Suez Canal crisis: Ever Given freed and refloated, here's what happened to 92,000 animals trapped inside ships
'It's basically a ticking biohazard timebomb for animals and the crew and any person involved,' the spokesperson said
Now that the Ever Given has been refloated after almost a week it had blocked the Suez Canal, the animals that were stuck in the many vessels still remain a delicate issue. Although very little information is available, with the canal officials and shipping executives who aren't willing to talk, the Straits Times reported that data compiled by Bloomberg indicate as many as 10 vessels stuck in and around the canal could be carrying livestock.
The livestock carriers are among the more than 200 vessels stuck in the bottleneck, according to The Washington Post.
How many animals are stuck?
Ships carrying as many as 92,000 animals to Jordan are stranded, an official said according to a report by the National News. Given the Europe-to-Middle East itineraries of many of these vessels, they are most probably carrying sheep, the report suggests.
At least 20 livestock ships have been unable to pass through the canal, according to The Guardian. Spokesperson for the tracking website Marine Traffic, Georgios Hatzimanolis, said that while some such ships were waiting to enter the canal, three, namely the Omega Star, the Unimar and the Sea Star, “all appear to be stuck at various points in the canal”.
While Marine Traffic data showed 11 delayed livestock ships, the NGO Animals International identified others, including five from Spain, and nine from Romania earlier this month.
What are the threats they face?
While much of the cargo on the Ever Given consists of commodity products like oil which have long shelf lives, livestock need food and water, and such deliveries generally carry only enough for a few extra days.
There is a lack of adequate food and water for the animals on the ships, which only carry so many additional supplies. This could create a critical situation for ships to find feed supplies at a local port, or force them to turn around, since dislodging the Ever Given may take at least a week, longer than initially feared, people familiar with the matter said. Concerns loom that if the blockage lasts much longer, the stranded animals could starve, dehydrate, and even die.
"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," Gerit Weidinger, EU coordinator for the Animals International charity, said to The Guardian.
"Getting stuck on board means there is a risk [for the animals] of starvation, dehydration, injuries, waste buildup so they can't lie down, and nor can the crew get rid of dead animal bodies in the [Suez] canal." he continued. "It's basically a ticking biohazard timebomb for animals and the crew and any person involved."
Is there any way to save them?
There may be a glimmer of hope in the nearby ports of Said and Suez, which could be used to reload fodder if supplies run low. However, the process may not be straightforward with so many ships queued up.
Also a matter of concern, is the fact that thousands of cattle have already been slaughtered this year because of delays at sea. More than 850 cattle on the Karim Allah, a livestock carrier ship registered with Lebanon, were slaughtered earlier in March, while the Elbeik from Togo is perpetuating an ongoing slaughter, with an estimated 360 of the almost 1,800 who commenced the journey culled as of Thursday, the Guardian said.