Loading of the first shipment of live cattle to Libya in 16 years is under way at Belleview Port just outside Waterford City.

By midday, around 2,500 cattle had been loaded on to the Al Mahmoud Express.

The cattle transport ship has undergone recent modification to enable it to meet Department of Agriculture animal shipment standards.

Another 400 cattle will be added to the shipment for its nine-day journey to Tripoli.

The ship was supposed to depart tomorrow, but may leave later tonight.

The reopening of the Libyan live trade for cattle has been welcomed by farming organisations, but a number of animal rights groups have expressed dismay at the development.

Those groups will hold a vigil at Bellview Port this evening.