Ocean Drover livestock carrier waits just off coast of Timaru
The world's largest livestock carrier, the Ocean Drover, was on Monday night sitting just off the coast of Timaru waiting to collect livestock to ship to China.
The ship, which was first spotted sitting about 2 kilometres off the coast on Saturday, was waiting outside of the Port of Timaru on Monday afternoon, a port spokesperson said.
Despite the confirmation, the Ocean Drover was not listed on the port's schedule of arrivals on its web page.
A Fonterra spokesperson said the ship would transport 6600 dairy heifers to the company's dairy farms in China.
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"The animals on these shipments are destined for our China farm operations.
"The safety and welfare of our animals is always our paramount concern. We have best-in-class systems in place to ensure the wellbeing of our animals prior to, during and after their journey - and we strictly adhere to all of the regulatory requirements for the shipping of livestock".
Peter Walsh, of Peter Walsh and Associates stock agents, also confirmed his company had "a handful of heifers bound for China".
Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) director of animal and animal products Paul Dansted said the shipment of Holstein Friesian heifers would be shipped "subject to the exporter obtaining an Animal Welfare Export Certificate (AWEC) from MPI which certifies that the animals are fit and healthy for transport".
The health and welfare of the animals is the number one priority for MPI, Dansted said.
"Once all of the animals are loaded, an MPI veterinarian inspects them to ensure they are fit for travel. If all animal welfare requirements are met, an AWEC certificate will be issued," he said.
Half of the animals would be loaded in Timaru and the other half in Napier, he said.
"This was to ensure the animals have the shortest possible road transport journeys from farm to vessel."
During the voyage, the exporter must meet requirements around water, food, space, facilities and have suitably experienced stockmen and/or veterinarians.
"They must also have medicine and equipment for treating any animals that become unwell during the journey. If unusual levels of mortality or sickness occur during the voyage, the ship's Master is to report this immediately to MPI."
The Ocean Drover has visited Timaru once before.
In August 2016, it collected a shipment of dairy heifers bound for China. Half of that consignment of 8000 cows was loaded at Timaru and the remainder at Napier.
The shipment was also a Fonterra initiative to supply its dairy farms in China with livestock.
At the time, Fonterra was accused of "economic treason" but countered by saying it was important to be realistic about the scale of the Chinese market.
The 30,000 tonne Ocean Drover was commissioned in 2002 and is the world's largest, purpose-built, livestock carrier. The vessel is capable of transporting 75,000 sheep or 18,000 cattle