The livestock carrier Greyman Express has opened up a new market for Australian livestock with a shipment of 2,760 Australian cattle to Sihanoukville, Cambodia. The voyage, in June, marked the start of a cattle trade between Australia and Cambodia and was the first delivery of beef cows from the country nation since Phnom Penh and Canberra finalized health protocols two years ago.
Greyman Express is one of seven next‐generation livestock vessels built in China for Livestock Express, a Vroon company. The vessels incorporate a bow design that aims to maximize comfort for crew and animals. The design offers significant fuel saving, while still maintaining a high service speed of approximately 16.75 knots in heavy weather.
The vessel also boasts optimal pen arrangements guarantee smooth loading and discharging, whilst providing all livestock with easy access to water and fodder.
The vessel has a cargo capacity of approximately 4,600m2, with a cruising range of around 18,000 nautical miles, sufficient for a voyage from Brazil to China and back without refuelling. The cargo areas are fitted with animal welfare services (ventilation/watering/feeding) that exceed Australian Maritime Safety Authority regulations, considered to be the world’s most stringent.
The last of the seven newbuilds, Gudali Express, was named at Cosco Shipyard in Guangdong, China, in July.
Destined for China
Livestock shipping company Wellard has also recently launched a new vessel claimed to be the world's largest and fastest purpose-built livestock carrier.
The nine-deck Ocean Shearer, is capable of carrying 20,000 head of cattle and will predominantly be used to transport cattle to China. Following approvals last year of a live cattle trade to China, Wellard expects the Ocean Shearer to deliver at least two shipments of Australian cattle before the end of 2016.
A lack of infrastructure in Asia has so far held back the business. Chinese biosecurity regulations mean that all Australian live cattle can only be kept and processed in new feedlots and meatworks purpose-built for the trade and located no more than 50 kilometers from the coast, reports Australia’s Farm Weekly.
In a joint venture with Chinese-owned company Fulida, Wellard is building two feedlots that will initially suit its vessels Ocean Swagman and Ocean Outback. A planned expansion will enable Ocean Shearer to join the trade.
At least two other Chinese companies are also in the process of constructing similar coastal plants. Wellard CEO Mauro Balzarini said his company’s investment in China and the Ocean Shearer demonstrate his confidence in the live trade industry.
A New Port for Malaysian Trade
Meanwhile, the northern Queensland port of Karumba in the Gulf of Carpentaria has been dredged to allow for livestock carriers. The future of the port had been under threat due to the closure of a local mine, but a government-funded dredging project has seen the port handle its first shipment of cattle to Malaysia.
The proximity of the port to local farms saves the exporters from having to truck animals long distances to Darwin or Townsville.
Cruelty in Vietnam
However, despite expansion of the Asia trade, the industry has come under criticism in Australia. In June Australia's peak animal welfare group, the RSPCA, called for the suspension of the live cattle trade after film was released showing what appears to be Australian cattle being bludgeoned to death with a sledgehammer in a Vietnamese abattoir.
The ABC obtained the film from undercover investigators hired by Animals Australia. It showing a worker in an unauthorized abattoir clubbing cattle over the head several times. The animals died a slow, agonizing death, says Animals Australia.
RSPCA chairman Gary Humphries said the system Australia has engineered to prevent atrocities occurring against animals is not working. He has called for a suspension of the trade of live animals to Vietnam until Australia can be satisfied that the animal welfare standards it’s attempted to impose are actually being enforced.
The footage prompted the Australian Government to launch an investigation.To date, the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources has directed two Australian livestock exporters to cease supply to Vietnam until effective measures have been put in place to address animal control, traceability and verification processes.