Sea Transportation: June 22, 2003

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Elite Greek troops boarded the Comoros-flagged "Baltic Sky", in Greek territorial waters after receiving a tip-off that it was carrying suspicious cargo. The ship, which began its journey in the Black Sea and had been heading toward the Tunisian port city of Gabes, was found to be carrying 680 to 750 tons of explosives. 

The "Baltic Sky", built in 1965, is owned by the Marshall Islands registered company Alpha Shipping. The Greek Merchant Marine Ministry ordered the ship into the western Greek commercial port of Platyali, pending further checks on whether the cargo was legal or bound for some terrorist group. The Baltic Sky's seven man crew consisted of five Ukrainian nationals (including the captain) and two Azeris. 

If someone was looking for a cargo vessel to handle one-way shipment, the 1,710 ton Hungarian-built "Baltic Sky" would be a candidate. Part of the shell-game with unseaworthy ships, avoiding taxes and other expensive regulations, is hiding who actually owns the vessel. There are firms in Latvia, Poland and Lebanon (the last regularly runs cargo to Libyan ports) with the same name listed as the owner of the ship.

The "Baltic Sky" was listed as being available for cargo from Karas Shipping & Trading Ltd on April 28/29 at the Albanian port of Durres. Prior to that, she released from British custody and re-inspected on March 4, 2003, then offered for sale by the Irish firm Unithorn LTD for about $165,000. 

This is not the first time the ship (previously called the "Sea Runner") has had a run-in with the law. On 8 June 2002, the "Sea Runner" was detained at the British port of Seaham for 47 serious safety deficiencies. The vessel's 10-man Russian crew could not even identify the owners of the ship and was stranded on board without pay until a judged ruled that the ship could be sold off to meet mounting debts in November 2002. 

At that time, the old rust-bucket was under Cambodian flag and owned by the Belize Bureau of Shipping LTD (out of Istanbul, Turkey). Before her release, she was released under her pre-"Sea Runner" name "Baltic Sky". Prior to that extended 2002 stay in England, the ship had been detained four times at other European ports over the past 12 months. - Adam Geibel

 


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