At least 20 ships stuck in the Suez Canal jam are hauling livestock — sparking fears about the animals’ safety on the fourth consecutive day of blocked maritime traffic, according to a report Friday.
The farm-bound vessels — some of which were loaded in Spain and Romania weeks ago — “all appear to be stuck at various points in the canal,” a spokesman for the tracking website Marine Traffic and other sources told The Guardian.
“My greatest fear is that animals run out of food and water and they get stuck on the ships because they cannot be unloaded somewhere else for paperwork reasons,” said Gerit Weidinger, European Union coordinator for Animals International.
“It’s basically a ticking biohazard timebomb for animals and the crew and any person involved,” she said.
The floating farms have been stranded since the 1,300-foot-long Ever Given became wedged diagonally in the canal near Egypt Monday.
Roughly 200 vessels — a Russian war ships, bulk carriers and tankers among them — are still waiting to be freed from the clogged waterway.
Officials said there were no concerns about the immediate welfare of the animals but Weidinger feared they would die if the journey was delayed much longer.
“Getting stuck on board means there is a risk of starvation, dehydration, injuries, waste build up so they can’t lie down, and nor can the crew get rid of dead animal bodies in the [Suez] canal,” she said.
Stranded livestock ships include the Omega Star and the Unimar which left from Spain in mid-March, according to the outlet, which didn’t specify what kind of animals are aboard.
Five of the vessels picked up animals in Spain, and nine had loaded them in Romania earlier this month, according the NGO Animals International.
Spanish officials said Thursday that they have stopped the transport of livestock to areas where accessing the canal is essential.
“We cannot tell you anything about these ships, but due to the blockage of the Suez canal as a result of the grounding of the cargo ship, the Spanish administration has given orders that no animal transport ships bound for Saudi Arabia and Jordan should be loaded until the canal can be navigated normally,” a rep for the Spanish agriculture ministry said.
Romanian agriculture officials didn’t return a request for comment, according to the outlet