SLAERC demands explanation from Harbour Master
BY SULOCHANA RAMIAH MOHAN
The Sri Lanka Atomic Energy Regulatory Council (SLAERC) has written to Sri Lanka Ports Authority's (SLPA) Harbour Master Captain K. M. Nirmal P. Silva, on Friday (April 30) for an explanation on the China bound cargo ship that entered the Port of Hambantota recently without declaring that it was carrying a payload of the radioactive chemical - uranium hexafluoride. SLAERC’s Director General Anil Ranjith said that he had inquired why the local agent of the BBC Naples,failed to declare that the vessel was carrying dangerous cargo. “We are waiting for the response so that we can take action on the matter,” he said.
Ranjith said SLAERC would want to know, with evidence, whether the action of not declaring the cargo on the manifest while requesting permission to enter at the Hambantota Port was deliberate or caused by oversight (as stated by the agent). "Next Board Meeting is scheduled for 21 May and I would like to draw attention to this particular action by the ship and the agent." According to Ranjith, around six ships carrying radioactive material dock in Sri Lankan Ports annually and it is not unusual but this was the first time such a ship failed to declare its cargo.
“The ship was carrying a massive cargo of 14,000MT of radioactive material and calling it an ‘oversight’ for failing to declare need to be proved. If foul play was involved, we will either ban the particular vessel from entering the harbour, file suit against the cargo company and the agent, or take few other measures (depending on the SLAERC Act) so that it does not recur,” he added.
He further noted that after the explanation from the SLPA, they would determine the course of action taken on the agent's shipping company. The ship was asked to leave the port of Hambantota immediately after the Port’s Harbour Master informed the SLPA Harbour Master that the vessel was carrying radioactive material.
The Navy said that it was the SLPA that had issued the permit to anchor the ship at the Southern Port when the ship’s captain called for an emergency repair in the engine room. According to international convention, all ships should declare what it is carrying when entering a port and based on that, a port could decide whether to issue permits or not.