No bullet holes found on Arctic Sea
HS examines hijacked ship before NBI
Was there ever a hijacking on this ship?
This is the question that keeps coming back while walking through the narrow corridors and steep staircases of the freighter, the Arctic Sea.
Nothing on the vessel, which was moored in Kotka Harbour on Thursday, shows any trace of the strange events of last summer.
It is clean on board. A couple of seamen carry boxes of champagne into the ship. The dining room is set up for a New Year’s party. There is a plastic Christmas tree with ornaments.
“I wonder if the Kotka Seamen’s Club is open tomorrow”, one of the crew members ponders.
The ship’s captain Mikhail Kochan allowed Helsingin Sanomat onto the vessel in the early hours of Thursday, that is, before the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), which checked the ship on Thursday evening.
The ship’s bridge is what interests the NBI the most. It is from here that the hijackers are believed to have sent their blackmail messages.
Everything is in place: the steering and navigation equipment, the device which sends the AIS positioning signal, and the satellite telephone.
“Everything was in working order when I boarded the ship two weeks ago in Malta. Only the radio equipment had to be serviced”, the captain says.
We go to look at the captain’s quarters, which are in good order. According to the report, the hijackers kept the crew locked in their cabins. However, it would appear that the locks on the doors could be opened from the inside without a key.
Kochan has not noticed any of the alleged bullet holes in the walls of any of the cabins.
We descend into the warmth of the engine room. The ship’s engine hums down below.
“It is here that the mechanics worked at gunpoint”, explains Alexandr Shvalov , the ship’s main mechanic.
Shvalyov worked on the Arctic Sea once before , in 2007, but he has not noticed any changes on the ship since then.
I would be interested in knowing what happened. All of my information is from the Internet.”
We step outside, where members of the crew are chipping ice that has built up on the deck. It is about two in the morning, and the unloading of the ship should start at six AM.
Although Kochan does not have a theory of what actually happened in during the hijacking, he is sure of one thing. It would have been impossible to hide missiles in the lumber.
But what if a hiding place had been built into the structures of the ship during the vessel’s refurbishment in Kaliningrad?
It is very hard to say just standing on the deck.
We leave the ship and move into the icy wind of Kotka. The Maltese flag flutters in the wind. The riddle of the Arctic Sea is no closer to being solved.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Arctic Sea docks in Kotka (31.12.2009)
Russian inspectors: Arctic Sea only carried timber cargo (9.9.2009)
Finland’s Central Criminal Police to interrogate Arctic Sea suspects in Moscow (17.12.2009)
Hijacked freighter Arctic Sea handed back to Finnish owners (30.10.2009)
NBI: no knowledge of alleged weapons cargo on Actic Sea (7.9.2009)