Kenya defends order to send back ship with toxic waste to India

Tuesday December 21 2021
Lamu port

MV Seago Piraeus ship at the Lamu port. PHOTO | KEVIN ODIT | NMG


Kenya has defended herself on its move to stop a cargo ship en route to Zanzibar loaded with radioactive materials, saying the decision is within the international treaty to protect Africa from the import of harmful waste.

Nairobi says ordering the ship to return the 20-feet container, which was detected emitting high radiation levels, to India was within the Bamako Convention, which prohibits the import into Africa of any hazardous materials, including radioactive waste.

The Convention was adopted under the auspices of the Organisation of African Unity in 1991 (now African Union) and came into force in 1998 and calls for the ban of the import into the continent and the Control of Transboundary Movement and Management of Hazardous Wastes within Africa.

Health Secretary Mutahi Kagwe on Sunday ordered the captain of MV Seago Piraeus to return the dangerous consignment to the loading port – Nhava Sheva Port in India.

“Kenya is a signatory of different treaties which does not allow the dumping of toxic material, and we shall compel all those on board to answer any question asked as per sections 60 and 62 of the Public Health Act,” said Mr Kagwe.

Kenya Ports Authority (KPA) acting head of security Tony Kibwana said high standard operating procedures and modern scanning equipment helped the country to detect uranium substances in the 20 feet container on the ship.


Mr Kibwana said the Mombasa port is equipped to deal with illegal trade and other counterfeit products, and it also does that as it ensures port workers and crew are protected.

“The vessel, MV Seago Piraeus, passed different ports, but we are happy we identified the container before it reached the receiving port. We shall remain vigilant to ensure importers comply with set maritime trade laws,” said Mr Kibwana.

According to KPA, the vessel docked at the Mombasa Port on December 13 from Salalah Port in Oman with 4,196 containers. After scanning, a 20 feet-container with identification number TCKU3337296 showed high radiation levels, forcing the port to isolate it.

“The container was loaded in India by a trader under a company name Shipper Prama Exports Limited c/o B117 Avon Arcade based at Maharashtra State in Dj Road Mumbai and it was declared as gas mantle, Sutli, padlocks and assorted hardware goods,” said Mr Wahome.

Mr Wahome said the cargo was to be received by Hafidh Ali Hamad in Zanzibar.

The container was isolated on December 14 and reloaded the following day after Health ministry measures were taken to protect the crew from radioactive emissions.

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.

Mr Wahome said the port acted according to International Maritime Organisation laws that call for the vessel and cargo repatriation to the loading port. He said the ship sailed back to India after meeting the Ministry of Health conditions on Sunday at 4 am.

According to maritime expert Andrew Mwangura, toxic dumping in the Western Indian Ocean region by developed countries has been a norm, but recent campaigns by environmentalists have reduced such cases.

“Fishermen in the Indian Ocean, more so in Somalia, have for a very long time have been complaining to the international community about waste dumping and other ecological disasters, but for the past five years, such cases have reduced,” said Mr Mwangura.