The cargo ship that disappeared is spotted off West African coast

Russians send frigate to investigate after claims that pirates seized vessel

A cargo ship that went missing a fortnight ago amid fears it had been hijacked has been spotted off West Africa. An official from the French Defence Ministry said the ship had been seen in the Atlantic Ocean about 500 miles north-west of the Cape Verde islands, outside territorial waters.



"Cape Verde coastguards said they have located the boat," said Captain Jerome Baroe of the ministry. Two military officials in Brussels, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed the vessel had been located.

The Russian navy immediately dispatched a frigate to search the waters around the former Portuguese colony, which lies more than 300 miles west of the Senegalese coast.

The Arctic Sea, a 3,998-tonne Maltese-registered freighter with a £1m cargo of sawn timber, left Finland bound for Algeria after a two-week refit in Kaliningrad, an enclave known to harbour organised crime gangs.

She went missing after passing through the English Channel at the end of July. Some reports claim she was also carrying a secret cargo. There have been fears that Russian gangs have been shipping illicit arms to Africa.

Mystery has surrounded the Arctic Sea since it was stopped and boarded on 24 July in the Baltic Sea off the Swedish coast. At least eight heavily armed and masked men were said to have taken control and tied up the crew, beating some of them, while they searched the vessel for 12 hours.

The crew claimed they were questioned about drug-trafficking before the raiders left in a high-speed inflatable boat. According to radio messages sent to the Russo-Finnish shipping line managing the vessel, the crew were released and the ship then continued its voyage.

But the disappearance raised fears that the crew had remained under the hijackers' control as they sailed into the Atlantic, making it the first ship in living memory to be sailed along the Channel by pirates.

The disappearance also led to suggestions that she had been seized as part of a commercial spat or was transporting illicit cargo, such as drugs or arms. But amid an absence of solid evidence, its whereabouts and the reason for its disappearance remain uncertain; even officials gave conflicting accounts.

Now Martin Selmayr, a spokesman for the European Commission, has suggested that the ship and its 15-strong Russian crew may have come under attack a second time.

"Radio calls were apparently received from the ship, which had supposedly been under attack twice, the first time off the Swedish coast and then off the Portuguese coast," he said. But he refused to go into details, and the Portuguese authorities denied the vessel had ever entered its waters.

A Nato spokesman, Commander Chris Davies, at the organisation's maritime headquarters in England, said they were monitoring the situation but were not directly involved in the search.

NATO began watching developments after the ship reported coming under attack in the Baltic Sea because it was an unusual situation, he said.

Viktor Matveyev, the managing director of Helsinki-based Oy Solchart Management AB, which operates the ship, remained in the dark yesterday. "We're unaware of any report that the ship has been located," he said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links