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Sri Lanka asks ship carrying nuclear material for China to leave Hambantota, had docked after developing technical snag

The SLAEA said the local agent of the vessel failed to disclose its radioactive cargo when it sought permission from the Harbour Master to dock in at the Hambantota port.

A Chinese ship carrying radioactive material was asked to leave the Hambantota port in Sri Lanka while on its way to China when it developed technical difficulties and sought permission to dock at the port on Tuesday. 

The vessel- MV BBC Naples, managed by the China Merchants Port Holding Company, which had come from the port of Rotterdam was found carrying uranium hexafluoride when it docked at Chinese-run Hambantota port, informed Anil Ranjith, a top official of the Sri Lanka Atomic Energy Authority (SLAEA).

Ranjith in a statement to AFP informed, “The ship failed to declare its dangerous cargo – uranium hexafluoride and we decided to order it to leave our waters immediately.”

The commercial vessel was carrying uranium hexafluoride- the radioactive material, serves as fuel for nuclear power plants, he added. 

The SLAEA said the local agent of the vessel failed to disclose its radioactive cargo when it sought permission from the Harbour Master to dock in at the Hambantota port. 

Sajith Premadasa, the main opposition leader informed the parliament that the Sri Lanka Navy, who is in charge of the Hambantota port security, was also not allowed to carry out inspections on the vessel.

He has also demanded an investigation into the incident, describing it as a serious safety and security threat.

The Sri Lankan government has not commented on the incident as yet. The port authority have informed that the ship, carrying the flag of Antigua and Barbados had entered the port on 20 April at 9 pm. It had made an urgent call at Hambantota for some repairs. Agents of the ship had not informed the port authorities about the hazardous cargo on board, as reported by Sri Lankan media.

About the Hambantota Port

Hambantota which is about 260 kilometers (162 miles) south of Colombo port was leased to China in 2017 for 99 years after the Colombo government was unable to repay the $1.4 million it had borrowed from Beijing to build it.

The port is near key Indian Ocean shipping lanes.

The entry of two Chinese submarines into Colombo in 2014 angered India, after which Sri Lanka has not allowed Chinese submarine visits.

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Staff reporter at OpIndia

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