Published on June 13, 2022 07:44
An overloaded ship full of thousands of sheep sank in Sudan’s Red Sea port of Suakin on Sunday.
KHARTOUM (AFP) – An overloaded ship laden with thousands of sheep sank in Sudan’s Red Sea port of Suakin on Sunday, drowning most of the animals on board, but all crew members survived, officials said.
The cattle ship was exporting the animals from Sudan to Saudi Arabia when it sank after several thousand more animals were loaded on board than it was supposed to be carrying.
“The vessel, Badr 1, sank in the early hours of Sunday morning,” a senior Sudanese port official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “It was carrying 15,800 sheep, which exceeded its load limits.”
The official said the ship was supposed to carry just 9,000 sheep.
Another official, who said the entire crew had been rescued, expressed concern about the economic and environmental impact of the accident.
“The sunken ship will affect the operation of the port,” the official said.
“It will also likely have an impact on the environment due to the death of the large number of animals transported by the ship.”
Omar al-Khalifa, the head of the national exporters association, said the ship took several hours to sink alongside – a window that meant it “could have been rescued”.
The total value of the lost livestock “is around 14 million Saudi riyals, the equivalent of four million dollars”, said Saleh Selim, the head of the association’s livestock division, also confirming that the sheep were loaded onto the ship at the port of Suakin.
He said the cattle owners only salvaged around 700 sheep “but they were found very sick and we don’t expect them to live long”.
Selim called for an investigation into the incident.
Last month, a massive fire broke out in the cargo area of Suakin Port, lasting for hours and causing heavy damage. It is not known what caused the fire.
An investigation has been opened to determine the cause of the fire, but has not yet issued its conclusions.
The historic port town of Suakin is no longer Sudan’s main foreign trade hub, a role that has been taken over by Port Sudan, some 60 kilometers (40 miles) along the Red Sea coast.
Steps have been taken to redevelop the port of Suakin, but a 2017 deal with Turkey to restore historic buildings and expand docks was put on hold after the ousting of longtime President Omar al-Bashir.
Sudan remains in the grip of a chronic economic crisis, which worsened following last year’s military coup led by army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan.
The military takeover triggered punitive measures, including aid cuts from Western governments, which demanded the reinstatement of the transitional administration set up after Bashir’s overthrow.