Troubled “Arctic Sea” handed over to Maltese authorities

The Maltese-flagged cargo vessel “Arctic Sea” – mysteriously hijacked in July 2009 and then freed by the Russian patrol boat “Ladny” – docked at the Maltese port of Valetta on Thursday.

The four remaining Russian crew members are reportedly healthy and waiting to be relieved from duty.

The vessel is said to need minor repairs before it can resume operations and continue its delivery of sawn timber to Algeria with an exchange crew of 14 sailors. The latter has already arrived from Arkhangelsk.

“Four members of the previous crew with the captain, who have been staying on the vessel, will return home after the transfer of business,” Director General of Solchart Arkhangelsk, the company operator of the vessel, Nikolay Karpenkov told Itar-Tass.

Karpenkov also denied the existence of any conditions on which the motor ship had been handed over to the ship owner.

Local police have already examined the ship and confirmed that no suspicious, illegal or radioactive cargo was found onboard.

The ship, owned by a Maltese company, departed on July 22 from Finland for Algeria with a Russian crew on board, but didn’t reach its destination.

The vessel suddenly disappeared on July 28, and was only found on August 18 near Cape Verde. It was hijacked by eight alleged pirates, who were then transported to Moscow by air with 11 crewmembers.

After the “Arctic Sea” was found, rumors abounded that the ship’s cargo included drugs or weapons, but a team of Russian investigators reported that it found only timber on the ship.