ASX-listed agricultural company Wellard Limited is planning to add a new live export vessel to its fleet.
- According to Wellard, living export ships represent the second oldest fleet in the world
- The company’s last ship to be built was the Ocean Shearer in 2016
- There are believed to be around 125 livestock vessels in the world, but only 25 are allowed to export from Australia
Calling itself Ocean Jillaroo, Wellard says it will cost about $60 million to build and will be the world’s first living export ship capable of operating with green technologies, including “autonomous sails to reduce pollution by up to 40 percent.” .
But Wellard chief executive John Klepec said the project was on hold.
“All the shipyards in the world are busy and booked months in advance, mainly building container ships,” he told ABC Rural.
“So there’s just no appetite for a one-off, bespoke product like a transport animal.”
Mr Klepec said other supply chain issues and rising steel costs made the project a commercial challenge.
“Therefore, we continue to monitor the situation both in commissioning the construction and in developing an appropriate financing mechanism,” he said.
Living exports, aging fleet
According to Mr. Klepec, the last purpose-built cattle truck was Wellard’s Aurochs in 2017 and Ocean Shearer in 2016.
“As far as I know, there is currently nobody on the market who wants to build one [live export] ship,” he said.
“It was like this [nearly] six years since a new live export ship was built and it could be another two years for the next one.
“It means that anyone who builds a new ship will be in a very good position 10 years from now because they will be running an efficient ship with the right fuel and very limited competition.”
He said the age of cattle trucks around the world is “too old”.
“It’s the second-oldest fleet in the world, and the average age of livestock trucks is more than twice that of container ships,” Klepec said.
“There are a lot of ships out there that don’t come to Australia because they aren’t AMSA [Australian Maritime Safety Authority] approved and, frankly, should be cut up on the beach.”
There are thought to be around 125 livestock vessels in the world, but only 25 are accredited to transport livestock from Australia, according to AMSA.
call for international reforms
Presenting at the company’s annual meeting, Mr. Klepec called for reform of global shipping standards, citing the sinking of the Al Badr 1 cattle truck in Sudan earlier this year, killing 15,000 sheep.
“Incredible, this ship was 49 years old and could still carry the most delicate cargo,” he said.
“It was as tragic as it was preventable … and it adds to a long list of substandard cattle ships that have sunk.”
The company said it was a farce that there were no intentional regulations on livestock vessel operations.
“It is quite clear that the lack of specific regulations for this sector was a reason for poor ship design and operation,” said Mr. Klepec.
“It is time for the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to act and correct these errors.”
Mr Klepec said the company was optimistic about the future of Australia’s livestock trade.
“Although the cattle markets in Indonesia and Vietnam are pretty bad right now, we are optimistic about the future of the industry,” he said.
“We foresee a return to volume and when that happens we intend to be Australia’s largest supplier to these markets.”
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