12. November 2021

Phoenix III: Another live export tragedy at sea after the vessel incidents Karim Allah and Elbeik

Video material by our partner organisation IALS in Haifa show exhausted animals crammed into trucks directly after being unloaded from the Phoenix III.

Two weeks long live animal transport from Portugal to Israel - livestock vessel stuck off the Italian coast for two days, 14 animals died during the trip. NGOs call on the ANIT Committee to ask for a ban of live animal transport at sea.

The vessel Phoenix III, heading to the Israel Shipyard Port in Haifa, Israel with a cargo of 1,200 young bulls and 5,644 sheep, was dangerously stuck for two days at sea near Mazara del Vallo, Italy. 

Portuguese authorities were informed by PATAV (a Portuguese civic movement) that the vessel had stopped for 48 hours. The ship, which left Sines (Portugal) on October 22nd and stopped on 27th near Italy, then left again after two days and reached its destination port in Israel on November 4th. 

A coalition of NGOs, which followed the ship and filmed the animals while they were unloaded in the port of Haifa, wrote to the ANIT committee of the European Parliament (Committee of Inquiry on the Protection of Animals during Transport) to ask for a resolution to ban the transport of live animals at sea.

The images taken during the unloading process show stuck and exhausted animals in high overcrowded conditions, with animals on top of each other, and very dirty bulls with broken horns. Some of the animals also showed heat stress symptoms. The animals were quickly loaded again on trucks. They will spend eight days in quarantine in the region of Mehola (90 km from the port), and then they will be transported again to different feedlots in Israel for 4-8 months before slaughter.

This case, as in the well-known cases of Karim Allah and Elbeik at the beginning of 2021, shows again how dangerous sea journeys can be for the animals. In this incident, 14 animals were reported dead, but if the vessel were stuck for more days, we could have witnessed another tragedy.

In the letter to the ANIT committee, the NGOs referred to the importance of contingency plans and the need, by competent authorities and organizers, to take into account the forecast weather conditions until final destination when authorizing a transport. Lack of feasible contingency plans and lack of weather verification have the potential to negatively affect animal welfare when unexpected situations arise. Phoenix III is a 43 years old livestock vessel (Ex-reefer converted in 2011 at the age of 33 when it should be already scrapped). Most of the livestock vessels operating in the EU are under similar age and conversion situation, and since 2017, they are the No. 1 category for the number of detentions worldwide, and considered as a high risk in Paris MoU risk profiling. 

Furthermore, according to a recent study published in 202136% of EU-approved livestock vessels have suffered major incidents, failures, or loss.

Besides that, there are concerns regarding authorization of Phoenix III: according to the Romanian central authority Phoenix III was transporting live animals without authorization from April to August 2021 without the European Commission knowing and reacting. It was April 10, 2021 when the EU wide granted authorization by Romania expired and August 18, 2021 when the vessel was reauthorized by Croatia to export European animals. But according to Vesseltracker.com (a maritime navigation platform) Phoenix III was in Illichivsk, Ukraine on August 18 where it stayed from August 16-28. In timeframe from April 10 until August 18 the vessel made 8 journeys exporting animals from Croatia, Portugal and Romania to Israel.

Aside from the reason for the stopping, this episode is again a good example of how the welfare of exported animals remains largely unknown during the sea part of the journey, and during transport in third countries to the final destination.

The many tragedies already happened in the past (the Suez canal blockage, Karim Allah, Elbeik and Queen Hind vessels and many other cases) show that protection of animals during transport at sea is not possible for various reasons: bad weather and technical failures can cause delays, most ports are not able to shelter the animals and conditions at sea can deteriorate suddenly with no possibility to escape putting both animals and crew at great risk.

Given the comprehensive work that the ANIT did on transport via sea, the NGOs are now asking for the Committee to support a phase out of extra-EU sea transport and to urge stricter and refined rules on intra-EU sea transport.