Australia Recalls Livestock Carrier Due to Red Sea Security Concerns

livestock carrier
Bahijah in Fremantle in 2018 (Bahnfrend - CC BY-SA 4.0 DEED)

Published Jan 22, 2024 7:17 PM by The Maritime Executive


A carrier loaded with livestock headed for the Middle East has been recalled to Australia because of the security problems in the Red Sea. Australia’s Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry decided on Saturday, January 20, to bring an end to the saga and uncertainty after media reports surfaced that the vessel loaded with as many as 8,000 sheep and cattle was diverting for a trip around Africa.

“To ensure the health and welfare of the livestock on the MV Bahijah, the department directed the exporter that the consignment be immediately returned to Australia,” the Australian authorities said in a brief update on the situation aboard the livestock carrier which had departed Fremantle on January 5. The authorities had said it was “satisfied that the arrangements for the transport of the livestock were appropriate to ensure their health and welfare,” when the voyage commenced.

The live export of animals remains a highly controversial business that activists have been lobbying to end. Australia previously imposed strict limits on the business which were objected to by the ranchers and export industry. The Australian government hopes to phase out the business entirely after scandals about the safety of the animals and reports of animals being inhumanly handled during the voyages. In 2020, the industry suffered further negative attention when a laden carrier was lost in a storm off Japan.

Despite all the objections to the industry, no one could have anticipated the latest problem. The Bahijab is a relatively modern vessel built in 2010 and registered in the Marshall Islands. It is managed out of Croatia but data surfaced the vessel is controlled by an Israeli slaughterhouse. The vessel has made trips to Israel but was heading to Jordan with the latest consignment of animals. 

With the Houthis targeting vessels transiting the Red Sea associated with Israel fears emerged for the safety of the carrier with 35 crew and the livestock aboard. The vessel’s last reported position on AIS was nearly a week ago and then it was in the South Indian Ocean south of the Maldives. The AIS reads “waiting for orders,” but reports at the end of last week said it would be diverting for the trip around Africa.

Australian authorities reported that the exporter had loaded additional fodder and veterinary supplies and that there was a registered veterinarian and an accredited stockperson on board the vessel. They reported that they were monitoring the situation while saying there were a range of contingency options open to the exporter, which would be reviewed by the department when they are submitted.

After meeting with various organizations, the department said it had determined that Australia could manage any biosecurity risks associated with the livestock and the vessel. They said it was in the best interest of the crew and the animals to recall the consignment.  

Top photo of Bahijah in Fremantle in 2018 by Bahnfrend (CC BY-SA 4.0 DEED)