NEARLY 900 cattle stranded on a container ship docked outside the Murcian port of Cartagena are facing unnecessary slaughter after a cock-up by the Spanish Government.

The boat, named Karim Allah, is owned by Khalifeh Livestock Trading and run by Lebanese shipping company Talia Shipping Line and left Cartagena on December 18 and set sail for ?skenderun, Turkey arriving 21 days later.

However, information omitted in the health certificates issued by Spain’s Ministry of Agriculture meant that Turkey rejected the cattle, fearing for outbreaks of the bovine disease Bluetongue on board the ships.

The ship then sailed to Libya where the cargo was once again rejected, forcing it to return to Spain after more than 60 days at sea.

The issue arose after mistakes in the exact origin of the cattle was documented on the animals health certificates.

Some of the cattle were said to have come from the Aragon area, an area that has been listed as having Bluetongue present after an outbreak late last year.

Regulations stipulate that cattle cannot be exported from within 150km of an outbreak site, and as this could not have been proven, the paperwork was rejected.

“We remain at anchor outside Cartagena port because first the Spanish authorities told us we could not enter.” said Talia Shipping Line director Majed Eid.

According to Eid, just 15 of the animals have so far perished, with the rest in good health and desperate to return to dry land.

The Spanish Authorities have so far told the ship that it is allowed to dock but that the whole cargo must be slaughtered, however Eid is refusing to put the lives of healthy animals at risk unnecessarily.

“We do not want to slaughter the healthy animals, we are crying out for help but the Spanish government is not helping us. No one is helping us.” Eid told the El Mundo newspaper.

“So far there has been no mention of actually boarding the vessel and inspecting for Bluetongue.”

The Spanish government has also confirmed to Talia Shipping that the cost of slaughter must be placed upon them, a cost that could amount to over €1 million.

This added onto the unpaid failure to unload charges (demurrage) could double that figure.

A spokesperson from the Ministry of Agriculture told the media that the ship was free to enter the port of Cartagena, but did not speculate of the slaughter order.

In another statement, the Ministry placed the blame on the Spanish exporter of the cattle, claiming it was a ‘failed operation by the operator to sell the cattle to Turkey.’

The ministry did say however that the cattle did leave Spain with the relevant health certificates and they originated from areas free of Bluetongue.

They also added that the ministry had requested access to the vessel to test for the presence of Bluetongue but the request was not agreed upon by the February 25 deadline.

Eid explained that the team had hired a private vetinarian to have access onboard and test for bovine diseases and that they are awaiting the results, however the cargo showed no signs of symptoms.

A second ship, named Elbeik left Cartagena at the same time has been stranded in Famagusta off the northern coast of Cyprus since February 19, unable to return to Spain until a resolve is confirmed.

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