A ship crammed with thousands of sheep sank on Sunday in Sudan’s Red Sea port of Suakin, drowning most animals onboard but with all crew surviving, officials said.
The livestock vessel was exporting the animals from Sudan to Saudi Arabia when it sank. “The ship, Badr 1, sank during the early hours of Sunday morning,” a senior Sudanese port official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “It was carrying 15,800 sheep.”
Another official, who said all crew were rescued, raised concerns over the economic and environmental impact of the accident. “The sunken ship will affect the port’s operation,” the official said. “It will also likely have an environmental impact due to the death of the large number of animals carried by the ship”.
Omar al-Khalifa, the head of the national exporters’ association, said the ship took several hours to sink at the pier – a window that suggested it “could have been rescued”.
The total value of the lost livestock was around 14 Saudi riyals ($3.7m), said Saleh Selim, the head of the association’s livestock division, who called for an investigation into the incident.
He said livestock owners recovered only around 700 sheep “but they were found very ill and we don’t expect them to live long”. He also confirmed that the sheep were loaded onto the vessel at Suakin port.
The port is already subject to investigation to determine the cause of a massive fire last month that broke out in the cargo area, lasting hours and causing heavy damage.
The historic port town of Suakin is no longer Sudan’s main foreign trade hub, a role which has been taken by Port Sudan, 60km (40 miles) away along the Red Sea coast.
There have been moves to redevelop Suakin port, but a 2017 deal with Turkey to restore historic buildings and expand the docks was suspended after the ousting of longtime president Omar al-Bashir.
Sudan remains gripped by a chronic economic crisis, which has deepened following last year’s military coup led by army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan.
The military takeover triggered punitive measures, including aid cuts by western governments, who demanded the restoration of the transitional administration installed after Bashir was toppled.