Thursday, 17 March 2011

Angolan authorities clear U.S.-flagged ship to proceed

By the CNN Wire Staff
March 3, 2011

(CNN) -- A U.S.-flagged ship, detained in the port of Lobito after Angolan authorities questioned part of its cargo, was being cleared to resume its journey Thursday, the shipping line said.

The ship, the Maersk Constellation, was carrying U.S. food aid to several African nations, along with four containers of bullets "destined for a U.S.-allied country under a U.S. Department of State export license arranged by the shipper, a U.S. company that is not affiliated with Maersk," said a statement from Kevin Speers, senior director for Maersk Line, Limited.

As the vessel arrived in Lobito to unload some of the food aid cargo, "all the ship's cargo was declared," the shipping line said. "Twelve days later, the Angolan authorities raised questions about the four containers onboard and elected to detain the vessel until the documentation was verified."

Local police said the vessel, which was en route from Senegal to Kenya, was seized Monday when it docked in Lobito, according to journalist Jose Manuel Alberto.

According to the ship's manifesto, it was carrying soy for a South African non-governmental organization working in Benguela, a city in western Angola, but authorities said they discovered that the soy in four of the containers was covering a cache of guns, ammunition and rockets.

Local police said the captain had known of the munitions, which belong to Kenya's Defense Ministry, but failed to declare them.

Speers said the Angolan authorities requested that the four containers in question be discharged from the vessel for inspection, and Maersk and the ship's captain and crew cooperated.

"On Wednesday evening local time, Angolan authorities informed the ship's captain that the verification process was complete, the cargo will be returned to the vessel and Maersk Constellation will be permitted to proceed with its voyage," the statement said.

"We are now awaiting the cargo so Maersk Constellation can be underway, and until then we will continue to work with Angolan and U.S. government officials."

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