Arctic Sea docks in Kotka, NBI to examine vessel

The notorious cargo ship Arctic Sea docked in the port of Kotka 30 Dec 09. The National Bureau of Investigation is to examine the vessel, which it considers a crime scene.

The Arctic Sea, a Finish-owned Maltese-registered freight vessel, which was the centre of a bizarre hijack drama earlier this year, arrived in the Mussalo harbour with a load of 4,200 tonnes of lime from the south of France.

According to Sergei Kurashin, the operator of the Finnish Solchart Management shipping line, the ship will continue to be unloaded until Jan.4.
After that, the Arctic Sea will complete the circle, returning to the port of Pietarsaari, where it will pick up a load of sawn timber, which it is to take to Algeria.
It was on such a voyage in July that the ship was commandeered by a group of eight armed men in a rubber boat off the Swedish coast. The hijackers held the ship for nearly a month, until they were overpowered by the Russian navy off Cape Verde off the west coast of Africa.

While it is docked in Finland, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) plan to examine the vessel, says Rabbe von Hertzen, who has headed the NBI’s investigation in the matter
The ship has already been examined by Russian, Maltese, and Algerian officials, none of whom found traces of any suspicious material or high radiation levels.
Kai Naumanen, CEO of Rets Timber, which provided the cargo for the previous trip, and the new one, says that the hijackers never touched the cargo.
Solchart Management CEO Viktro Matvejev says that the only possible hiding place on the ship for rumoured contraband would have been the ballast tanks, which were full of water.

During the hijacking, the Arctic Sea had a different crew. The members are now back home in Archangel.
The crew said that the hijackers had kept them locked inside their cabins. They also constantly wore masks and gloves.
One of the sailors was put in a harness and forced to paint a new name on the hull, indicating that the ship was a North Korean vessel, the Jon Jin 2.
The crew members said that they had been beaten, and that the hijackers staged a mock execution.

But see: story

The twists and turns over the months: 1 2 3 4 5 6

In May, 2009, "Russia's customs service said Thursday it uncovered a ring of active and retired military officers suspected of involvement in stealing millions of dollars worth of missile components and smuggling them out of Russia.

The Federal Customs Service said it has detained a dozen suspects and confiscated about 22 tons of missile components intended for smuggling.

It said that the criminal ring had smuggled parts of S-75, S-125, S-200 and S-300 air defense missile systems.

The customs agency said that the ring included Russian military officers on active duty along with some retirees and citizens of Belarus and Ukraine. It said the suspects were believed to work with senior officers of the military's air defense forces stationed in Russia's northwest, but would not give any names.

The information available to YLE is that Russian, Swedish, Maltese and Finnish officials closely monitored the movements of the vessel when located and the Russian Navy implemented the rescue operation. YLE

One outstanding mystery is why, if the ship was hijacked on 24 July, none of the crew was able to get the word out before contact was lost a few days later. "The vessel had all the necessary modern means of communication and emergency alarms, and was located in waters where ordinary mobile telephones work," said Mikhail Voitenko, editor of the Russian maritime journal Sovfrakht. "To hijack the vessel so that no one makes a peep – can you imagine how that could be? I can't." Mr Voitenko is one of the few commentators who have provided a trickle of information about the ship. He and other Russian experts have aired suspicions that the 98-metre freighter was carrying an undeclared cargo and that high-level state interests were involved, but so far nobody has been able to provide details. Independent

Dmitri Bartenev , a rhib pilgrim picked up by the Arctic Sea on 24 July, said the eight pilgrims were testing out a navigation system before starting environmental work off the Estonian coast. There were four Estonians, two Latvians and two Russians. [On 28 July Solchart Finland reported the "boarding "- Russian Navy deployed 12 August] On 17 August, when the Russian naval frigate, the Ladny, came alongside. The Arctic Sea's crew had spotted the heavily armed vessel two days previously [15 August - press said found on the 14th ] and the crew broke out the vodka again. "We spent the last two nights on board getting drunk with the crew." [Bartenev had previous arrests for possessing amphetamines and drink driving.]

The level of detail given in this account is striking and it is likely to fuel suspicions that the eight were set up to try to save Russia the embarrassment of explaining what the Arctic Sea was really carrying. Guardian Telegraph

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