Calls to ban live animal transport after vessel capsizes

Queen Hind ship rescue of sheep. Credit: BBC News

The livestock carrier industry has once again come under pressure to improve its safety standards after a cargo vessel transporting more than 14,000 sheep sank off the coast of Romania on 24 November.

A mass rescue operation – involving military, police, firefighters, trained divers, and the Romanian coastguard – was swiftly launched and continued throughout the week in an effort to rescue the trapped animals. By Thursday 28 November, it was reported that more than 200 sheep had been freed from the Queen Hind, though thousands more are thought to have drowned.

The Palau-flagged ship’s 22 crew members – all believed to be Syrian nationals – were rescued in the immediate aftermath of the accident. One of them was taken to hospital with hypothermia. Romania’s livestock breeding and exporting association, known as ACEBOP, has called for an urgent investigation in the capsizing.

“Our association is shocked by the disaster,” ACEBOP president Mary Pana told the Agence France-Presse news agency. “If we cannot protect livestock during long-distance transports, we should outright ban them.”

The Queen Hind was on its way from Romania to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia when it overturned. It had reportedly arrived at the Port of Midia on 23 November from Libya. It’s not yet known what caused the accident.

Romania is among the EU’s top sheep exporters, with many of the animals bound for the Middle East. Some 100 livestock transports – decried by animal rights activists as “death ships” – depart Midia every year.