Russian authorities said Wednesday they will run the investigation into the alleged Arctic Sea hijacking but will ask other nations to help solve the mystery of the cargo ship's bizarre voyage.Any volunteers?
The Maltese-flagged freighter headed to Russia under a navy escort on Wednesday.
The Arctic Sea seemed to vanish after sailing from Finland on July 21 with a Russian crew and a load of timber. A Russian warship intercepted the freighter last week in the Atlantic and eight suspected hijackers are jailed in Moscow, facing charges of kidnapping and piracy.
Sparse information has led to speculation the ship could have been carrying sensitive cargo.
The Foreign Ministry said an initial search conducted shortly after the ship was intercepted revealed no suspicious cargo.
In a statement on its Web site, the Investigative Committee said a Russian court had formally impounded the Arctic Sea and Russia plans to ask authorities in Sweden, Finland, Malta and other nations to "conduct investigative actions" in the case.
The agency also defended the treatment of 11 Arctic Sea crew members, calling them victims but demanding they remain in Moscow for further questioning.
UPDATE: With a hat tip to Fred Fry: Lloyd's List offers up some interesting info:
However, further more detailed searches are due take place before the all-clear is declared definitive. Meanwhile, reports suggest that crew complicity in the affair will be one avenue of inquiry.
The announcement came after consistent speculation that the ship was actually laden with a secret cargo of some kind, with drugs, nuclear materials and missiles bound for Iran among the candidates mentioned.
Bizarrely, a statement from Russia’s foreign ministry suggested that when the vessel was interdicted on August 17, the master claimed that the ship is actually the North Korean-owned Chongdin-2 and was actually en route from Havana to Sierra Leone. Pyongyang has apparently dismissed the idea.
The closest match to that name on the Lloyd’s Marine Intelligence Unit database is Chon Ji 2, which is 1979-built, 3,870 dwt and North Korea-flagged. Its International Maritime Organisation number is 8988129. Arctic Sea is Malta-flag, 1991-built, 4,706 dwt and bears the IMO number 8912792.
“The North Korean side clarified the situation and told us that at the moment the suspect ship was intercepted, the aforementioned North Korean ship could not be found at those co-ordinates as it was in an Angolan port,” the ministry said.