'Pirate raid' ship whereabouts unclear

The whereabouts of a cargo ship, which reportedly sailed through the English Channel after it had been boarded by pirates, remained unclear today.

The Arctic Sea, which disappeared with a 15-strong Russian crew on board more than two weeks ago, was spotted about 520 miles off the Cape Verde islands yesterday, according to French officials.



But today Russian news agency Itar-Tass reported that it was still unconfirmed whether the sighted ship was the Arctic Sea.



The 4,000-tonne vessel was meant to arrive in Bejaia in northern Algeria with its cargo of about £1 million worth of sawn timber on August 4. It is unknown what happened following its last official recorded positioning off northern France on July 30.



Numerous theories have been put forward to explain the vessel's disappearance, ranging from it being boarded by pirates to a commercial dispute.



Yesterday Itar-Tass and Financial Times Deutschland reported the ship near the Cape Verde islands, while French officials also said they had located the ship in the area.



EU Commission spokesman Dennis Abbott said it was being kept informed of developments by the member states involved.



He added: "We can't say any more than that because we don't want to hinder law enforcement activities."



Russia's ambassador in Cape Verde, Alexander Karpushin, told the Vesti news channel: "I met with the country's authorities, in particular with the chief of the general staff of Cape Verde's armed forces, who did not confirm the information that the ship had been detected."



He added that the country's ports had been instructed to contact the authorities if the ship appeared and asked for refuelling, food or water.



Russian president Dmitry Medvedev has ordered all Russian navy ships in the Atlantic to search for the missing vessel.



The ship's last known radio contact was with British Coastguards when it made routine contact with Dover Coastguard as it was about to enter the Strait of Dover from the North Sea at 1.52pm on July 28.



Days later Interpol informed the British Coastguard that the ship had been hijacked days before in the Baltic Sea.



According to reports, it was boarded by up to 10 armed men purporting to be anti-drugs police on July 24.



Some 12 hours later, the intruders apparently left the ship on a high-speed inflatable boat and allowed the vessel to continue on its passage but with its communications equipment damaged.



By the time Interpol alerted Dover Coastguard about the apparent hijacking, the Arctic Sea had already passed through the English Channel, UK Coastguards said.



It was last recorded on the AISLive ship tracking system off the coast of Brest, northern France, just before 1.30am on July 30.



Mr Abbott confirmed that radio calls were apparently received from the ship to suggest it had been attacked a second time, this time off the coast of Portugal.



He added: "It would seem that these activities, such as they have been reported, have nothing in common with traditional piracy."



Nato said it was monitoring the situation but was not directly involved in the search.

The Arctic Sea's tracking system was reported to be broadcasting signals from the Bay of Biscay off France today.

The Russian maritime website, Sovfrakht, said the signal appeared on a tracking service at about 8.30am but added that it was not known if the AISLive ship tracking system equipment was still actually on the ship.



Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
SPONSORED FEATURES
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones