Vessel Yangtze Harmony, which marks the introduction of a new player in Australia’s livestock exporting sector, has started its first voyage. The ship, carrying as many as 12,500 sheep, is currently headed for Oman.

Owned by Chinese consortium Sino Marine, the ship embarked on its journey from the Fremantle port this week. The vessel, developed for the global live export market, will serve more than just trade between Australia and China. Ahead of its maiden voyage, the ship has been chartered to transport sheep to the Middle East and cattle to South-East Asia.

Vessel Yangtze Fortune, another converted container ship, is scheduled to embark on its journey later this year. The ships can carry up to 5500 cattle and 18,000 sheep.

In February, Australia’s first sea-bound shipment of live slaughter was transported to China. The sea-bound trade, opened by the North Australian Cattle Company (NACC), exported 1,200 live beef cattle from Portland, Victoria, to the Shidao Port in China.

Speaking with the ABC, Steve Meerland, who is a consultant to Sino Marine, said the addition of a new exporter in the market was good news for producers. He emphasised that live sheep prices have been on the rise recently.

Harmony Agriculture and Food (HAAFCO), where Meerland serves as the director, has teamed up as part of a joint venture with Hopshun Australia, one of the companies that constitute the Sino Marine consortium. As part of the tie-up, $50 million has been spent on live export assets in Australia, which also include a grazing block near Esperance and a feedlot at Kalannie in Western Australia.

While the assets have not had a contributory role in Sino Marine's first shipment, there is a possibility that it would change. "They have the potential to participate in the future [shipments]," Meerland said. "Certainly we'll be backgrounding some sheep around Kalannie and potentially supplying [ships] direct from there. We are looking at other alternatives for holding sheep for long periods pre-export, to make sure we've got the right quantity and right quality of animals for this particular market.”

He further said Yangtze Harmony, being on its first voyage, had been purposely under-stocked. "It's a test run and we've put some time into planning it, to make sure we gave everyone the opportunity to perform at their best,” he said.

Source: YouTube/ABC News (Australia)