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Bangladesh Bans Russian Vessel Carrying Nuclear Plant Parts

Rooppur 2 powerplant dome
Construction of the dome of the Rooppur 2 reactor. The shipment aboard Sparta III is part of the supply chain for the powerplant project (Rosatom)

Published Dec 29, 2022 5:00 PM by The Maritime Executive

The government of Bangladesh has denied entry to a Russian ship carrying parts for the new Rooppur nuclear power plant, the first facility of its kind in the nation. 

Russian state nuclear agency Rosatom is the prime contractor for Rooppur, and it opted to bring in a shipment of power plant components aboard the Russian-flagged general cargo ship Ursa Major. However, Ursa Major (ex name Sparta III) is not just any ship. She is linked to Russian shipping company SC South, which delivers cargo for the Russian Ministry of Defense, including construction materials for Russia's string of bases in the High Arctic.

 SC South is a subsidiary of Oboronlogistika OOO, a logistics provider serving the Russian military. Both companies were sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury in May 2022 in connection with the Russian invasion of Ukraine. 

Bangladesh's Science and Technology Minister, Yafes Osman, became aware of the Ursa Major's sanctioned status before the vessel's arrival. His ministry has decided to ban the ship from entering the country and delivering her cargo, he told reporters and Russian representatives on Thursday.  

The news upset the Russian embassy in Dhaka, which has filed a formal letter of protest with the Bangladeshi government, according to local media. 

For now, the Ursa Major appears to be consigned to an extended wait off the coast of the Sundarbans. Her AIS signal has been received only intermittently by commercial satellite AIS receivers, which typically indicates that the unit has been turned on and off. 

"Russia informed us that they sent the vessel by mistake and would now replace it with another ship to carry the consignment for Rooppur power plant and deliver it at the Bangladesh port," Osman told Bangladeshi outlet New Age. 

The last shipments for the Rooppur plant were delivered aboard a mix of Russian and neutral, foreign-flag vessels. These include the Russian-flagged Kamilla and the Liberian-flagged Dragonball.

Ursa Major (Sparta III) was last in the news in 2021, when she transited to the Arctic port of Dudinka without an ice-navigation permit and was beset by early-season ice. It took weeks and multiple icebreakers (and a tow) to bring her back to open water.