Colombian authorities detained a vessel operated by China’s largest shipping group for illegally transporting thousands of cannon shells, around 100 tons of gunpowder and other materials used to make explosives, the attorney general’s office said.
The Da Dan Xia, operated by Cosco Shipping Co, was headed for Cuba when it was stopped on Saturday in the northern port of Cartagena, on the Caribbean coast, after the materials were detected during an inspection. The cargo was listed in the records of the 28,451dwt ship as grain products. The captain of the Hong Kong-flagged vessel had been arrested, the attorney general’s office said. China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the ship was carrying ordinary military supplies to Cuba and was not in violation of any international obligations.
“It is completely normal military trade cooperation. At present, China is communicating with the parties on this matter,” Hua said.
A Cosco Shipping official in the firm’s Guangzhou head office said the ship was operated by the company but added she was unaware of the incident. Cargo documentation the captain presented did not match the load the ship was found to be carrying, Luis Gonzalez, national director of the Colombian attorney general’s office, told reporters.
“Around 100 tons of powder, 2.6 million detonators, 99 projectiles and around 3,000 cannon shells were found,” Gonzalez added.
Photographs from the prosecutor’s office showed wooden cases inside a shipping container with labels stating Chinese defense manufacturer China North Industries Group Corporation as the supplier. The company, known as Norinco, is China’s biggest arms maker. It did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The recipient was stated as importer Tecnoimport in the Cuban capital Havana. The Cuban company could not immediately be reached for comment. A man who identified himself as the Da Dan Xia’s first officer confirmed the ship had been detained in Colombia when Reuters called the vessel’s phone number on Wednesday. Source: Maritime Executive/Reuters