Look Ma, No Hijackers

Mystery as missing cargo ship Arctic Sea found without hijackers

The ship baffled maritime authorities when it disappeared shortly after being sailed through the English Channel last month, raising the prospect of the first act of piracy in European waters for hundreds of years.

Anatoly Serdyukov, the Russian defence minister, said that the 15 crew members were safe after they were taken on board a naval frigate “300 miles off the Cape Verde islands”.

“They are being questioned to clarify all the circumstances of the disappearance. We will explain what happened with it, why communications with it were lost, why it changed its itinerary.”

Russian authorities did not provide information on the precise circumstances of the ship’s interception near Cape Verde, about 2,500 miles away from the vessel’s intended location.

The naval operation, which took place on Sunday night, followed a weekend of joint Russia-Nato surveillance of the “hijacked” Maltese-flagged ship culminating in its detention by the Russian anti-submarine frigate, the Ladny.

Malta’s Maritime Authority said it would be “using diplomatic, security service, flag administration, military and police channels” to find out more about what had happened.

“The MV Arctic Sea is under the control of the Russian military forces. Further clarifications into the case are being sought,” said a spokesman.

The freighter’s disappearance on the high seas for 19 days, in spite of 21st century satellite and navigation tracking technology, has been compared to the plot of a spy thriller by John Le Carre.

European and Russian maritime experts had speculated that that the ship’s hijacking was not connected with an official manifest of timber and could be linked to an illegal cargo, such as arms, drugs or even nuclear materials, carried without the knowledge of crew or the ship’s owners.

The vessel left the Finnish port of Pietarsaari on July 23 with a £1.2 million cargo of timber for scheduled unloading on Aug 4 at Bejaia, Algeria.

But the Arctic Sea’s voyage was then plunged into mystery after crew reported a boarding in Swedish waters on July 24 by 10 armed English-speaking men masquerading as anti-narcotics police officers.

According to crew members, the intruders held them hostage for 12 hours, subjected them to violent questioning and “went through the ship with a fine-tooth comb”.

After proceeding through the English Channel on July 28, a final signal from the vessel’s automatic identification system (AIS) two days later placed the “pirate” ship 50 miles south of Penzance.

According to European Union officials a second attack was then reported off the Portuguese coast and the ship’s AIS system was switched off.

Last week, Russian navy vessels, including the Ladny and two nuclear submarines, were mobilised following reports of the vessel’s hijacking.

The Daily Telegraph understands the whereabouts of the 4000 ton dry-cargo freighter had been established last Thursday as the missing vessel headed south, out of Europe’s Atlantic waters towards the west African coast.

The Arctic Sea was then spotted by coastguards on Aug 14 in international waters 500 miles off the West African island archipelago of Cape Verde and the vessel was placed under ongoing surveillance by Russian and Nato military.

Finnish police investigators confirmed at the weekend that a ransom demand, said to be around £900,000, had been received by the Arctic Sea’s Russian owners.

Viktor Matveyev, director of the ship’s Russian-owned operator Oy Solchart, said: “We are all incredibly happy. Now the big work starts to find out what happened.”

See also:
Russia finds Arctic Sea ship, ‘debriefing’ crew
Russia Finds Missing Ship Arctic Sea, Defense Minister Says
Missing cargo ship Arctic Sea found off Cape Verde
Russian Navy finds Arctic Sea
Arctic Sea owner: Happy crew is “safe and all alive” (Extra)
Arctic Sea found off Cape Verde
Where Oh Where Has The Arctic Sea Gone, Where Oh Where Can It Be?
Thar She Blows?
The Plot Thickems

Well, it’s a good thing that the crew is safe and the recovery of the Arctic Sea was peaceful. However, there are still many more questions than answers. Hopefully, we’ll eventually find out the truth of what happened.

Until then, a couple of questions immediately leap to mind. Since there were no hijackers aboard, what exactly was the crew doing sailing the Arctic Sea off the coast of West Africa and why didn’t they turn on their identification beacon or otherwise communicate their location and situation to anyone?

/I’m betting that the whole “hijacking” scenario was a hoax, part of an elaborate scam for money, and the crew was in on it

The Plot Thickems

Police say ransom demanded in Arctic Sea mystery

A ransom has been demanded for a missing Russian cargo ship which vanished two weeks ago after being involved in a suspected hijacking off the coast of Sweden last month, Finnish police told CNN Saturday.

Authorities said the ransom demand might be from a second group of hijackers who targeted the ship after it was first allegedly hijacked for 12 hours off the coast of Sweden.

“There has been a demand for ransom and the subject is the shipping company, Solchart Management,” Jan Olof Nyholm with the Finnish police told CNN.

An international criminal investigation is under way into the alleged hijacking of the vessel, the Arctic Sea. The last known communication with the vessel was July 31.

The probe, involving Interpol, is being handled by Swedish, Maltese and Finnish authorities in cooperation with authorities from another 20 countries, the Malta Maritime Authority said in a statement Saturday.

Finnish police would not say how much ransom had been demanded, or what else they know about the vessel.

“At this point I can’t comment on whether we know the whereabouts of the ship. Our top priority is the threat to life and health, so I can’t release any more details,” Nyholm said. “The investigation has more details, but I can’t say any more.”

The Arctic Sea, which sails under a Maltese flag, was carrying a 6,500-ton cargo of timber from Finland to Algeria when it reported trouble on July 24.

See also:
Finland says ransom demand received for missing cargo ship Arctic Sea
Missing Ship Arctic Sea’s Owner Gets Ransom Demand (Update1)
Ransom demand made for Arctic Sea cargo ship
Ransom Demand Over Missing Atlantic Ship
Owners of missing cargo ship receive ransom demand
Report: Vanished ship’s signal appears off France
How on earth has the ‘Arctic Sea’ vanished?
Thar She Blows?
Where Oh Where Has The Arctic Sea Gone, Where Oh Where Can It Be?
Interpol

Who is demanding ransom and where is the Arctic Sea?

/enquiring minds want to know