Interest in live-shipping is growing as a number of operators look to capitalise on rising demand in north Africa.
While Quinn Livestock continue to work with Al Mahmoud-owned boats out of Waterford, a consortium of Louth businessmen headed up by Ardee-based Charolais breeder, Patsy McCabe, is the latest group intent on getting a slice of the live-export action.
Along with Cork-based livestock exporters, Curzon, the Louth group are hoping to avail of a 1,500hd, walk-on-walk-off ship that is currently in the final stages of the Department of Agriculture's licencing process.
Despite being the first boat designed specifically to meet Irish rules, the Star Viking is currently undergoing modification work in Belfast to overcome a number of issues raised by the Department inspectors.
However, hopes are high that the ship will be ready to sail with its first shipment in early December.
With a cruising speed of 14 knots, the boat is expected to make the trip to North African ports from either Drogheda or Cork in just seven days, compared to the 17 days it can take when stock are transported by a combination of road and sea via France.
This could improve the welfare for animals travelling, as well as significantly reducing the cost for shippers.
The key North African market for Irish stock at the moment is Libya, according to Bord Bia's beef specialist Joe Burke.
"It's a combination of Irish prices coming back into line again with other European countries, along with the new regime there trying to give the rural economy a kick-start by assisting the establishment of small feedlots doing as few as 30 head at a time," said Mr Burke.
While exports to Libya, Tunisia and Morocco are already up by 20pc this year, at over 18,500hd, volumes are expected to increase significantly over the coming months.
"Due to visa restrictions, the vast majority of enquiries are coming through us and it suggests a large increase in activity over the next six months," said Mr Burke.
The Louth consortium headed by Mr McCabe has already purchased stock, with both Friesian and continental animals between 300-500kg being targeted.
Mr McCabe has a sizeable breeding and finishing operation that is run with his son Patrick. While the McCabes have been heavily involved in the car trade over the years, Patsy has previous experience in the live export trade having shipped cattle in the mid 1970s.
Curzon is operated by Cork man James Horgan, who also hopes to begin shipping with the Viking Star in the coming weeks.
Last week it emerged that Meathman James Mallon's Viastar plans to send its first shipment of cattle to Libya via France over the coming fortnight.