South African police on Thursday said they had boarded a Russian-registered cargo ship allegedly carrying illegal weapons to Lagos, Nigeria.
The vessel, named Lada, had reportedly left Madagascar before stopping at Ngqura port outside the eastern city of Port Elizabeth, where it was detained after a security check on Sunday.
“We are aware that she has dangerous cargo — explosives and weapons — on board,” Olwethu Mdabula, spokeswoman for the Transnet state transport company told AFP.
She declined to give further details.
Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi, spokesman for the Hawks police investigative unit, confirmed to AFP that the vessel was carrying weapons.
“This is a very, very sensitive matter. It is receiving attention,” he said.
Local reports said police had searched the vessel after an anonymous tip-off and found weapons and explosives worth about $3.5 million in 20 containers on board.
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 role players that have been roped in to assist,” said Mulaudzi.
He said he could not yet reveal who the role players 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.