Secret cargo aboard missing ship?

The “Arctic Sea” ship which disappeared in the Atlantic was carrying a cargo of timber worth nearly $2 mln and, perhaps, a “secret” cargo says Mikhail Voytenko, editor-in-chief of the Russian maritime bulletin Sovfrakht.

“It has been unveiled that the timber belongs to the biggest European paper manufacturer, Stora Enso Oyj,” Voytenko told Interfax.

However, the company maintains that they were not the only ones whose cargo the “Arctic Sea” was carrying. Voytenko stated that a cargo of timber was unlikely to have been the cause for the ship’s disappearance.

“It was either a secret or a counterfeited shipment,” he said.

The company whose cargo the ship was officially carrying also confirmed that something else might have been at stake.

“We are not the only company whose cargo was on board,” a spokesman for Stora Enso Oyj told Interfax.

He also noted that all of their timber was insured, so the company will not suffer a loss as a result of the incident. When asked whether he knew which other companies had their cargo aboard the “Arctic Sea,” the spokesman said that such information was unavailable.

Voytenko said the last signals from the ship were received on July 30. According to other sources, the last signal from the ship was received on July 28.

Specialists from France and the UK have stated that the last position of the ship was in the waters of the Biscay Gulf near France, and not Portugal as previously stated.

“The entire staff of my company is working very hard to establish communication with the ship. Unfortunately, there is no information so far and, much to my regret, I cannot comment on the situation,” said Viktor Matveev, CEO for Solchart Management – the company which owns the ship.

In his Sovfrakht bulletin, Voytenko stated that it would be very simple for a specialist to deactivate the vessel’s short-range tracking system. If this was done, the ship would purposefully disappear from navigation monitors.

In a statement contradicting this point, Viktor Matveev said that the modern vessel is a complex engineering construction with lots of electronics onboard, with radio navigation systems – “and only top class specialists can force them out of action, all the more to do so simultaneously.”

As Voytenko reports, families of the disappeared sailors said that the investigative services who interrogated them were very vague in their descriptions of the incident.

The wives and children of the 15 missing Russian sailors struggle to piece together what they can.

“We are now only interested in one thing: where the ship and the crew are,” one of the sailors’ relatives said.

Aleksandr Deshchenya is an experienced sailor and the father of one of the missing seaman.

“A vessel carrying a cargo of timber cannot sink. I transported timber for many years, and I know for sure. Even if the ship did sink, the timber would be floating all over the sea,” he said.

An investigation is underway, however, and a group of Russian vessels which was headed for military training in the Baltic Sea is now participating in a search operation.

Voytenko said seizing a ship in European waters with a criminal purpose is impossible.

“I rule that out. It is easier to believe that they were captured by aliens,” he said in an interview with Vesti TV channel.

“And the idea of seizing a vessel [in Europe] because of timber is ridiculous. Only Somali pirates who have an opportunity to hide the ship can afford that,” Voytenko added.

And European specialists say that if the vessel was wrecked, the automatic alarm signal would have gone off.

This is not the first incident with the “Arctic Sea” in last few weeks. On July 24, unknown people presenting themselves as police officers stopped the vessel in the Swedish waters of the Baltic Sea.

According to Voytenko’s sources, they then proceeded to tie up the crew and search the ship for 12 hours.

But what’s strange is that those men apparently left the ship peacefully – and without taking anything.

Journalist Natalya Gracheva was the last to interview the crew following their hijacking.

“A number of mask-wearing attackers burst in from the bridge wing and pinned down the ward service, after which they called the skipper and made him lie down on the deck. Later other crew members were tied. The attackers used sufficiently rough methods. The skipper received several blows with the butt of an automatic rifle. Incidentally, the attackers were very well armed, using hand to hand combat and quite familiar with all of the ship’s technology,” Natalya said.