Ocean Drover docks at Timaru to load thousands of cows bound for China
The world's largest livestock carrier arrived in the Port of Timaru on Tuesday afternoon, but the company responsible for the shipment of cows to China could not say when the thousands of cows would be loaded onto the ship.
However, by 6.45pm there several stock trucks were pulled up close to the Ocean Drover, with a ramp in place for the loading of stock.
It was not clear whether or not stock were actually being loaded yet.
READ MORE: Ocean Drover sits off Timaru coast
According to the PrimePort Timaru shipping schedule, the Ocean Drover docked at 3.30pm after spending several days sitting off the coast of Timaru. The vessel was due to depart from Timaru for Napier at 10am on Wednesday.
The ship will carry 6600 dairy cows to Fonterra farms in China.
When contacted on Tuesday afternoon, a Fonterra spokeswoman said she could not provide any details about the shipment or its loading process.
PrimePort chief executive Phil Melhopt said the ship would have waited off the coast until there was a berth available for it.
"It also may well have tied in with the delivery of the cattle."
He was not aware of any further bookings from the ship in the near future, but said it was "quite possible" it would return.
Peter Walsh, of Peter Walsh and Associates stock agents, said his company also 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 was 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 on hand.
"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.