A LIVESTOCK carrier that departed Fremantle in early January with sheep and cattle for the Middle East has been directed to return to Australia by the federal government.

Late last week the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry said it was monitoring the 2010-built, Marshall Islands-flagGED Bahijah which sailed from Fremantle on 5 January for Aqaba, Jordan. Eleven days into its voyage the ship diverted from its destination due to the Red Sea security situation and AIS reported it was headed for East London in South Africa.

At the time of departure from WA, DAFF was satisfied that the arrangements for the transport of the livestock were appropriate to ensure their health and welfare. 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.

The exporter also loaded additional fodder and veterinary supplies above those required by Australian Standards for the Export of Livestock for the proposed voyage.  A registered veterinarian and an accredited stockperson are on board the vessel, accompanying the consignment to attend to the health and welfare of the livestock.

A range of contingency options remained open to the exporter, which would be reviewed by the department as they were submitted. “The department is monitoring the consignment closely and no significant animal health or welfare concerns have been reported at this time,” it said on Friday.

However, on Saturday afternoon (20 January) DAFF directed the exporter that Bahijah and its consignment be immediately returned to Australia.

“In making this decision the department considered the biosecurity risks associated with the livestock and the vessel and has not identified any basis on which these could not be managed within Australian territory,” the department said.

“The welfare of the livestock and protecting Australia’s biosecurity remain the department’s top priorities.”

Bahijah, formerly Wellard’s Ocean Outback, is registered to Bassem Dabbah Shipping Inc and commercially operated by Korkyra Shipping of Croatia. It can carry approximately 8000 animals.