Hijacked Arctic Sea 'never disappeared': Malta

Posted at 08/19/09 6:49 PM

VALETTA - The Arctic Sea ship "never disappeared" and was continuously tracked from its hijacking in July until the Russian navy said it had retaken the ship on Monday, the Malta Maritime Authority (MMA) said.

The ship's disappearance from radar after leaving a Finnish port on July 23 sparked an international sea hunt, but the MMA said in a statement late Tuesday that "investigators always knew of the ship's whereabouts."

Swedish, Maltese and Finnish maritime authorities decided not to disclose any sensitive information "in order not to jeopardise the life and safety of the persons on board and the integrity of the ship," the MMA said.

Russia said Tuesday it had arrested eight men for hijacking the Arctic Sea after the Russian navy took control of the ship at an undisclosed location believed to be off the west coast of Africa.

Russian Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said that the crew of the Maltese-flagged, Russian-owned ship set a course for Africa and turned off all navigational and tracking equipment under orders from the pirates.

The official story is that the Arctic Sea was sailing from Finland to Algeria with a crew of 15 and a cargo of sawn timber estimated to be worth 1.16 million euros (1.64 million dollars).