Arctic Sea to resume voyage on Thursday

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ST. PETERSBURG. November 3. KAZINFORM  The Arctic Sea freighter, after a mysterious hijacking case, is set to go to sea again Thursday, the ship's operator said on Tuesday.

Solchart head Viktor Matveyev said the freighter would proceed to its original destination to fulfill her obligations to her partners and deliver the overdue timber.

Four sailors, who had remained on board the Arctic Sea , returned on Monday to their home base in northern Russia.

The other 11 Russian crewmen have already been sent home. They were held for several weeks for questioning by Russian authorities and were subsequently released, reportedly after being sworn to secrecy.

The Arctic Sea disappeared in the Atlantic on July 24 while carrying a $2 million shipment of timber from Finland to Algeria and was intercepted by the Russian Navy off West Africa on August 17, when eight alleged hijackers were arrested.

The ship had been anchored to the east of Gibraltar for weeks and guarded by two Russian vessels as Algeria, the vessel's original destination, denied the vessel entry. It was then towed to Malta.

On Thursday, the Arctic Sea was handed over to Maltese authorities. The ship was given permission to enter the port following a thorough inspection by Maltese officials.

A new crew of 14 sailors flew from Russia to Malta on Wednesday to replace the captain and three sailors who had remained on the vessel.

The ship's disappearance, which triggered a major international search effort, raised suspicions about it carrying a "secret cargo" of drugs or weapons. Russian authorities have denied the rumors, saying the vessel was hijacked by criminals who demanded a ransom.

Russia's special investigations committee announced last Friday that all 14 crewmembers of the Arctic Sea had been formally recognized as victims of a pirate attack,  Kazinform refers to RIA Novosti.

See www.en.rian.ru

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