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Story of “missing” ship getting curiouser still

Remember the missing cargo ship that had all of Europe in an uproar earlier this month? Turns out it may never have been missing after all: President Medvedev sent the Russian Navy to find the Arctic Sea after it apparently disappeared while passing through the English Channel en route to Algeria from Finland. However, the ...

Remember the missing cargo ship that had all of Europe in an uproar earlier this month? Turns out it may never have been missing after all:

President Medvedev sent the Russian Navy to find the Arctic Sea after it apparently disappeared while passing through the English Channel en route to Algeria from Finland. However, the Foreign Ministry in Moscow now says that Russian and international agencies had monitored the ship throughout its strange three-week voyage.

“Of course, the dry cargo carrier with a displacement of more than 7,000 tonnes was never missing. Its movement was being followed and its co-ordinates were being reported from several sources, including our foreign partners,” the ministry said.

This might have been something they could have shared with the other half dozen navies searching for the vessel.

It’s still not exactly clear what, besides its stated cargo of timber, the ship was carrying or why it was hijacked. But the story gets stranger:

The saga also took a bizarre new twist when the ministry disclosed that the ship’s captain had tried to pass off the Arctic Sea as a North Korean vessel when it was intercepted by the Russian Navy. This is the first time that investigators have implicated the crew in the mystery.

The ministry said that the captain “unexpectedly claimed” to be in charge of a ship called the Chongdin 2 that was carrying timber from Cuba to Sierra Leone. Russian diplomats in Pyongyang checked with North Korean officials and were told that the Chongdin 2 was docked at a port in Angola at the time.

“In view of this information, the command of the Russian Navy decided to examine the ship and the examination confirmed the surmise that it was the Arctic Sea,” the Foreign Ministry said. It gave no indication of how the captain knew of the other vessel’s existence or why the Navy was unable to identify the Arctic Sea from its markings.

Who gets caught and then claims to be from North Korea???

Remember the missing cargo ship that had all of Europe in an uproar earlier this month? Turns out it may never have been missing after all:

President Medvedev sent the Russian Navy to find the Arctic Sea after it apparently disappeared while passing through the English Channel en route to Algeria from Finland. However, the Foreign Ministry in Moscow now says that Russian and international agencies had monitored the ship throughout its strange three-week voyage.

“Of course, the dry cargo carrier with a displacement of more than 7,000 tonnes was never missing. Its movement was being followed and its co-ordinates were being reported from several sources, including our foreign partners,” the ministry said.

This might have been something they could have shared with the other half dozen navies searching for the vessel.

It’s still not exactly clear what, besides its stated cargo of timber, the ship was carrying or why it was hijacked. But the story gets stranger:

The saga also took a bizarre new twist when the ministry disclosed that the ship’s captain had tried to pass off the Arctic Sea as a North Korean vessel when it was intercepted by the Russian Navy. This is the first time that investigators have implicated the crew in the mystery.

The ministry said that the captain “unexpectedly claimed” to be in charge of a ship called the Chongdin 2 that was carrying timber from Cuba to Sierra Leone. Russian diplomats in Pyongyang checked with North Korean officials and were told that the Chongdin 2 was docked at a port in Angola at the time.

“In view of this information, the command of the Russian Navy decided to examine the ship and the examination confirmed the surmise that it was the Arctic Sea,” the Foreign Ministry said. It gave no indication of how the captain knew of the other vessel’s existence or why the Navy was unable to identify the Arctic Sea from its markings.

Who gets caught and then claims to be from North Korea???

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy  Twitter: @joshuakeating

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