Mystery ship the Arctic Sea 'heading for Malta'
The Maltese-flagged cargo ship at the centre of a piracy mystery, the Arctic Sea, will be docking in Malta next Thursday, Russian media have said.
The Malta Maritime Authority would not confirm the reports and questions about why the Arctic Sea was coming here remained unanswered.
Russia's state news agency RIA-Novosti quoted the Arctic Sea's Finnish owner Solchart saying the ship was currently being towed towards the island.
"Next week I am heading to Malta to discuss details of the vessel's handover," Solchart managing director Viktor Matveyev said.
The Russian news agency said a military source confirmed that the vessel, which had been anchored to the east of Gibraltar for two weeks, was heading to Grand Harbour accompanied by Russian Black Sea Fleet ships and was expected to arrive next week.
According to the AFP, Russian officials had initially said the ship would be taken to the Russian port of Novorossiisk and then onto Spain's Las Palmas. However, it remained at sea amidst disagreements among the various governments involved and its owners.
The news agency said that after the ship arrives here, Russian officials will take part in negotiations on its handover to the Maltese authorities.
The ship, with 15 crew and said to be carrying $1.3 million cargo of timber, purportedly disappeared in the Atlantic at the end of July after being boarded by eight hijackers in the Baltic Sea a few weeks beforehand.
The ship was tracked down off the coast of Cape Verde in mid-August, and soon afterwards the hijackers were charged with piracy and kidnap in a Moscow court.
Russia had denied that the ship was carrying aircraft missiles bound for Iran and said its investigators found only its official cargo of timber when they inspected the ship. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had said Maltese investigators would be invited to take part in the investigation.