Animals stranded in Suez canal logjam risk dying of starvation

Siliguri, India: Hundreds of animals stranded in the Suez canal logjam risk dying of starvation, as an estimated 20 ships ferrying livestock remain anchored at different points of the Suez since Thursday last week, according to marine tracking data.

The mega vessel which is a bigger-than-Empire State building has been waged into the world's busiest trade routes diagonally, giving rise to one of the longest marine logjams. 

Over 200 trade ships ferrying the world's supply are awaiting passage from either side of the narrow streak of the waterway, as Suez Canal authorities try hard to move the mammoth, 200,000-tonne ship. 

A strong 'gush of wind' lead the mega vessel to run around on the narrow canal that divides Africa and Asia, and connects the Meditterenian sea with the Red Sea via the Isthmus of Suez. 

The artificial sea-level canal dramatically reduces the time ships take to reach the destinations. As of now, the incoming vessels are diverting around southern Africa’s Cape of Good Hope.

According to the tracking website Marine Traffic, a total of over 20 ships carrying live animals are also stranded, raising welfare concerns should the jam extend beyond a certain time. 

While there are no immediate concerns, but in case the Ever Given has to be unloaded using cranes to dislodge, it could take weeks to complete the herculean task, and the queued ships would need to find longer, alternative routes to their destinations. 

Also read | Suez Canal blockage: what it takes to move the mighty Ever Given

But should the crisis become protracted, animal welfare could be of concern, as per the experts. 

“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,” Gerrit Weidinger, EU coordinator for the Animals International charity, told 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." Weidinger continued. "It's basically a ticking biohazard timebomb for animals and the crew and any person involved."

Most of the animals now stranded in the ships were loaded from Romania and Spain, Animals International spokesperson said. 

In recent months, a few incidents related to livestock health paperwork disputes in their destination nation has forced the ships to return back with the livestock, the Guardian reported.

The livestock on board two ships, Karim Allah and the Elbeik were returned to Spain after their destination nation refused to accept the livestock fearing bovine disease, owing to health paperwork disputes. 

When the animals were returned to Spain, they were so much decapitated, Spanish authorities ordered slaughtering them in the port of Cartegena. 

Over 850 of one of the ship's livestock was culled by March, while the livestock of another ship is ongoing, that had some 1800 animals. 

Also read | Megaship blocking Suez Canal may be refloated Saturday: owner

Commenting on the concerning situation, Spanish authorities have said they'll halt livestock transfer to the Middle East and Jordan until the canal is navigationally normal.

“We cannot tell you anything about these ships, but due to the blockage of the Suez canal as a result of the grounding of the cargo ship, the Spanish administration has given orders that no animal transport ships bound for Saudi Arabia and Jordan should be loaded until the canal can be navigated normally," Spanish authorities were quoted by The Guardian as saying. 

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