Simon's Town residents yesterday morning witnessed an unusual sight – a Russian cargo ship by the name of Lady R docked in the navy shipyard.

According to a former SA Navy admiral it is not normal for a commercial vessel to dock in a navy port.

The Daily Maverick reports that Lady R’s automatic identification system (AIS) – the tracking system capable of providing position, identification and other information about ships to other vessels and coastal authorities – was offline.

According to the ship monitoring services, Marine Traffic & Vessel Finder, the ship’s last-known position was recorded at 2.41pm SAST on Monday, south of Agulhas.

DA Shadow Minister of Defence Kobus Marais said the issue ‘is most certainly concerning, because all commercial vessels AIS should be on at all times’.

Marais said the information he had received was that Lady R was a vessel in distress and was escorted to Simon's Town as the nearest port.

‘This apparently was in terms of international obligations on the SA Navy to assist any vessel going around the Cape,’ he said.

In response to the ongoing invasion of Ukraine, the US has, over the past months, placed sanctions on dozens of Russian vessels and shipping companies.

The DM notes that Lady R is among those sanctioned by the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.

The company with which the ship is linked – Transmorflot – is also sanctioned.

Full Daily Maverick report