An Israeli-controlled livestock carrier has been ordered to return to Australia after deciding to reroute away from the Red Sea.

ABC reported that the federal agriculture department recalled the 7,850-dwt Bahijah (built 2010) and its cargo of sheep and cattle.

The vessel left Australia for Aqaba in Jordan on 5 January but decided to divert to East London in South Africa due to the risk of Houthi missile attacks.

Its destination after that was unclear.

The ship had been at sea for 15 days when the order came for it to return to Fremantle.

The last AIS update showed the vessel awaiting orders while underway in the South Indian Ocean on 15 January.

Industry observers said this was the first indication that livestock ships were starting to reroute from the Red Sea.

The agriculture department said officials had been in regular contact with the exporter.

A spokeswoman said that when the Bahijah left Australia, authorities were satisfied that arrangements for animal welfare were appropriate.

But this changed when the ship decided to drop the Aqaba call.

Animal charity RSPCA has urged exporters to halt shipments to the Red Sea region.

Charity relieved

Chief science officer Suzie Fowler told ABC she was relieved by the return order.

“This whole ordeal just goes to show that live export, by its very nature, is inherently risky and that the Australian government simply cannot safeguard the welfare of animals on board these ships,” she said.

Clarksons lists the owner as Dabbah Slaughterhouse of Israel, which could not be contacted.