Russian cargo vessel allegedly carrying 'dangerous cargo' arrested in PE

A Russian vessel carrying "dangerous cargo" has been arrested outside the Port of Ngqura in Port Elizabeth, the Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) said on Thursday.

It is suspected that the vessel had been carrying "weapons of mass destruction" and explosives valued at about R50m, according to The Herald.

"TNPA can confirm that the vessel Lada has been arrested by the [SA Police Service] and is anchored outside the Port of Ngqura. We are aware that the vessel has dangerous cargo on board," Port of Ngqura manager Tandi Lebakeng said in an emailed reply to News24's enquiry about the vessel.

Authorities discovered explosives aboard the vessel on Sunday while conducting operations at the port, according to The Herald.

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

"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.

She referred News24 to the police "for all other queries related to the issue".

The Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation's (Hawks') spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi told News24 that it was a "sensitive" matter.

"We are not prepared to divulge details pending a thorough assessment by different roleplayers that have been roped in to assist," said Mulaudzi.

He said he could not yet reveal who the roleplayers were.

"No charges have been laid against anyone and as mentioned, we are not obliged to divulge [information] until the finalisation of this process," he added.

It has been reported that the vessel was inspected following a tip-off, after it had already offloaded 14 containers at the port.

The ship had produced all the relevant permits relating to the cargo it offloaded on South African shores. The containers were dispatched by a company named Solar India.

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. These containers, in direct contravention of numerous laws, held illegal weapons and explosives.

*The headline has been updated to describe the contents as "dangerous cargo", as according to the Transnet statement.