Russian vessel carrying cargo for Rooppur returns without unloading

The Russian vessel under US sanctionsCollected

The Russian vessel under US sanction named 'URSA MAJOR' has returned from India without unloading the products for the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant.

The ship waited for around two weeks to unload the cargo in India. However, it failed to get permission from New Delhi to unload the products. Under such circumstances, the vessel left the Indian maritime boundary on 16 January.

On that very same day, Russia informed Bangladesh that the goods for Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant will be sent on a different vessel instead of the ‘URSA MAJOR’ from next time. A senior official of the foreign ministry disclosed this information to Prothom Alo on Thursday morning.

According to diplomatic sources, the URSA MAJOR was supposed to unload products at the Haldia port in West Bengal of India. There is a connection between the ship failing to unload the products and the recent visit of US assistant secretary of state for south and central Asian affairs Donald Lu to India and Bangladesh, according to the sources.

On condition of anonymity a official of the government told this correspondent that during the visit of Donald Lu, the issue of URSA MAJOR carrying cargo for the Rooppur power plant came up in the discussion at the foreign ministry on 15 January. At the time Bangladesh informed him the Rooppur power plant project will be delayed due to the complications regarding unloading the product from URSA MAJOR, which is under US embargo.

The US assistant secretary of state was further informed that the same vessel had unloaded goods in India. The US came up with the sanction related issue when it docked in Bangladesh for unloading.

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In reply, Donald Lu said that India had also been informed about the US sanction on URSA MAJOR. The Russian vessel won’t be allowed to unload products in India either.

Relevant sources say a vessel ‘URSA MAJOR’, bearing the Russian flag, was supposed to reach Mongla port with cargo for the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant on 24 December.

However, on 20 December, the US informed Bangladesh that the vessel carrying the goods is not 'URSA MAJOR'. Rather, it is a ship named ‘Sparta 3’, which is under US embargo. Although the name and colour of the ship has been changed, its IMO (International Marine Organisation) certificate number matches the IMO number of ‘Sparta-3’.

After confirming that the colour and the name of the vessel carrying the Rooppur consignment have been altered, Bangladesh barred it from anchoring in the port.

However, Russia claimed the name of the ship is ‘Sparta-3’ alias URSA MAJOR.

According to the update on the website of the Global Ship Tracking Intelligence, The URSA MAJOR left the Indian maritime boundary on 16 January. The Russian Embassy in Dhaka informed Bangladesh about the departure of the ship on the same day. Before that, US assistant secretary of state Donald Lu left Bangladesh at the end of his 2-day visit to the country.

In a diplomatic letter issued on 20 December, the US embassy in Bangladesh said that the URSA MAJOR was under US sanction. Therefore, unloading cargo from that ship and providing fuel or any sort of assistance to the sailors of that ship might be a risk of fallung under the US sanctions or large financial penalties.

According to relevant sources, after being confirmed about the information provided by the US, the foreign ministry informed the Ministry of Shipping about this. Following that the Ministry of Shipping cancelled the previously given permission to URSA MAJOR for docking in Bangladesh.

Russia protested the decision to bar the vessel bearing the Russian flag from docking through a diplomatic letter. Russia put pressure on Bangladesh to allow the ship to anchor in the port. However, Bangladesh stood firm on its decision and forced the URSA MAJOR to leave the Bangladesh territory. 

Later, the ship tried to unload at the Haldia Port in West Bengal of India. It has been learnt that the local agent had planned to deliver the products to Rooppur from the Haldia port. However, that too was not possible in the end.