Russia cuts legal rope on mysterious “Arctic Sea”

The end of the “Arctic Sea” cargo ship saga may be near, with the lifting of the arrest order by the Russian Prosecutor General's office on the Maltese-flagged vessel which was hijacked in the Baltic Sea last summer.

The move was to allow the Russian-crewed ship's transfer to Malta, which was expected to take place on Friday.

“In order to solve the issue of the vessel's transfer to the Maltese side as soon as possible, a decision has been made to cancel the arrest warrant issued to the vessel ‘Arctic Sea’ by Moscow's Basmanny district court at investigators’ request," Vladimir Markin, a spokesman for the Russian Prosecutors' Investigative Committee, told Interfax agency.

At the moment the cargo ship is in the open sea, close to Malta’s border.

The “Arctic Sea” went missing during the summer, before being found by the Russian Navy. The ship was freed dramatically in mid-August by a Russian warship off the Cape Verde islands. Eleven crew and eight suspected pirates were flown to Moscow for questioning.

The captain and three other seamen were forced to stay on board, despite a replacement crew being ready to take over.

It has been anchored for nearly two weeks in the Mediterranean Sea after being refused permission to dock in Malta.

“Arctic Sea” to help find ships?

In the future, ships which go missing, as the “Arctic Sea” did, could be helped by a new satellite system being created by Russia's Space Agency.

It will track maritime traffic to improve safety at sea and help with search and rescue operations.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev met with the director of the agency, Anatoly Perminov. who made a promise that, “We’ll begin the prototype testing in 2012, and we plan to start day-to-day operation and serial production from 2013.”

Medvedev said the project is good, and proposed to name it “Arctic Sea” – “There are,” he said, “people who know what it is.”