What Happened to the Missing Ship 'Arctic Sea'?
Piracy suspected two weeks after cargo ship's bizarre disappearance.
MOSCOW, Aug. 12, 2009 — -- Russia's president has ordered the Russian Navy to take part in the search for the cargo ship "Arctic Sea." Manned by a Russian crew, the ship vanished two weeks ago off the coast of southern Europe.
President Dmitry Medvedev told Secretary of Defense Anatoly Serdyukov to "take all necessary measures to establish the whereabouts and to find the missing ship 'Arctic Sea' with a Russian crew on board, as well as to free [the ship's crew], should such a need arise," the Kremlin told Interfax on Wednesday.
The Arctic Sea is a 5,000-ton cargo ship that was carrying timber worth approximately $1.6 million from Finland to Algeria. It left port July 23, and the next morning was reportedly boarded in Swedish waters in the Baltic Sea by a band of masked hijackers in a high-speed rubber boat, who identified themselves as anti-drug police. The 15-man crew was tied up while the hijackers searched the ship.
After 12 hours, they apparently disembarked and sped away, breaking radio and other communications gear but without taking anything of value, the crew reported to the Maltese Maritime Authority, where the ship is registered. Instead of making port after the incident, the ship continued on its trip.
The ship was last heard from July 28, when it radioed the Dover, England, Coast Guard because it was approaching the English Channel. In a call the Coast Guard called routine, the ship said that it was en route to the Algerian port of Bejaia, where it was due to arrive Aug. 4. The last time its position was recorded by tracking equipment was July 30, when it was off the coast of the northern French town of Brest. On Aug. 2, the ship was spotted by Portuguese coastal patrol planes.
But the next day, Aug. 3, Interpol told the Dover Coast Guard that the ship had been hijacked more than a week before and asked the Coast Guard to stay vigilant. By that point, however, the ship had passed through the English Channel and had fallen off the radar.