x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Missing cargo vessel 'attacked again'

An EU Commission spokesman says it is likely that the Arctic Sea has also been attacked off the coast of Portugal.

The Finnish company operating the missing cargo vessel Arctic Sea said it does not know where the ship is and has been unable to contact its crew. "From our side, we are just trying to get hold of the ship, sending messages all the time, dialling the numbers. No response, unfortunately," Viktor Matveyev, director and majority owner of Solchart, told AFP. "The last definite position we have received in our office was August 1. The ship was passing a lighthouse in Portugal," he added.

The Maltese-flagged Arctic Sea had been due to arrive in Algeria on August 4 with a cargo of sawn timber. Authorities in Sweden said on July 30 that the ship had been boarded July 24 by a gang of masked men posing as Swedish anti-drug police while it was sailing through Swedish waters. Mr Matveyev said he had not had any recent contact with the Swedish police, adding that it was his crew who informed him about the first incident.

The Russian navy is currently scouring the Atlantic Ocean for the ship. Its disappearance has sparked suggestions that it had been attacked by pirates or was at the centre of a mafia quarrel. In Brussels, the European Union Commission spokesman Martin Selmayr told reporters that it is likely that the Arctic Sea had also been attacked off the coast of Portugal. "Radio calls were apparently received from the ship which had supposedly been under attack twice; the first time off the Swedish coast and then off the Portuguese coast," Mr Selmayr said.

Mr Matveyev said he did not know if there had been a second attack, adding that "there is a chance" that some of the masked men who boarded the vessel near Sweden had stayed on board. * AFP