Infection woes: Spanish cattle ship finally prepares to dock after months at sea
MADRID (SPAIN) – The vessel Karim Allah carrying cattle has been drifting for months at a stretch because of concerns over the bovine bluetongue disease. However, the impasse has ended and the vessel would dock in Spain, the government and the ship owner said on Thursday.
The ship left the Mediterranean port of Cartagena on Dec. 17 carrying 895 cattle meant to be sold in Turkey. A second ship, the ElBeik, set sail the following day from Tarragona with 1,800 cows.
In spite of having clean veterinary certificates from the Spanish government, Turkish authorities rejected both shipments and suspended import of cattle from pain following an outbreak of the insect-borne bluetongue disease in the Spanish province of Huesca.
Although the Karim Allah tried to find another buyer in Libya, authorities rejected it and for weeks, it drifted through the eastern Mediterranean, struggling for supplies.
“We tried to get more feed in Tunisia…but they kicked us out. In the end, we managed to get more in Sicily after the animals spent several days with only water,” said Miguel Masramon, a lawyer representing Talia Shipping Line, which owns the vessel.
Although the vessel has returned to Cartagena, it cannot dock without conclusive evidence that the animals are free from the disease.
Once the clearance is obtained, the cattle can be resold for live export. In case they are to be culled on government orders, they cannot be sold for food and the shipment has to be written off.
“If they dock (before all checks on their health are made), the livestock will be automatically landed, slaughtered and destroyed. The cost could be well in excess of one million euros,” Masramon said.
It remains unclear as to who owns the shipment. The exporter, World Trade, said it was not responsible for the animals as they have been sold already, said Masramon. Exporter for Libya Pinsus Ursa, said it was not responsible as the cattle did not reach that country, he said.
The Spanish agriculture ministry said the animals would be checked and appropriate action would be taken.