Freight vessel of Finnish shipping line targeted by mystery pirates in Swedish waters
Identity of rubber boat pirates remains shrouded in mystery
It was reported on Thursday that nearly a week earlier, in the early hours of Friday last week, a freight vessel operated by a Finnish shipping line had been attacked by pirates in Swedish territorial waters.
The attackers, who spoke English, tied the members of the crew of the Arctic Sea and beat them. They also searched the vessel thoroughly before leaving the ship at about noon on the same day.
Swedish police investigating the case are at a loss to come up with a motive for the attack, or who may have been responsible. Suspicions were raised by the fact that that the act of piracy was not reported until several days after the alleged events took place.
The head of the investigation, Ingemar Isaksson of the Swedish police, believes that a hijacking did indeed occur, and that the shipping line and the crew were reluctant to approach Swedish authorities, because the pirates claimed to be police officers looking for drugs. Swedish authorities say that there is no suspicion that the ship would be carrying illegal substances.
Reporting the incident was also delayed because the attackers damaged the ship's communications equipment.
The vessel, which is just under 100 metres in length, is operated by a Finnish shipping line, but it sails under the flag of Malta.
All of the members of the crew are Russian citizens, Isaksson says.
The attack took place between the islands of Öland and Gotland off the east coast of Sweden. Between eight and ten men, who were masked and dressed in black, approached the ship in a fast rubber boat.
Police do not know what the hijackers might actually have been looking for, and Isaksson could not say if the attackers took anything from the ship.
At least three members of the crew were injured in the attack, Isaksson says. One suffered broken teeth, and two or three others sustained bruises.
“I have never heard of anything like it”, Isaksson says.
Swedish police had not made direct contact with the ship by Thursday evening. They had spoken to the Finnish shipping line and the Finnish police.
Lars Henriksson of the Finnish National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) says that the shipping line filed a criminal complaint about a suspected hijacking to the Finnish police.
The case was transferred to the Swedish police for investigation, because the incident took place in Swedish territorial waters. Henriksson says that the only Finnish connections with the case are that the ship is operated by a Finnish shipping line, and that it began its voyage from the Finnish port of Pietarsaari.
After the incident, the ship continued on its way to the Algerian port of Bejaia, where it is taking a load of sawn timber. Swedish police say that on Thursday evening, the ship was somewhere in the Bay of Biscay.
Swedish authorities now want to contact the ship, in order to ascertain more of the details of the events. The Swedish Coast Guard is looking for witnesses from possible other vessels in the area at the time of the incident. The police want to know where the hijackers’ boat came from and where it went.
Police are investigating the case as a hijacking, which is punishable by four years' imprisonment.
The Swedish police did not learn about the events until Tuesday, when they were told about it by the Swedish Coast Guard. Isaksson says that the ship’s crew first reported the event to the shipping line, which informed the Finnish police, and the Russian Embassy in Finland.
The Finnish News Agency (STT) reports that the shipping line did not report the case to the police until Monday. The company first investigated the case itself by interviewing all members of the crew.