14 containers offloaded from arrested Russian ship

Fourteen containers have been offloaded safely from an arrested Russian vessel that was apparently carrying dangerous cargo, the Transnet National Port Authority (TNPA) said on Monday.

The containers were offloaded on Saturday in the Port of Ngqura in the Eastern Cape.

"The 14 containers were declared to TNPA and offloaded safely on August 25, after which they left the port immediately on the same day.

"The South African Maritime Safety Authority [Samsa] also confirmed that all the dangerous goods on the vessel were stored correctly in terms of international law," said Port of Ngqura manager Tandi Lebakeng.

READ: Russian cargo ship: 'Explosives additives' found did not have transit permit

The containers were destined for discharge at the port, Lebakeng said.

She said Samsa was not aware whether the containers had been opened yet or not.

En route to Lagos

"We are only aware of the class of the containers in terms of the international maritime dangerous goods regulation," Lebakeng said.

"The Transnet National Ports Authority's role is to co-operate with the authorities in terms of the National Ports Act by monitoring the position of the vessel and alerting other stakeholders if necessary," added Lebakeng.

The TNPA confirmed last Thursday that the Russian vessel, Lada, had been arrested by the police and was anchored outside the Port of Ngqura, near Port Elizabeth.

Lebakeng previously said officials were aware that the vessel carried "dangerous cargo".

Authorities discovered explosive goods aboard the vessel last Sunday while conducting operations at the port.

The TNPA revealed that the ship was en route from Tulear, Madagascar, and was destined for Lagos, Nigeria.

"The TNPA gave permission for the vessel to be detained outside the port - although still within port limits - and we will continue monitoring the vessel," Lebakeng said.

Last week, the South African Council for the Non-Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction said the "explosives additives" found on the vessel did not have a transit permit.

'Fake news'

Department of Trade and Industry spokesperson Sidwell Medupe said that the vessel contained controlled items that were in transit and were not going to be offloaded in SA.

"The explosives additives would have required a transit permit when a vessel carrying them enters South African territorial waters. The explosives additives in question have both civilian [industrial] and military applications and are therefore controlled items," Medupe said.

The Russian owners of the cargo vessel told News24 that they would not comment on "fake news".

Transflot Ltd said in an email to News24 that all cargo delivered to the port was officially declared and all documents handed over.

The company dismissed the claims that the ship was carrying dangerous weapons, described in the Herald as "weapons of mass destruction".

The company directed further questions to the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation, better known as the Hawks, who are investigating the matter.

Hawks spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi told News24 on Friday that it was a "sensitive matter", and that no arrests had been made yet and no charges had been laid.

The vessel was reportedly inspected following a tip-off after it had already offloaded 14 other containers at the port, the Herald reported last week.

The Herald suggested that, while the initial drop-off was above board, the tip-off alerted authorities to a further 20 containers which remained stowed away.

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