Livestock Carrier Ensnared in Legal Battle in South Africa

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The livestock carrier Al Messilah has been delayed at the port of East London, South Africa due to a legal dispute over whether she may load a cargo of South African sheep.

The South African National Council of Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NSPCA) recently filed suit to block the Al Messilah’s voyage. On June 10, the NGO secured an injunction from the Grahamstown High Court to prevent the Al Messilah from loading until after a hearing on July 16. The Al Messilah’s operator and the cargo owner – Kuwaiti meat supplier Al Mawashi – may not transport any sheep from the feedlot or export any sheep from South Africa until after the outcome of the hearing.

“Although this fight is far from over, we are overjoyed with this victory,” said Marcelle Meredith, the NSPCA’s executive director. “We thank our supporters for their continued support and faith in our organization.”

Al Mawashi filed a motion to lift the injunction on June 25, asserting that the delay was imposing unreasonable costs in the form of extra animal feed and wharfage. The firm warned that if the delay went on too long, it would cause “substantial financial losses to the degree that they would have to close their operations in South Africa,” according to NSPCA.

Al Mawashi also proposed that it could satisfy NSPCA’s concerns by reducing the number of sheep on the voyage from 70,000 to 56,000. The NGO disagreed,and the court ruled against Al Mawashi once again. The injunction remains in place until July 16.

In 2017, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority stopped the 1980-built Al Messilah from loading sheep in Fremantle after a port state control inspection found significant deficiencies, including corroded decks and bulkheads, wastage of structural members, corroded cabling and a broken generator. The vessel was not detained but was prevented from loading cargo until repairs were completed.

In 2018, Al Mawashi said that it would be exploring new sources of livestock due to Australia’s changing regulatory stance towards live export. “Our trust in Australia as a supplier of sheep to Kuwait has weakened,” CEO Usama Khaled Boodai told Reuters at the time. He named South Africa as one of several potential alternative sources for live sheep. 

Last month, Al Mawashi conducted the maiden voyage of a new livestock transport vessel, the 70,000-head Al Kuwait. It is the firm’s first purpose-built ship.

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