Piracy fears after cargo ship sailing through English Channel disappears - (Photo)

Contributed by editor on Aug 11, 2009 - 04:25 PM

A cargo ship missing since July 29 is feared to have been seized by pirates.

The British Coastguard was the last to have radio contact with the Arctic Sea as it passed through the English Channel on July 29, the Independent newspaper said on Tuesday.

An international maritime hunt is now underway for the vessel after contact with the 3,988-tonne ship and its Russian crew was lost after its final call to Dover coastguards as it left the North Sea and entered the Channel.

The Russian Navy is searching for the Arctic Sea after sightings suggested that the officers and crew may have been coerced into taking the ship to Africa.

TimesOnline reported the Arctic Sea was last recorded on the AISLive ship tracking system off the coast of Brest, northern France, at 1.29am on July 30. The British coastguard was told that the ship had later been spotted by a Portuguese coastal patrol aircraft.

A Spanish maritime official said that the ship had not passed through the Strait of Gibraltar.

According to a report of the Maltese maritime authorities received by the Itar-Tass London office on Monday night, the ship might have been seized by sea pirates offshore Sweden in the Baltic Sea on July 24.

The Independent newspaper said that from eight to ten armed persons in masks embarked the ship. Three crew members were injured.

All the sailors were tied up, and the ship was thoroughly searched for possible narcotic drugs. Twelve hours later, the visitors destroyed the ship radio and left.

The Arctic Sea, built in 1991, sails under the Maltese flag. It is owned by the Latvian-based Aquachart SIA and is operated by the Russian company Solchart Arkhangelsk.


© Hawkinge Gazette and Channel Coast News 2009