattle and 14,000 sheep. The initial consignment was loaded and departed from Fremantle intending to travel directly to Israel through the Red Sea. The exporter on January 12 reported that it planned to divert the ship away from the Red Sea transit and requested permission to load additional fodder and supplies in South Africa. 

Both Australia and Israel objected to the plan to load foreign fodder and as a series of challenges emerged Australia recalled the Bahijah on January 19. The exporter then requested departmental approval, upon arrival back to Australia, to load fodder, chaff, bedding, and additional veterinary medication to the Bahijah and that the vessel be permitted to immediately recommence the voyage to Israel traveling via the Cape of Good Hope.

As further objections and legal challenges emerged, it was finally decided to offload the animals back into Australia which was completed by February 12. One of the key concerns was if the vessel was permitted to proceed the animals might have been aboard for as long as 60 days.