Russian Class Used by Activists to Block Livestock Carrier from Ireland

livestock carrier
Livestock carrier Sarah M was blocked due to its Russian class (DMS Lines file photo)

Published May 8, 2024 5:13 PM by The Maritime Executive


A livestock carrier is lingering off Spain awaiting orders after the vessel was denied entry into Ireland for a scheduled export voyage. An animal activist group cleverly used the sanctions against Russia and the fact that the ship had recently switched to the Russian classification society to get the ship barred from the trade she has been involved in for a few years.

“The Sarah M didn’t dock at Greenore, it turned around and scuttled away empty,” Ethical Farming Ireland announced on social media. “Shortly after we posted on Tuesday, and sent off a bunch of emails to various authorities, the Sarah M left Irish waters, turned east into international waters, and then put down anchor.”

A 45-year-old 1,600 dwt vessel, the Sarah M is representative of the trade and the complaints that persist among animal rights groups as they seek to end the live export trade. The vessel was built in 1979 as a refrigerated carrier and converted in 2014, later in her career, to the livestock trade. She has a total pen area of 2,900 cubic meters (permitting her to carry 2,000 or more cattle) and is approved for livestock transport from Ireland and the United States.

Ethical Farming Ireland spotted in the records that the vessel despite operating since 2019 as the Sarah M in March 2024 switched flags from Panama to Antigua and Barbuda. It also moved from the Polish class society to the Russian Maritime Register of Shipping. That provided the opening for the activists who quickly highlighted to the Irish authorities that the April 2023 EU sanctions imposed on Russia included a provision to block any vessel in the Russian class from EU ports.

The ship was due to reach Greenore on Ireland’s northeastern coast on April 30 to export 2,000 young bulls. It would have been at least the vessel’s second export trip of 2024 having taken 1,200 heavy bulls from Ireland to Algeria in January with the vessel’s operator telling the agricultural authorities it was sourcing another load of cattle for a follow-on trip.

The vessel has had past problems with the authorities. Ireland’s Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine in the past revoked the operation license of Sarah M for breach of regulations before being re-granted. In late 2019, the vessel made a trip for its prior owner, Beirut Shipping Company, but then suddenly changed ownership to DMS Lines, also in Lebanon. Media reports were that the prior owner had its license revoked because of a low-performance rating. The Agricultural authority opted to remain silent on the latest incident.

“Yet again the Irish authorities thought they were above the law and tried to allow a vessel certified by RMRS (Russia) to enter Irish shores for a shipment of cattle to who knows where. But we put a stop to that,” said Ethical Farming Ireland in its latest Facebook post. It added that by stopping the loading of 2,000 young bulls, it has saved the livestock from a “gruesome sea journey.”

Cattle export is a big business in Ireland with the authorities reporting a 14 percent increase in the trade last year. The agricultural authorizes report 332,000 animals were exported from Ireland valued at over $200 million.

The Sarah M arrived yesterday at anchor off Cartagena, Spain. Its future is uncertain with the AIS signal showing it is waiting for orders.