At least 150 ships were waiting for the Ever Given to be cleared, including vessels near Port Said on the Mediterranean Sea, Port Suez on the Red Sea and those already stuck in the canal system on Egypt’s Great Bitter Lake, said Leth Agencies, which provides services for the canal. (Image: AP)
Among the vessels held up by the Ever Given’s grounding in Suez Canal are at least 20 ships carrying livestock, data from a marine tracking website shows, raising concerns about the animals’ welfare as the blockage is likely to take weeks to clear up.
The Ever Given’s blockade has left more than 200 ships stuck in the Canal and resulted in diverted routes around the African cape for incoming vessels.
“Three livestock ships — the Unimar, the Sea Star and the Omega Star, appear to be stuck at various points in the canal, while some ships are waiting to enter the canal,” spokesperson for Marine Traffic, Georgios Hatzimanolis, told the UK's Guardian newspaper.
The website data identified 11 livestock ships and NGO Animals International identified more, taking the total delayed livestock ships to 20, the report added.
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Animals International said five of these ships were loaded in Spain and nine in Romania, in early March. EU coordinator for Animals International Gerit Weidinger said the Unimar left Spain on March 15 for Jordon and the Omega Star left Spain for Port Said (Saudi Arabia) the next day.
“My greatest fear is that animals run out of food and water and they get stuck on the ships because they cannot be unloaded somewhere else for paperwork reasons,” Weidinger said.
She was referring to the debacles with the Elbeik and the Karim Allah, which were forced to spend months on sea, before returning to Cartagena port, Spain, as the original ports of destination refused to accept the cattle due to health paperwork which failed to clear the animals for bluetongue disease.
These animals were ordered to be culled by Spanish authorities as they returned in “such poor condition.” Over 850 aboard the Karim Allah were culled earlier in March and 360 of the 1,800 aboard the Elbeik were slaughtered till March 25.
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On the Suez blockade, Weidinger pointed to the health risk to animals (dehydration, injuries, starvation, waste build, etc) and crew (who would be unable to get rid of dead animals in the Canal) and called the situation a “ticking biohazard time bomb for any person involved”.
The Spanish agriculture ministry told the publication it has now ordered for “no animal transport ships to Jordan or Saudi Arabia be loaded until the Canal can be navigated normally”.
The Romanian agriculture and veterinary authorities did not respond to queries.