The Arctic Sea story keeps adding new wrinkles which demand my attention. Consider:
From Agence France Presse on the 18th of September:
Russia on Friday
unloaded evidence from the Arctic Sea ship onto a Russian warship, as mystery still surrounded the identity of its cargo one month after it was recovered from alleged pirates.
“The evidence will be delivered to a Russian port, where the warship Ladny and its escorting vessels will dock,” the investigative committee said in a statement posted on its website.
“It includes ammunition used by the suspected pirates to capture the ship and the speedboat from which they boarded it. The boat was camouflaged on board the Arctic Sea under a wood frame and canvas,” it said.
Now, I’m not quite sure why the evidence couldn’t have been put in one of the three military transport aircraft that were needed to bring the 20-odd crew members and alleged hijackers from the Cape Verde Islands to Russia earlier this month. Initial reports of the ‘speedboat’ were that it was a Zodiac-type boat, which shouldn’t present any obstacles from being muscled onto an IL-76. Those reports certainly could be wrong though (this story is riddled with holes so relying on any piece of the story is fraught with all sorts of risks).
From the Times of London:
The Arctic Sea is apparently being towed by a tug and needs repairs, although there was no mention of any damage in the operation to free her fifteen-man Russian crew from the eight alleged hijackers.
And the AFP:
Russian officials said it would be taken to Russia’s Black Sea port of Novorossiisk, but then without explanation they said it would be taken to the Canary Islands instead.
This may or may not be significant. The ship’s owner later said that they weren’t going to dock at the Spanish port in Las Palmas because it has members of the Russian military on board and...
“A commercial vessel which has members of the armed forces on board has military status, and as a result, that requires totally different conditions for its entry to a foreign port, primarily, a consent between both countries’ foreign ministries,”
The Russian news agency, however, released a statement from Russian authorities which claimed that the ship can’t be considered to have military status and claims that the ship won’t dock there because it hasn’t paid the necessary fees to the appropriate Spanish maritime agency.
From the Times of Malta:
The Maltese-registered formerly hijacked cargo ship
Arctic Sea is unable to call at the Spanish port of Las Palmas after Malta
refused to take part in the handover of the ship, Russian investigators have been quoted as saying by RIA Novosti news agency.
The Authority said it instructed the owner of the M/V Arctic Sea that the ship could not proceed to sea until any necessary repairs, surveys and certification were carried out and it was ascertained that the ship was in a seaworthy condition.
And back to AFP:
The port authority on the island of La Palma had earlier granted permission for the ship to dock at 8:00 pm (1900 GMT) but Spain’s merchant shipping department had objected for reasons it did not specify, a representative for the authority said.
Really? Even on this point we can’t get a straight story?
Wild speculation Alternate Hypotheses:
- The ship wasn’t carrying S-300 anti-air missiles but some other cargo that the Spanish don’t want anywhere near their port facilities.
- The Spanish have doubts that the ship, once docked in a Spanish port, would ever leave due to doubts about the ability/willingness of interested parties to pay required fees or concerns about the ships seaworthiness. Spain may believe the latter if, perhaps,serious work had to be done on the ship while it was ‘missing’ (like to remove some bulky cargo), especially if such work was done by a NATO ally.