Canadian navy boards ship carrying military supplies

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The Independent US

Backed by war ships, Canadian troops dropped from a helicopter and seized control of a U.S.-owned vessel off its Atlantic coast, after the ship refused to deliver its cargo of Canadian military supplies because of a month-long contract dispute.

Backed by war ships, Canadian troops dropped from a helicopter and seized control of a U.S.-owned vessel off its Atlantic coast, after the ship refused to deliver its cargo of Canadian military supplies because of a month-long contract dispute.

The navy boarded the 750-foot (225-meter) freighter, the GTS Katie, because the ship was holding important military supplies, said Canadian Defense Minister Art Eggleton Thursday.

After a warning if its intention to board, two Canadian naval ships approached the Katie Thursday afternoon. But the freighter accelerated, jerking from side to side, said Canadian Capt. Drew Robertson, who was in charge of the boarding.

As the Canadian vessels closed in, a navy helicopter lowered 14 heavily-armed soldiers to the Katie's deck to take control, said Robertson at a news conference.

"The master of the ship was rather dramatic, which is understandable," Robertson said. "The crew was rather welcoming."

The ship's Russian captain, Vitaly Khlebnikov, told reporters that the boarding was "dangerous."

There were no injuries in the operation, which came a day after Canada said it had received permission to board the boat from St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the Caribbean nation where the boat is registered, officials said.

The Katie was being escorted Thursday night to Montreal and was expected to arrive Sunday, three weeks after the original arrival date.

Eggleton said the Canadian and American companies involved in the contract dispute will have to resolve the issue in court.

"Being held hostage by these companies is not acceptable," he said. "There was no confidence that short of taking control of that ship we would have any control of our equipment."

The freighter was carrying five tanks, 200 of Canada's 2,000 armored vehicles, and 390 crates packed with rifles, ammunition, and communications equipment. Three Canadian soldiers are also on board to guard the cargo.

The freighter had been stationed in international waters about 140 miles (225 kilometers) off Newfoundland since Monday night.

The freighter's owner, Annapolis, Maryland-based Third Ocean Marine Navigation Company, was hired by a Montreal-based company, Andromeda, which had in turn been contracted by the military to bring back the military supplies used by Canadian peacekeepers in Kosovo, a province of Serbia.

But Third Ocean has refused to deliver the cargo, demanding payment it says it is owed. The Canadian government and the shippers had been negotiating a settlement since early last month.

Peter Margan, head of Third Ocean, who says Andromeda owes him $288,000, said that late Wednesday the military had given him an ultimatum to accept an offer of $90,000 or face being boarded.

Prior to the boarding, Margan said Thursday that "there are negotiations going on, but there's no update just yet."

The Katie had been scheduled to transport the shipment from Thessaloniki, Greece, to a port near Montreal by mid-July. But the ship was delayed reaching Greece, increasing costs of the voyage.

Canada routinely charters foreign transport for its military equipment overseas. The Navy has no transports equipped to carry heavy armor and the Air Force's C-130 Hercules transports are limited to about 20 tons of cargo.

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