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Ship may be used for drug carriage

Ship may be used for drug carriage
The ship had sailed from Finland with a cargo of timber destined for Algeria. It was last spotted off Portugal's Atlantic coast on August 1, two days after its AIS appears to have been switched off.

The ship had sailed from Finland with a cargo of timber destined for Algeria. It was last spotted off Portugal's Atlantic coast on August 1, two days after its AIS appears to have been switched off.

The ship had sailed from Finland with a cargo of timber destined for Algeria. It was last spotted off Portugal's Atlantic coast on August 1, two days after its AIS appears to have been switched off.

It seems, according to Malta"s Maritime Authority, that on 28 July, the managers of the Maltese-flagged Arctic Sea told the Helsinki police authorities that the ship had been hijacked in Swedish waters four days earlier by between eight and 12 men armed with guns and pistols and dressed as policemen. These intruders assaulted the crew, injuring some of them, before tying them up and questioning them about "drug trafficking" for a number of hours ? and may have damaged equipment that delayed communications.

However, it was assumed that after rummaging through the vessel, the hijackers left some 12 hours later in the same high-speed inflatable they had arrived in, so by the time Arctic Sea passed through the Dover Straits it appeared that nothing was wrong, and no alarm was sounded.

There are a number of theories as to what has happened. Nick Davis of the Merchant Maritime Warfare Centre told the "Today" programme on Radio 4 that he "strongly suspected" the disappearance was linked to some kind of commercial dispute with a third party, which took matters into its own hands. He said he also suspected that by now the vessel would be repainted, renamed and sitting off the west coast of Africa ? adding that he thinks the crew will turn up soon, asking to go home. But what if they don"t?

Tim Crossin of CS5, another maritime security firm with experience of piracy, says there are many differing ideas as to what has happened, none of which can be substantiated as yet. One other theory is that it could have been part of a plan to use the ship as a transfer vessel for drug or arms trafficking. Another, equally valid point is made by Mr Crossin who says that a relatively small number of stowaways could have kept in hiding on the boat, since it would only need six at most to take control of the vessel a while after the original incident.

Further, he notes that although the missing Arctic Sea is in the press due to its disappearance, it is not especially uncommon for boats to be boarded in European or Mediterranean waters, "There have been lots and lots of short, one-off incidents that don"t make the news, partly because the people concerned are embarrassed. Smaller vessels get boarded all the time."

www.TurkishMaritime.com.tr

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