Al Mawashi docked their Al Kuwait sheep carrying vessel at Fremantle Port, in Western Australia last week to collect sheep destined for the Middle East, with crew members that are positive with COVID-19.

Reports state that the Australian Department of Agriculture were aware of illness on board the vessel on 20 May 2020, and yet the ship was still allowed to berth. This belated important information has irked the ire of senior Australian politicians. Agricultural Minister Littleproud, who is striving to grow the live export industry, assumed that these were just normal illnesses as high fevers were, according to him, not reported.

Al Mawashi allegedly did not report high fevers prior to the ship being allowed to berth in Fremantle, and allowed Port officials to board the ship on Friday, 22 May 2020. It was reported that crew members requested medical attention from the Captain, but this was denied. It was only on the evening of Sunday, 24 May 2020, that the infection was reported through word of mouth and not even in an official report.

Six crew members have tested positive for COVID-19 and are being quarantined in a hotel in Perth, the remaining 42 crew members will remain on board the ship and will be monitored.

It was intended that 56 000 live sheep be loaded onto the ship in Australia in the coming days, before departing ahead of the Australia’s Summer Months prohibition comes into effect on 1 June 2020.

Al Mawashi, also known as KLTT, is the same company that has sent two ships to South Africa in the last year to load sheep.

“We sympathise with Australia, after having worked so hard to curb this virus – we know that we have already lost so much as a country due to the lockdown, if we were in the same position we would be devastated – we only hope that South Africa is not placed at such risk after all the sacrifices that South Africans have already made to prevent a spike in infections” said Marcelle Meredith, the Executive Director of the National Council of SPCAs.

Furthermore –this global pandemic places an enormous threat of vessels becoming stranded at sea, this will be catastrophic for the animals, and crew. There are very real risks that importing countries will reject shipments based on crew health considerations – and especially now in light of the Al Kuwait matter. Additionally, in the instance that crew do fall ill, being unable to tend to the animals on board significantly threatens animal welfare.

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