COVID plagued crew set to depart Fremantle

COVID plagued crew set to depart Fremantle

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The Al Messilah being loaded for a previous journey from Fremantle.

The Al Messilah being loaded for a previous journey from Fremantle.

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The ship arrived in mid-Oct & has been moored since, as COVID was detected

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RURAL Export and Trading WA (RETWA) will finally see the Al Messilah leave Australian waters later this week or early next week, after about 24 crew members were cleared of COVID-19 by State health officials.

The vessel arrived in Fremantle mid-October and has been moored there ever since while 36 crew members were put into hotel quarantine after COVID-19 was detected onboard.

One international crew member was admitted to hospital briefly but the company said none of the infected crew showed severe symptoms of the virus and all were in good health as of last week.

Two Australians were allowed off the ship to quarantine at home, a local stockwoman from Busselton and an Australian accredited veterinarian from Sydney, after being on board for about eight months because they could not disembark at any international port due to restrictions on the movement of personnel.

A skeleton crew stayed onboard while moored to oversee the daily maintenance of the vessel and prepare it for the next consignment.

Australian Livestock Exporters' Council chief executive officer Mark Harvey-Sutton said the Al Messilah was due to take up the next available berth at Fremantle and be loaded with about 60,000 sheep and 200 cattle destined for the Persian Gulf.

He said it was important to recognise that the industry had continued to operate with "market access and demand continuing despite the challenges of COVID-19" which was a positive for the whole industry.

Mr Harvey-Sutton confirmed reports that the Al Kuwait, the newest vessel in RETWA's parent company Kuwait Livestock Transport and Trading's fleet, had been chartered out to fill large consignments of cattle from Townsville to the South East Asian market.

RETWA's former managing director Mike Gordon had previously said he expected the vessels to do back-to-back voyages from WA but the impact of COVID-19 and tight sheep supply had changed that.

Mr Harvey-Sutton said the Al Kuwait, which is the biggest purpose built livestock carrier in the world, was on its second chartered trip from Townsville to South East Asia as it had the ability to take 15,000-16,000 head of cattle at once - much more than some of the smaller vessels operating in the trade.

"It is a reflection of the supply of sheep at the moment," he said.

"There's been more than a million sheep cross the Nullarbor with huge restocker demand in the east.

"With the tight supply in WA this is a commercial opportunity for the company to utilise the vessel."

RETWA has also announced the retirement of Mr Gordon last week.

Speaking to Farm Weekly, Mr Gordon said while he was planning to retire he would stay on part-time for the next five months and would remain a RETWA board member to assist with the company's projects behind the scenes.

Mr Gordon has been replaced by Murray Frangs who has a history in agribusiness and was most recently the regional manager of Costa in WA.

The story COVID plagued crew set to depart Fremantle first appeared on Farm Weekly.

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