Thousands of animals are trapped in sealed boats due to the delinquency of the Evergreen River in the Suez Canal

Container ship Evergiven in the Suez Canal, Egypt. March 24, 2021. Suez Canal Authority / Newsletter via Reuters

Of all the millions of tons of cargo that accumulate in the Suez Canal, none is more sensitive than the animals crammed into the hulls of many ships.

Little information is available as neither canal officials nor marine sector managers are willing to speak, but data compiled by Bloomberg indicates that as many as 10 ships stuck in and around the canal can carry thousands of livestock.. Given their itinerary from Europe to Saudi Arabia, they are more likely to take sheep. Seven of the ships bound for Jordan with 92,000 head of cattle.

While most of the lost cargo are commodities, such as oil, which can be stored on ships for long periods, Cattle need food and water, and these deliveries usually take enough for a few more days. This could create an awkward situation for ships to find food supplies at a local port, or force them to turn around. People familiar with the matter said it could take at least a week to evacuate the ship blocking the canal, longer than initially expected.

“I don’t expect that after a two-day delay, a problem could build up,” said Peter Stevenson, head of policy at Compassion in World Farming, which has called for an end to shipping of live animals. “With time the problems get worse. From time to time, there are real scandals when things go wrong, but this is daily horror.”

Cattle can also be transported by sea, and ships often carry more hay or fodder for two or three daysAccording to Bob Bishop, president of the Livestock Exporters Association of America if they run out, they can get more in the port while refueling. He said that a ship that could not reach the berth could be fed from a barge in what is known as “intermediate cargo”.

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Seven livestock ships that were scheduled to arrive in Aqaba on March 21 are suspended near the Suez Canal. Captain George Dahdal, representative of the Jordan Navigation Association, said by phone.

“If he runs out of food, I will look forward to getting into the port and bringing in more feed,” Bishop said by phone from New York. He added, “If I were the owner of sheep, I would try to find a country that needs sheep.” “The shortest way is back to Romania.”

At least 10 ships designed to ship animals parked near the closed canalSeveral of them appear to be on their way between Romania and Saudi Arabia, according to ship data compiled by Bloomberg. And those leaving the European country may transport the sheep that Saudi Arabia buys to slaughter the animals according to their religious preferences. Those traveling the other way could be empty ships.

The Middle Eastern country is the largest importer of sheep in the world by a large margin, according to United Nations data. But the trade route sometimes ran into disaster. Media reported at the time that about 14,000 sheep shipped from Romania to Saudi Arabia were killed when a ship partially capsized in 2019. Rescuers only managed to save just over 200 animals.

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Ships crowded with thousands of sheep and long voyages increase the risk of disease and stressSaid Stevenson of the Humane Group. He said that some of the ships used to transport the animals have also been diverted for other purposes that are not the most appropriate. It can be difficult to reverse course after departure due to health regulations.

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Bishop said that livestock mortality rates are usually not higher at sea than on land, and that most ships have a veterinarian.

According to Bishop, a US shipment of dairy cows left the port of Galveston in Texas late last year, bound for Pakistan via the Suez Canal. He said another recent shipment of American cattle left the west coast for Pakistan, avoiding Suez because of the toll.

“After this container ship, we might see more and more of that,” he said.

With information from Bloomberg

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Freddie Dawson

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