US Shipping Medical Waste & Weapons to Sri Lanka?
Posted on April 9th, 2024

e-Con e-News


Before you study the economics, study the economists!

e-Con e-News 31 March – 6 April 2024


‘Maersk wouldn’t have taken on board containers

carrying hazardous materials that were to be unloaded here

without specific approval from the relevant authorities in Colombo

– Gomi Senadhira, Former SL Ambassador to the World Trade Organization

The US army has declared Baltimore Port a no-go area & drone-free zone, making it difficult for ‘independent’ investigators to report on the actual contents on that Maersk-chartered Singapore-flagged ship, Dali.

     A Unified Command, ‘led by the US Coast Guard, US Army Corps of Engineering, Maryland Department of the Environment, Maryland Transportation Authority & Maryland State Police [has effected a ] 2,000-yard maritime Safety Zone for the M/V Dali recovery…which includes a temporary flight restriction that prohibits all drones from operating within 3 nautical miles from the surface, up to and including 1,500 feet above ground level’.

     The 22 crew members, which US media earlier described as ‘22 Hindus’, now being reported as a still-unnamed ’21 Indians & 1 Sri Lankan’ are being detained on the ship, unable to leave. Indian crews, captains & engineers are paid less than their US counterparts, adds New York Times, and surmise they ‘must feel this weight of responsibility that they couldn’t stop it from happening’. No information independent of the US government will therefore be immediately forthcoming as to exactly what was on the Danish Maersk-chartered ship bound for Sri Lanka.


     The Fog Thickens – Almost all news stories first reported the ship was only headed to Colombo, but a Maersk-linked supply-chain platform e2open Executive now suddenly claims, ‘Dali was headed to China with stops in Sri Lanka & Malaysia’! How’s thaaat for some ‘new cold war’ diversion?!

     Subsequently, in the Financial Times (SL), Ports, Shipping & Aviation Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva on April 3 supposedly ‘verified… out of the 57 containers onboard; only one was destined for Colombo… I have inquired from the Maersk shipping line and they confirmed that there were 57 containers with toxic materials that can be categorised under the International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code. But only one box was bound for Colombo and the rest were for re-export.’

     ‘Addressing misinformation circulating in the media, the Minister criticised individuals lacking proper knowledge of the situation. He highlighted the vessel’s final destination was Chinaa detail he claimed was overlooked in media coverage. The Minister also underscored the necessity of handling classified goods, such as flammables & hazardous materials, in international trade & logistics: ‘Goods falling under classifications 1-9 require special approval from the Ministry of Defence and under the current law we have been doing that without any issue.’

     Regarding cargo declaration procedures, the Minister clarified that containers’ contents must be declared 72 hours or 3 days before arrival at Colombo Port. ‘However, given the negative publicity surrounding the incident, authorities sought additional details from the shipping line,’ he added, ‘We still do not know what exactly is in that one container bound for Colombo. We would only know when the vessel entered the Indian Ocean. But now the ship won’t come as per the scheduled date.’

     Maersk’s e2open ‘Executive’ keeps adding to the fog: Dali ‘had about 4,700 full containers (about 50% of its 10,000 capacity) and probably a batch of empty containers – this is in line with what is expected on a west to east voyage where container vessels carry less cargo back than they bring in’. What these ‘empty containers’ actually contain has led to intense speculation. Was it full before, and have only become empty now? Denmark’s Maersk, transporter for the US Department of War, provides integral ‘logistical support’ to the US military, whose government seeks to turn Sri Lanka into a war zone, installing a base for its new 8th Fleet.

     Could the Singapore-flagged vessel have been carrying military weapons loaded at the largest US Navy base in Norfolk, which the Dali had entered earlier? And what is the ship’s link to Baltimore’s medical waste scandal? (see below) With the drone-free zone, for whom & for where & for what, will now be made increasingly unclear.

     Meanwhile, ministers & officials in Sri Lanka are also contradicting each other, about who knows or knew exactly what. They simply parrot talking points supplied by officials from the huge multinational Maersk, which has powerful links with Sri Lanka’s colonial import-export plantation oligarchy led by colonial conglomerate John Keells etc, and even more powerful multinationals like Unilever…


• In late 2023, Curtis Bay Energy (CBE), the USA’s largest medical waste incinerator, which operates in South Baltimore, Maryland, was fined almost $2million as a criminal penalty for improper disposal of biohazardous materials from hospitals and medical laboratories. Curtis Bay Energy disposes of biohazardous material from around the US & from Canada.

     Such ‘raw materials’ could include liquid or dried blood, anatomical materials and other biohazards. CBE had also improperly disposed of untreated water used in the waste incineration process into nearby lands.

     Despite the penalties, the company recently came under scrutiny again in early 2024, involving 2 of Maryland’s largest health systems: Johns Hopkins University said it would divert nearly all of its medical waste from CBE; while MedStar Health, which operates 10 hospitals, insisted they had to continue using CBE, a week after Maryland again filed a lawsuit against Curtis Bay Energy. Most of Johns Hopkins medical waste comes from its university, rather than its hospital system. CBE operates in a heavily industrialized area in a working-class south Baltimore neighborhood, whose residents are demanding action from the hospitals contracted with CBE. The question is how much of this waste was shoved onto that Maersk-chartered Singapore-flagged ship bound for Sri Lanka.

     Ironically, on the day of the Baltimore bridge crash, on 26 March, southern New Mexico marked the 25th anniversary of the USA’s only underground repository for radioactive waste from decades of nuclear research & bomb making. New Mexico, home of the Navajo & Apache, has long been targeted for such ‘disposables’. The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant outside Carlsbad has taken in around 13,850 shipments from more than a dozen national laboratories and other sites since 1999.

     New Mexico was concerned about US government plans for ‘repackaging and shipping’ drums of nuclear waste packed at the Los Alamos National Laboratory to be stored at WIPP, which were later rerouted to Texas. Would such ships now carry such materials as well, and was the Dali the only such ship that’s been heading to Colombo?


ee’s main goal in this short and sometimes sweet life, is to discuss the prevention of investment in modern machine-making industry in Sri Lanka. Therefore the ’recycling’ of ‘hazardous wastes’ even into useful substances may be possible if there is investment in such processes. However, we are not allowed to invest even in our own ‘safe’ resources. However, such countries as the USA could easily process their own wastes, rather than dump it on us. Yet they would rather invest in ‘global warring’.…So whatever surprises they had been planning for us after this New Year, have been perhaps postponed for now.


• ‘Maersk wouldn’t have taken on board containers carrying hazardous materials that were to be unloaded here without specific approval from the relevant authorities in Colombo’, former SL Ambassador to the WTO & Minister Counsellor in Washington & Brussels, Gomi Senadhira told The Island on April 2. Senadhira also pointed to an agreement with Singapore to accept ‘waste’: ‘The government without any further delay should take tangible measures to identify those who had authorised the shipment of such dangerous materials.’ He said, ‘the identities of those who had been involved in this operation must have been known to the powers that be’.

     ‘The government could seek the assistance of the US in this regard,’ the outspoken former official said. ‘The issue at hand is how many such shipments reached Colombo over the years,’ pointing out, if not for the ship crashing into the Francis Scott Key Bridge, Baltimore, it could have been on its way to the Colombo harbour. He added, the possibility of persons with authority exploiting BoI procedures for their benefit couldn’t be ruled out.

     ee already noted Maersk’s partnership with colonial conglomerate John Keells’ South Asia Gateway Terminal (SAGT) located in England’s Peninsular & Orient (P&O)-controlled Queen Elizabeth Quay in Colombo Port (see below). Last November 2023, the US International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) promised a $553mn investment in the Adani Ports-led West Container Terminal port project in Colombo, to be jointly developed with John Keells and the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA).

     Director Customs Seevali Arukgoda says, ‘Customs has no way of knowing who the consignee is and what the cargo is until the cargo manifest is filed by the agent hereEven then, cargo description is in most cases not sufficient to properly identify such goods. No one will declare contents as ‘Toxic Waste’.’

     Senadhira recalled that a few years ago England was exposed for shipping to Colombo, 263 containers of hazardous waste, including human body parts from hospitals/mortuaries. Those containers were taken back after the exposure. Senadhira expressed ‘serious concern whether far more hazardous waste were being shipped here aboard Dali with the connivance of the relevant authorities here’.

     Senadhira said, he was glad the Opposition raised this issue in Parliament April 02. Referring to the extensive coverage of the accident & its aftermath, he said, the ship’s next stop was to be Colombo, adding that prior to Baltimore, Dali called at New York & Norfolk, Virginia, where some of those containers or all bound for Colombo were loaded.

     Senadhira said, this was nothing but a massive crime perpetrated on hapless people by those who would turn the country into a toxic-waste yard for personal gain… Parliament should take up this issue vigorously and seek answers as every attempt would obviously be made to suppress the information by those involved. Some politicians & officials obviously cooperated with interested parties and reached agreements for their benefit, but at a massive expense to the country. The controversial agreement finalized with Singapore during the Yahapalana administration to accept waste from that country was just a case in point. The Baltimore accident is a tragedy as it caused colossal damages and claimed the lives of several persons. But, that incident is in a way a blessing in disguise as it exposed a grave crime about to be perpetrated against Sri Lanka, Senadhira said.

     Rather ironically, Singapore’s Transport Safety Investigation Bureau this week blamed the ship crew and the Colombo Port for the 2021 X-Press Pearl disaster!


• A Maersk-linked ‘CEO’ of a Colombo Port Co, who ‘contributes valuable insights to the industry’, criticized ee & media who dared share ee content: ‘Better stick to matters you can grasp. The toxic cargo story was floated by a Sri Lankan blogger who writes all sorts of nonsense on various topics. [The] importing country knows whats [sic!] on a ship by its manifest declared to customs.’ He told the Daily Mirror, ‘You are copying from a blog, which writes bulshit [sic!] on topics they have no idea of.’

     However, no media, free or expensive, had dared mention the Sri Lanka-related issues involved with the Baltimore bridge, until ee broke the story on 30 March.

     On 31 March, The Island only reported the accident had only ‘two remote connections to Sri Lanka in that the vessel was headed for Colombo, and the US Senator for Baltimore, Chris Van Hollen Jr who figured prominently in the reporting of the disaster, is the son of Christopher Van Hollen Sr, a career diplomat, one time US Ambassador in Sri Lanka’ in the 1970s. They forgot to add that father Hollen had opposed Sirimavo Bandaranaike’s Indian Ocean Peace Zone Initiative, then actively destabilized her government. Son Hollen, active in the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s ousting and jailing of Pakistan PM Imran Khan, and in the current destabilization of Sri Lanka & Somalia. He visited Colombo in September 2023.

     Even more intriguingly, on 31 March, a Sunday Times story, headlined ‘Baltimore bridge disaster: Vessel carried containers for transhipment from Colombo’ by Sunimalee Dias, also quoted unnamed Maersk officials, claiming: ‘According to the vessel manifest there was cargo to be discharged at Colombo Port comprising one cargo with resin solution for manufacturing. In addition, there had been over 500 containers to be discharged as transshipment volumes meant for India. With the Baltimore Port closed, it is likely to take some time until operations resume and investigations are carried out on the accident, local agents stated. Maersk in an updated statement noted that no new bookings in to or out of the Port of Baltimore will be accepted.’ [Ha! – ee]. ‘However, they will continue to offer options through alternate US East Coast (USEC) ports.’ There was no mention of the other 4,199 containers on the Dali. Nor that it was on its way to China.


     Yet the next day (April 01), media quoted Sri Lanka Ports Authority Chair Keith Bernard as saying shippers have to declare the contents of containers only 72 hours before the time of arrival into the Colombo Port:

     ‘The ship [was] supposed to arrive here on April 21, 2024. It means they are supposed to inform us by April 17 or so. There is enough time. If there are containers with hazardous items as declared by them, we will isolate such containers in accordance with protocols. As a major transshipment hub, we have a procedure set in place to deal with such containers. Most likely, these containers are meant for transshipment.’

     Asked about the procedure if the containers are meant to be allowed into the country, Bernard said, ‘the clearance of the Defence Ministry and others would be sought’.

     However, ‘Deputy Director of the Central Environment Authority (CEA) Ajith Wijesundara said it is not yet clear whether the ship was carrying containers with hazardous wastes or toxic substances. According to the Basel Convention, he said such wastes would not be allowed into the country.

     The text of the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal was adopted on March 22, 1989, and entered into force on the 90th day after the date of deposit of the 20th instrument of ratification, acceptance, formal confirmation, approval or accession, on May 5, 1992. The text has been subject to various amendments since its adoption. He added that toxic substances are imported as raw materials and guidelines are applied. (see ee Sovereignty, SL unaware of ship carrying toxic wastes from the US)


     On April 2, Daily Mirror reported, ‘The Central Environment Authority (CEA) has launched a comprehensive investigation, according to State Minister of Environment Janaka Wakkumbura. He told Parliament, the CEA was unaware that the cargo ship carrying hazardous materials was heading to Sri Lanka… while responding to questions raised by SLPP MP Charitha Herath and Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa… a proper investigation should be conducted as to how such a cargo ship carrying hazardous materials was heading to Sri Lanka without the knowledge of the country.

     ‘We would not have known of the hazardous material in the cargo ship unless it encountered an accident. A proper investigation should be conducted as to how such a ship was heading to Sri Lanka in such a manner.’ Wakkumbura said, Sri Lanka Customs and Colombo Port have been informed of the cargo ship and assured to provide a report to the House of the incident.

     The SLPA Chair claims, it does not mean that the hazardous material that was said to aboard the ship was intended for Sri Lanka. Most of the containers… were to go to other destinations (countries) via Sri Lanka… the SLPA was not even aware of the contents of the containers at the time of the collision. ‘Of the containers that the ship was carrying, we do not know how many were intended for Sri Lanka.’

     The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said, the investigation as to contents could take 12-24 months, although the NTSB will not hesitate to issue urgent safety recommendations during that time. The preliminary report would be released in 2-4 weeks.’

     The Morning newspaper added: ‘Attempts to contact the Central Environmental Authority and the Sri Lanka Customs to get more information in this regard were not successful.’


• While not a single environmental organization has uttered a word (further evidence that these NGOs are only triggered by their funding masters in the US & EU), ee’s report last week caught the attention of both media and parliament. The Daily Mirror muddled ee’s narrative and left out crucial information:

‘It is more foggy which Maersk-linked US companies export toxic materials to Sri Lanka. Maersk, which the US government’s local media mouth EconomyNext calls ‘a global shipping industry giant’, recently partnered with the privatized National Development Bank (NDB) to help Sri Lanka’s ‘Small & Medium Enterprises’ grow. What SMEs, US-military-linked Maersk wishes to ‘grow’, is unclear’.

The privatization of the NDB & DFCC banks should be considered a national scandal. That it has been hijacked by the likes of Maersk is no surprise. DM also left out, in reference to the longer route via South Africa’s Cape:

‘The more expensive and longer diversions are blamed by the white media on Yemen, which by ‘international law’ (which the US invokes but does not abide by) controls access through the Red Sea & Somalia which has Africa’s largest coastline & controls eastern access to the large continent’.

Indeed, the constant media reference to ‘Somali pirates‘ diverts from the robbery of their seas & the US financing of various ‘terrorist’ groups in Somalia. The media fears offending the USA, which is seeking to block Asia’s sea traffic (see ee Quotes). The announcement this week that an Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC) is ‘welcoming’ new shipping regulations in the Arctic, is also another attempt to interfere in the traffic, this time, between Russia & East Asia. The ICC has been long funded by Exxon’s Rockefeller Foundation, etc.

     The DM’s carefully manicured ‘Comments Section’ on the ship story also sought to divert focus to the retail corruption of politicians and away from the wholesale exploitation by multinational corporations (with budgets far bigger than most nation-states). Check out the link to all these sea games & England’s Peninsular & Orient (P&O) Company’s colonial monopoly (see Random Notes).

ee here recalls, ‘The first roadblock to the Hambantota Port project was placed by P&O… If Hambantota was developed as a major hub port it would have posed a threat to Indian ports, like Nhava Shiva developed by P&O and now competing with Colombo.’ Those who claim to be experts on China’s ‘sinister designs’ on our ports & our seas, are curiously ignorant of England’s P&O’s control of international shipping, etc, for almost 200 years. In 1999, P&O was given a 30-year lease over Colombo Port’s Queen Elizabeth Quay – a fact never mentioned in the media (see ee 02/11, 2019).

This week saw media focus on revelations by an ex-President about India’s involvement in the April 2019 terror, as well as India’s claim on an islet north of Jaffna. This diverted from India’s claims over the oceanic floor’s mineral wealth within Sri Lanka’s maritime territories (see ee Sovereignty, Seabed). This ee Focus looks at the un-investigated revelations made by the Speaker about blatant foreign interference in the country’s internal  affairs, as well as an ex-Air-Force officer’s exposure of the stages leading to the ouster of a legally elected head of state.



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