Officials ended a rescue operation that had saved just 254 sheep as crews prepared to remove over 14,000 of carcasses from the vessel that capsized
PortandTerminal.com, November 29, 2019
BUCHAREST, ROMANIA – A livestock vessel carrying 14,600 live sheep that was destined for a buyer in Saudi Arabia capsized on Sunday. The ship’s crew of 21 Syrians were all quickly rescued, but thousands of animals remained on board. Conflicting reports of the ship’s destination meant that at one point it was believed to have been headed to Libya, but the authorities have now confirmed that it was intended for Saudi Arabia.
For days, rescue workers searched for surviving sheep. On Sunday, they were able to pull 33 living animals from the waters. Over the following days, as they searched the vessel, more were found alive among piles of wretched carcasses.
Only 254 of the animals were rescued. The rest died a slow and terrifying death in the waters off of the Port of Midia in Romania.
The rescue operation had been made difficult by the unstable conditions onboard, officials said, and by the fact that the animals, which can weigh upward of 130 pounds, had to be brought out of the ship, one by one, through a single point.
The cause of the ship’s capsizing is still a mystery. On Monday, Romania’s transport minister, Lucian Bode, ordered an investigation, saying “we cannot allow such events to be repeated.”
The issue has sparked much-needed debate in Europe. A petition to end the trade, started by Animals International Romania has over 30,000 signatures, and an Animals Australia petition has been started calling for the rescued sheep not to be returned to the live export trade.
Shortly after the incident one animal welfare group in New Zealand to call for a complete halt to the export of live animals. New Zealand is the world’s second-largest exporter of lamb after Australia.
Francesca Porta, the farm animals program officer at the advocacy group Eurogroup for Animals in Brussels, said that one of the main problems was that vessels were often not built for the journey.
“They are old vessels that are converted to transport animals,” Ms. Porta said, adding that they are frequently overloaded. The Queen Hind, she said, had been built in 1980 and reauthorized by Romanian officials in March.
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