The government of Bangladesh has denied entry to the Russian vessel dubbed Ursa Major, which was delivering components for the Rooppur NPP, per news sources. The Russian-flagged general cargo vessel, formerly known as Sparta III, is reportedly linked to the Russian shipping firm named SC South, which delivers cargo for the country’s Ministry of Defense, including construction material meant for Russia’s bases in the Arctic.
SC South and parent firm Oboronlogistika OOO, a logistics provider that serves the Russian military, were sanctioned by the US Treasury in 2022 (May) following Russia’s military operation in Ukraine.
After Yates Osman, the Bangladesh Science and Technology Minister came to be aware of the sanctioned status of Ursa Major, the ministry refused entry to the vessel, and he told reporters and Russia’s representatives.
Ursa Major was reportedly scheduled to reach Mongla port on 24 December, following the unloading of some items at Kerala’s port of Cochin, India. However, the US allegedly informed Bangladesh via a diplomatic letter that the vessel wasn’t Ursa Major but the sanctioned ship Sparta III and that, even though the colour and name of the boat had been altered, its IMO certificate number happened to match Sparta III’s.
The letter also stated that unloading products from that ship and providing fuel or any other assistance to the sailors of that vessel could risk US sanctions or significant financial penalties, per Prothom Alo, a Bangladesh daily. On confirming the US information, the Bangladesh foreign ministry informed the Ministry of Shipping and the Mongla port authorities that the vessel would be prohibited from the dock.
Ursa Major is waiting off the Sundarbans’ coast. Osman informed Bangladesh’s New Age that Russia had announced that they sent the ship by mistake and would replace it with another vessel to carry the consignment for the Rooppur power plant and deliver it to the port of Bangladesh.
Earlier shipments for Rooppur NPP were reportedly delivered by Russian and neutral, foreign-flagged vessels, including the Russian-flagged ship Kamilla and the Liberian-flagged one titled the Dragonball. Ursa Major (Sparta III) was also the focus of media interest in 2021 when she transited to the port of Dudinka with no ice-navigation permit and ended up being trapped by early-season ice. It took multiple weeks and multiple icebreakers (and a tow) to bring her to the open sea.
References: Nuclear Engineering Magazine, Benar News