NEWS

Greeks stop ship with explosives

Greek commandos on Sunday boarded a freighter carrying 680 tons of explosives, took it to a remote port in Western Greece and arrested its seven crewmen. But yesterday it was still not clear whether the Baltic Sky was involved in smuggling or terrorism or whether its cargo – which Greece’s merchant marine minister likened to an «atomic bomb» – was legal. The five Ukrainian and two Azeri crewmen are to appear before an investigating magistrate tomorrow on charges of possessing explosives (a felony) and violating the naval code. The ship, sailing under the Comoros flag, had been trailed by international intelligence services since it sailed from Durres, Albania, on April 27 for the Tunisian port of Gabes, where on May 12 it loaded the explosives and 8,000 detonators. It arrived in Istanbul on May 22, where new crew members took over. Turkey’s Anatolia news agency reported that the ship declared it was carrying explosives before it passed through the Dardanelles on May 21. On June 2, the Baltic Sky set sail again and floated across the Mediterranean before being boarded by Greek coast guard commandos in Greek waters in the Ionian Sea and taken to the port of Platis Yialos near the town of Astakos. Its documents said it was headed for Port Sudan but it never sailed for the Suez Canal. The loading of the Baltic Sky’s cargo and its transportation were found to be legal. The Cypriot company that had chartered the vessel, whose owner is Marshall Islands-based Alpha Shipping Inc, was found to have acted legally too. But the shipowner was told that the cargo would not be allowed to go to Sudan until it became clear who its final recipient would be. «What is certain and is the reason why the ship was not sailing toward Sudan was that the recipient was non-existent,» Merchant Marine Minister Giorgos Anomeritis told a news conference. The ship’s documents said the recipient was a company called Integrated Chemicals and Development, whose address was given as a post-office box in Khartoum. The investigation so far had found no such company. «As no one knows where the explosives were going, no one knows what they were going to be used for,» Anomeritis said.