A China-bound vessel berthed at the southern Hambantota Port was found to be carrying radioactive material by Sri Lankan authorities on Tuesday (20 April).
As the shipping company failed to obtain prior clearance for dangerous cargo, the vessel was asked to leave the Port.
“The vessel was found to be carrying Uranium hexafluoride, which is classified under dangerous cargo. Uranium hexachloride is a nuclear material that is commonly transported from one country to another. But as per Sri Lankan law, we need any vessel carrying radioactive material to obtain prior permission before berthing at any of our ports. This vessel had not obtained that clearance,” H L Anil Ranjith, Director General of Sri Lanka Atomic Energy Regulatory Council, told The Hindu.
The vessel handled by a local shipping company under the flag of Antigua and Barbuda was sailing from Rotterdam in the Netherlands to China. It cited “mechanical emergency” and sought permission from the harbor manager to berth at the China-run Hambantota Port without declaring that the cargo was radioactive material.
The incident took a political turn with Leader of Opposition and the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB or united people’s front) Sajith Premadasa raising the issue in Parliament on Wednesday (21 April).
“The Navy had not been allowed to board the vessel to carry out an inspection. The government appears to be under pressure from a diplomatic mission. I am asking the government to examine this. This is a very serious matter, something that can affect the life of our community,” he said.
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