Tanzania seeking information on ‘nuclear waste’ ship detained in Mombasa

Tuesday December 21 2021
Nuc
By The Citizen Reporter

Dar es Salaam/Mombasa. The government said yesterday that it was unaware that Kenyan authorities have detained a cargo ship carrying nuclear waste that was reportedly on its way to Tanzania.
“We have not received any information about the ship, but I will get in touch with the relevant authorities for any details on the matter,” the permanent secretary in charge of transport in the Ministry of Works and Transport, Mr Gabriel Migire, told The Citizen when reached for comment, adding that any ship coming to Tanzania was required to fly the country’s flag.

Kenyan media reported yesterday that the ship, which as docked at the port of Mombasa, was loaded with harmful nuclear waste that was to have been dumped on the East African coast, endangering the health of millions of people in the region.

The cargo on board the MV Piraeus Voy was disguised as padlocks and other hardware items, and was detained after Kenya’s Health ministry raised the alarm that it was carrying radioactive material.

Officials investigating the matter said the ship sailed to Kenya from Mumbai, India, and was en route to neighbouring Tanzania.
“This is clearly a means of dumping dangerous substances in East Africa. We have proof that what was declared is just part of the contents, but the radioactive material is also in the ship, and is emitting high radiation,” a source involved in an ongoing investigation said on condition of anonymity as he is not authorised to speak to the media.


Exposure to high levels of radiation from nuclear waste can cause severe health effects such as skin burns and acute radiation syndrome (radiation sickness). It can also result in long-term health effects such as cancer and cardiovascular disease.
A multi-agency team comprising officials drawn from various government agencies at the Mombasa port has differed on how to best handle the cargo, which was reportedly destined for Dar es Salaam Port.


“Some in the team want the cargo returned to sender in line with maritime law, but some are suggesting that we release the ship so that it can proceed to Tanzania, or conduct further tests on the cargo. Our concern is, if we release the cargo the authorities in destination country might not have adequate capacity to detect or dispose of the waste, hence exposing people to danger. Let’s wait and see what happens,” said the source.

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The ship, said to be sailing under the Danish, has in the past one month been to Kenya, Oman, India and Pakistan. A tracking site shows that the ship was in Mumbai on December 2.


The Kenya Nuclear Regulatory Authority (KNRA) yesterday confirmed it has secured the cargo ship in Mombasa, which Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe ordered quarantined last week.
KNRA director general Joseph Maina said the authority is leading the inspection and verification of the container on board the MV Seago Piraeus Voy.
“We’re in the process of deciding whether to collect samples to determine the actual substance after realising there is radioactive materials on board or return the cargo to sender. We have taken all measures as we work with other agencies to ensure the public is not exposed,” he said.
Mr Kawe said in a statement that the ship “poses a serious threat to the health and lives of Kenyans by the emission of radiation”.
He also directed health authorities to inspect the ship and medically examine all the people on board.
The Kenyan government said it would compel all those on board to answer any question asked as per sections 60 and 62 of the Public Health Act.
Kenya is a signatory to the Indian Ocean Memorandum of Understanding (IOMOU) that imposes international obligations to prevent, intercept, interdict and combat illicit trafficking of radioactive and nuclear material and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; having ratified international instruments.
KMA director general Robert Njue said the matter is a public health concern that is now being handled by KNRA.
“KMA was informed of the container with radioactive materials on December 15th, from a vessel on berth 21, the KPA called for a joint boarding of the vessel by a multi-agency team with the aim of getting information about the container. The team met with the vessel captain and senior officers where it was briefed about the container,” he said.
Mr Njue said the container was undeclared as having dangerous goods, but was instead disguised as dry cargo.
According to the KMA, the vessel had been inspected in India in July 2021 under the IOMOU and found with no deficiencies.
“The vessel was found with documents of compliance for the carriage of dry goods. The team therefore tasked KNRA to take up the issue of the container with radioactive materials which was already discharged from the vessel for transhipment and was secured in the yard at berth no. 21,” said Mr Njue.'


Additional reporting by Gadiosa Lamtey in Dar es Salaam